Calories in versus calories out. This is the mantra that gets repeated over and over to people when they ask how to lose weight. It appears very straightforward and simple on the surface: count how many calories you intake through food and use exercise to expend more calories than you intake. So we consume 2000 calories, go about our day, hop on the treadmill for an hour and our FitBit tells us we burned 2250 calories. Boom. Weight loss.
But anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that it isn’t always that simple. There are a many factors that affect both sides of the equation. In this equation, weight loss happens when (Calories In) (Calories Out). Here is how we can manipulate both sides of the equation in our favor:
Conventional “wisdom” tells us that a calorie is a calorie. That 600 calories of salmon and 600 calories of cake will ultimately have the same effect in the body. This is simply not true. The quality of the food matters. Foods that are higher in carbohydrates and more processed cause a greater rise in insulin, a hormone in the body that signals to the body to store fat, than foods that are minimally processed and lower in carbs. Constant, huge spikes of insulin can lead to insulin resistance where your body starts to produce more and more insulin, causing your body to try to store more and more fat.
How to implement: Eat a diet that is based around whole, unprocessed foods.
The level of insulin spiking is important, but so is the frequency of the spikes. If your body is constantly producing higher levels of insulin because you eat high carb, processed foods every hour throughout the day, this also makes you more likely to develop insulin resistance than if you were to eat all the same food in a shorter amount of time.
How to implement: Try a version of intermittent fasting. See this blog post for different ways you can incorporate intermittent fasting into your life: https://www.mindpumpmedia.com/blog/How-To-Properly-Incorporate-Intermittent-Fasting-Into-Your-Diet-Plan
We all know that you can manually burn calories through exercise. Going for a bike ride, cleaning the house, lifting heavy weights. All of these activities burn calories. But the amount of calories it burns varies from person to person, even if two people are the same height, weight, and body composition. There are a few things you can do to increase the efficiency of your exercise to burn more calories with the same effort.
Yes, you read that right. I’m not telling you to add a HIIT session at the end of your workout or to double your gym time. I’m telling you to sleep. Because when you don’t get enough sleep, you lose significantly less fat than you would if you were well rested even if the calories were the same. Research has found that this can make up to a 50% difference so if you have 100lbs of fat to lose, it could take you twice as long if you aren’t sleeping enough. Additionally, if you have more energy, you are more likely to fidget and make other small movements throughout they day, thus helping you burn more calories subconsciously.
How to implement: Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. You can wait until tomorrow to find out what happens in the next episode of Game of Thrones.
Chronic stress can also negatively impact the “calories out” side of the equation. When your body is put under stress it releases a hormone called cortisol. By itself, in healthy amounts, cortisol is not bad. But when cortisol levels are constantly elevated it can become a problem. Constantly being stressed can reduce your ability to burn fat as well as increase the rate at which you store fat.
How to implement: Engage in stress reducing activities such as meditation, taking long walks, and taking time away from work and obligations to relax. Recognize the source of your stress and take steps to mitigate it.
You can see how simply measuring your calorie intake and estimating your calorie output with a machine or device that doesn’t also evaluate your sleep and stress levels might not get you the results you want. You could be doing everything right but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body might be clinging into your body fat for dear life.
If you are struggling to lose weight by tracking calories, switching your focus to living an overall healthy, balanced life might give you the breakthrough you need.