So far this week, I've discussed eating tips, how to track weight and calorie intake, the philosophy of losing weight, etc. But we haven't talked about how to pick a goal yet.
My method starts with a fairly unscientific method and then follows up with something a little better.
Take a Guess
For the first week or two, take an educated guess at how many calories you should aim for. There are dozens of on-line references that will try to tell you how many calories per day you need. Some ask a lot of detail (height, weight, age, lifestyle) while others are fairly generic. They will all give you different answers, and that's okay. Everyone is different.
I'm not going to recommend any, but if you try a few of them you'll get a sense of what the right ballpark is. Whatever that number is, you'll need to subtract a substantial number of calories from it (something on the order of 500 to 1200) to arrive at a goal.
If that's too much work, just pick a number. Common numbers I've seen are 1,200 (that's pretty low), 1,500 (reasonable), and 1,800 (quite comfortable).
The number you choose isn't critical at this point. But pick something and stick with it for the first two weeks unless you find that you can't function without more intake (maybe you exercise a lot).
Remember, the size of your daily "calorie deficit" will determine how quickly you lose weight.
After your first few weeks, the data you've collected in your spreadsheet will make it easier to adjust your choice. Simply figure out the average number of calories you consumed in the first few weeks as well as how much weight you lost. Then do the math to determine what your daily calorie deficit was and, therefore, your daily calorie needs.
For example, suppose you lost 4 pounds in 14 days by eating an average of 1,600 calories per day. 4 pounds is 14,000 calories (4x3500). Divide that by 14 and you get an average daily calorie deficit of 1,000. That means your body actually needed 2,600 calories per day.
Knowing these ballpark numbers, you can make a much more informed decision about the targets you'd like to use in the future. If you're really happy with your weight loss so far (you should be!), you might keep on aiming for 1,600/day. But if you found that you were always on the edge of hunger and a bit uncomfortable, you can increase your daily intake by a few hundred and know how that's likely to play out.
It's really that simple.
Just for reference, I aimed to consume roughly 1,500 calories per day for my first few months. After doing that and losing a substantial amount of weight, I raised the target to 1,800. That ensured that I still lost weight at a steady pace and gained some flexibility in my diet.
Then, as the end of last year came up, I adjusted the numbers upward again, aiming for 2,000 – 2,200 each day. I also allowed myself to slack off a bit more on the weekends and on trips, which put me into a mode where I either held constant or lost weight at a fairly slow pace.
Nowadays, I have a soft limit of 2,400 per day (on average) and try to exercise a bit more.
Remember, this is a system that worked for me. It may or may not work for you. Tomorrow, I'll talk more about maintaining the diet over time and provide some closing thoughts and tips (including exercise).
- Diet Tips or How To Lose Weight with a Spreadsheet and a Web Site
- The Diet Plan and The Three Habits
- The Diet Spreadsheet
- Diet Tips: How To Eat Less
For more recent diet and health tips, see our new blog: How To Eat And Live
Posted by jzawodn at June 08, 2006 07:34 AM