In order to have optimal health, you want to have the right mix of energy in (food) and energy out (exercise). When it comes to weight management -- most people know this concept, but have a difficult time getting the right combinations in order to meet their goals.
We see this all the time in our practice, so if this is you – then keep reading. We are going to give you some tools that will help you!
Let me first say that we are not obsessed with the scale at our practice. We do monitor weight, but we put much more emphasis on body fat and waist measurements as numbers to monitor for improved health and wellness. Let me encourage you to do the same. If you do the same, the weight will take care of itself. We also monitor other things like sleep quality, stress management and decreased dependence on medications. Do not just focus on the weight. That might be the very issue you are not losing weight! That number has become an obsession for you. You must ask yourself that. Consider taking our quiz: Are You Diet or Fit-Minded? Maybe you need to read about getting off the Sick-Cycle Dieting Carousel. Get your head right around this subject first.
Let us assume you are fit-minded. Read on!
Step One: Get body fat measured and/or your calorie needs measured.
Most gyms have a handheld body fat tool and they are the most accurate in the morning because they are variable upon water weight. Scales that have body fat analysis features have the same technology. However, the gold standard way to measure body fat is through underwater/immersion technique. If you want to pursue this method, consider contacting a local research university or speak to a personal trainer. They might be able to tell you where you can go.
Body fat tells you a lot about your metabolic rate. If your body fat is high then that means your lean tissue is probably low. Muscle burns energy at a much higher rate than fat.
The best way to measure how many calories your body burns each day is to do an indirect calorimetry test. Manufacturers such as Microlife/Medgem and Cosmed/Fitmate are companies we have worked with in the past. They can tell you who in your area provides consumer testing. The number you will get from this test is your resting metabolic rate. Additional calories will be added based on how active you are. Both of these tests should give you that information with a little added information provided by you.
If you cannot afford this test then there are all kinds of calorie needs estimates online based on gender, age and activity level along with subtractions based on weight loss goals. They are general guidelines, but they can give you an idea. You can also see a Registered Dietitian Dietitian (RDN) and they can give you an educated estimate on your calorie needs (see bigger RDN plug at the bottom of this post!) If you are using these estimates and are not meeting your goals, you may want to invest in the indirect calorimetry measurement.
Step Two: Start a food and activity log.
I know, many people hate food logging. But don’t think of it as a way to limit what you eat. Many people we work with don’t eat enough at the front part of the day and they wonder why they have such horrendous cravings at night. A food log will objectively show you what is going on. Optimally you will have a great, hearty and nutrient-rich breakfast, lunch and dinner with one or more snacks in-between.
At Lemond Nutrition, we suggest using the LoseIt! food tracking system. It has a wonderful database of food items and the food label scanner works really well making it easy to enter what you eat each day. It is free to use and there are apps available on Android and iPhone.
Make sure you also track all your workouts as well. LoseIt! and other logging programs do have the ability to enter things like vacuuming, but we recommend just logging those things other than activities of daily living.
Step Three: Wear an activity tracker and heart rate monitor.
An activity tracker is really good at tracking how much your body moves each day. Some people are great at working out 3-5 days per week, but they are super sedentary in their daily life (desk jobs). A good, quality pedometer is one option, but we like using the Fitbit activity tracker at Lemond Nutrition. The technology is pretty solid, and it integrates nicely with LoseIt! and other tracking systems (premium feature). Aim for 10,000 steps per day. If you are not even close to that number, then take your daily average and make it a goal to consistenly go 300 steps above that. Slowly increase until you are at the 10,000 step minimum.
A heart rate monitor is another tool you can use while working out to determine how many calories you are burning during your workouts. We have seen several patients/clients that cannot get their heart rates up very high (due to genetic variations, medications, other health conditions may influence the heart rate), so the calorie expenditures in tracking programs may be higher with your actual calorie burn.
Step Four: Assess all the data accurately.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are the most qualified to assess all the information you have gathered, so I recommend finding one in your area by going to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website and click on “Find a Registered Dietitian” in the top right corner of the homepage. We do these types of assessments all the time here at Lemond Nutrition so give us a call. We are insurance providers, so it is very possible that your insurance company will pay for the visit!
What needs to happen is a comparison of your calorie needs with your net calories. The net calorie number is the amount of calories you eat minus your workout calories. All this analysis is more difficult to do on your own. As a general rule of thumb, you do not want your net calories to be too low or else your body will 1)not build/maintain muscle and 2) it can slow your metabolic rate down. This might be why you are not losing weight or reducing body fat!
We know many people that do one thing very well, but not the other. They are really watching what they are eating, but they are super inactive. Or they are working out like crazy, but still eating whatever they want. If either of these two are out of sync, you will not get the results you want.
There is an increasing number of people that are eating 1200-1400 calories per day and working out 60-90 minutes most days and are coming into our office wondering why they are not losing weight. Based on what we discussed here, what do you think the problem is? The answer lies in their net calorie number. What if we told you that you need to eat more? Again, your head must be right around this subject first. In order to be fit, you must eat and move - both together in unison.