Friday, June 24th, 2011

Raw Food Weight Loss Series – Part 5 – CALORIES

by Kristen Suzanne in Raw Food Weight Loss

Welcome back! I know so many of you are eager to lose those unwanted pounds… I can tell from all of the emails I’m getting! I wish I could write everything I know that would help in one enormous blog post, but I can’t. I’d be writing for a very long time (I have so much to say on this topic). And, I think one of the best ways to accomplish your weight loss goals is to completely embrace the notion that this is your new life. It’s not you on a diet. It’s your new and awesome and improved HEALTHY LIVING and change like this is big… easiest taken on in chunks; hence, the weekly (or bi-weekly) Friday posts where you can chew on a little bit at a time. So, if you’re new to the series, be sure to read the past four parts in my Raw Food Weight Loss Series before diving into today’s discussion on calories!

In Part 4 of my series, I talked about the serious importance of stress and how it can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Have you been working on ways to reduce stress? It’s vital to your new lifestyle and efforts at losing weight. Even though it might not seem that we’re getting to the nitty gritty of weight loss by talking about stress and other issues, we are doing something very important… and that is building a foundation for not only LONG TERM weight loss but also effective weight loss through healthy living! What is the point of losing weight if you’re not going to keep it off?

What I’ve learned through my many years of research is that there definitely are some basics to successful weight loss. But, they only work easily and effectively when other things are integrated. The aforementioned “basics” is calories and that’s what I’m going to touch upon today. The “other things” are hormones, emotions, addictions, energy, fitness, and more. Very important aspects. VERY VERY! And, while I want to cover those issues first so you have a really solid foundation for your new healthy living… I know you are eager to see some weight drop right now! Ok! I get it. So… let’s get started and talk about calories with respect to raw food weight loss.

Here’s the thing. Calories in versus calories out is an equation that does matter. Calories are a measurement of the energy you get from the food you eat. If you take in more energy than you use, you store the energy. Makes sense, eh? The “stored energy” is essentially stored as fat. I know I know, you hear all the time that with raw food you don’t need to count calories (I’ve said it myself!). Well, it’s kind of true, but there’s a catch. When you eat lots of fresh raw foods full of fiber and nutrients, it can be hard to consume too many calories because you get full. That’s the bottom line. Sure, the raw food digests easier and that might help, but the overall riding principle here is that the people losing weight with raw food probably aren’t consuming a lot of calories, and the calories they are eating are nutrient dense. I believe that nutrient dense calories makes a difference for a few reasons. If you’re body is not starved for nutrients then that helps reduce cravings (and addictive issues). If you’re tummy is full because you ate a bunch of fiber, then you eat less in a sitting. If you eat nutrient-dense-fiber-rich foods, then your blood sugar is more stable, which helps you eat less overall and make smarter food choices. And on and on…

However! There are people who eat all raw and actually gain weight or plateau in their weight loss. You’ve heard of these people, right? Or, maybe it’s you. I’m going to make a bet that you’re eating too many calories and/or not burning off enough. So, if you truly don’t want to count calories (I know a lot of you don’t – partly because when we know better, we have an obligation to do better, eh?), the only way to possibly get away with that (and still lose weight or maintain it) is making sure you’re very active in your daily lifestyle and exercising. I’m a prime example of that right now. I eat a high raw all vegan diet. I’m breastfeeding (major calorie burner). I’m carrying (or wearing) my 18 pound baby around all the time which burns calories. I’m exercising almost daily for an hour a day, including strength training which puts on muscle… muscle burns more calories. I’m creating such a calorie deficit that I can eat and eat and eat, and I’m still not gaining weight.

When obese people go raw or go vegan, what typically happens is there is a reduction in calories, reduction in processed crappy foods, and an increase in fiber, nutrients, etc. The fiber and nutrient filled foods, even if they are high in calories (raw cheesecake, anyone?), can still result in weight loss. Again, though, it’s most likely due to eating foods that fill the person up with the fiber and nutrients, making them eat less overall. I highly doubt that someone who is obese would change to a raw vegan diet, eat higher calories in the process, and still lose weight. Their body might respond with a bit of weight loss initially because of the shocking “change” in food consumption, but it wouldn’t last.

I know everyone wants a “magic diet” or “magic pill,” but here’s the thing…

It’s about CALORIES (for the most part)!

What you need to know is that if you’re not losing weight, I’m going to bet that you’re eating too much and not exercising enough. Yes, there are exceptions where people with thyroid issues, for example, have different challenges, but my weight loss series is directed at the normal population.

Now. That being said, I mentioned earlier that there are other factors and there are! Hormones play an important role and they do so through sleep, stress, blood sugar, the proper foods being eaten, etc. These factors can either help or hurt your efforts. This is partly where raw food can be important! Raw Food Weight Loss (or, even better and easier… High Raw Food Weight Loss) is the easiest and most nutritious way to lose weight. Often when people lose weight by reducing calories, they do so while sacrificing nutrients – another reason most “diets” don’t work because your body craves the nutrients and needs them. However, for the purposes of this particular blog post, we’ll keep it focused on calories.

Remember that “mood food journal” you’re keeping? People who track their food with a food journal lose up to twice as much weight as those who don’t track it. Duh! Makes sense. You’re accountable when you write it down and it’s before your eyes about WHAT(?) how much your eating i.e., calories. People are ALWAYS amazed at how many calories they’re actually eating versus burning when they start to track it. It’s eye opening and jaw dropping in many instances.

Obviously, you need to know a target calorie limit for reaching your goals. To do this, calculate your active metabolic rate (AMR) which gives you the number of calories to consume (based on various factors like age, height, weight, daily activity level based on work and exercise) in order to maintain your weight. If you want to lose weight, then you need to eat fewer calories and/or bump up your activity.

To calculate your number, you need to know your basal metabolic number first. That’s the number of calories you burn to simply stay alive and maintain things like digestion, tissue repair, etc – basic bodily functions. To get that number do the following:

Female:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Male:
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Now, you need to figure out your normal activity level that is pretty much determined by normal activities throughout the day without intentional exercise / fitness…. Are you Sedentary (desk job and not much movement)? Lightly Active (walk around some for work, maybe a stay at home mom, pharmacist, someone in sales)? Moderately Active (trainer, janitor, teacher who stands a lot of the day and moves a lot – perhaps a teacher for young kids, busy hair dresser)? Very Active (construction, etc). For those descriptions, Sedentary uses the approximate coefficient 1.1. Lightly physical uses the approximate coefficient 1.22. Moderately active uses the approximate coefficient 1.33. Very active uses the approximate coefficient 1.42.

Take your basal metabolic number you figured out above for female or male and multiply it by the coefficient listed that best matches your activity level. *The coefficient isn’t an exact science since if can be truly hard to pinpoint where you’re at. Just take your best guess and use it to guide you.

Finally, take that number you just figured out and add to it the number of calories you burn in a day for actual exercise and fitness. The best way to do this is by using a heart rate monitor to calculate calories, but if you don’t have that, then check out this chart to give you an idea. Obviously, if you’re not exercising, then you get a big fat ZERO for this number.

That number you just calculated (basal metabolic number, daily activity level, plus fitness activity) is approximately the number of calories you’re burning in a day. It’s how much energy you’re using. If you want to maintain your weight, then consume that many calories. If you want to gain weight (like what I am doing now) then eat more calories. If you want to lose weight, then reduce your calories and create a deficit. Keep in mind that a pound is 3500 calories. If you want to lose a pound a week, that would mean, for example, reducing your calories by 500 calories a day. If you want to lose more than a pound a week, adjust that number via reducing calorie consumption and calories burned. Make sense?!?!

ALL THAT BEING SAID…. calorie counting might not be sexy to some, but personally I love it. It makes it straightforward, FAST, and easy. But, know this: There are ways to use raw foods to make it extra easy, exciting, and delicious… even if calorie counting is a significant element, it’s not the only one… that’s what all of the future blog posts will be about. :)

Homework

  1. Figure out your Active Metabolic Rate.
  2. Write down every bit of food that crosses your lips and track the calories. Yep, it takes a little effort and work. You actually have to look the information up (easy with Google and/or smartphone apps) if you don’t know it, and you have to measure your food (a scale comes in handy – this is the one I use). Here’s the nice thing though… you’ll find that you quickly learn and remember the counts in foods. It only takes a week or so and you’ll get the hang of it. Many foods are similar and do allow for estimates, however(!) be aware that estimating can be problematic if you’re trying to aggressively lose weight because you might be off by a few hundred calories at the end of the day. Over the course of a week, that adds up to a lot.
  3. After you track your calories for a couple of days, come back and let us know what you think, discover, etc.

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