How Many Calories do you really need?

I struggled for a REALLY long time to lose weight.  I thought I was eating a pretty clean diet. I cut most sugar out.  I reduced my calories and I just could not get the weight to drop. I made use of all of the online tools to figure out how much I should be eating.  Based on my size (5’ 11” and 240 pounds at that time) everything said I should be eating at least 1800 calories a day. Supposedly that 1800 calories would put me at a caloric deficit and get the weight dropping.  Sounded great, but it didn’t work. I figured it may be my diet composition so I switched to keto. It was a great shift because it made sense – get rid of all of the sugar and simple carbs and drop the pounds. I dove in head-first and embraced the keto way of eating (WOE).  Still no joy, I actually gained weight.

It was about this time that I began to realize that maybe my calories had something to do with it.  As I began to read more I realized there are MANY opinions out there about calories-in, calories-out (CICO).  Some say calories only marginally matter, others say calories are the primary factor in weight loss. I say – it depends on you and what is going on with your body.

Excess energy, Metabolic Syndrome, and why you just can’t lose your fat

One of the primary issues I see people have with any dietary change they make is they believe changing what they eat will fix their problem.  This is only partially true. The reality is the body needs energy. It doesn’t care (in general terms) if that energy comes from a glazed donut or a salad.  Many folks begin to eat healthier, which is good, but fail to understand the amount they are eating still plays an important role in their ability to control their weight.  If your body only NEEDS 1200 calories a day to thrive putting anything more than that into it will add weight because the additional energy gets stored as fat. PERIOD.  

Just as a side note, there are some people out there with awesome metabolisms (that would be my wife and most of my kids) that can actually eat all they want and not gain a pound – but that ain’t me (and odds are if you are reading this it’s not you either).  Some of us suffer from metabolic syndrome. In a nutshell, you have abused your body, your system provides too much insulin and your cells become insulin resistant. This means your body has to create more and more insulin to drive energy into your cells. This results in more energy (fat) being stored and you end up in weight loss hell.  More on this in a future article.

What steps to take to figure out actual calories needed

Ultimately, you have to create a caloric deficit to lose weight.  Your body has to use more energy that you are giving it through your meals – this is the only way it can tap your fat stores.  Using the MANY calculators out there to figure out a starting point is ok. I like the one the KetoGains crew uses because it is more conservative than most of the others.  Once you have that basic daily calorie number in place, you begin to test it out. Eat for a month at that calorie level – are you losing weight? If yes, leave it alone and use that as your target.  If you are not losing weight on the scale (or inches when measuring with a tape) you need to adjust it down. Move your calories down by 100 to 200 a day and then eat at that level for a month. See how you do.  If you still are not losing weight adjust it down again. Keep doing this until you find that sweet spot.

A couple of final thoughts on finding your ideal calorie count

There is a school of thought out there that says if you drop your calories too low your body will enter “starvation mode”.  If you are lean to begin with and don’t have a fair amount of fat to contend with, this is true. However, if you are like me and had 70 pounds of stored energy hanging around on your body – your body will consume the fat before it gets worried about starving.  The other thing folks chat about is this concept of breaking your metabolism. If you are like me – your metabolism is already broken. How you eat isn’t going to change that. I get the concept, but again I believe there are some of us on this weight loss journey that the standard rules don’t apply to, and I am ok with that.

Good luck figuring this out.  If you need help, feel free to leave a comment below.

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