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Want to lose weight?

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The most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to:
make changes to your diet and level of physical activity that become part of your daily routine.

Your weight depends on how much energy, or how many calories, you take in through eating and drinking and how much energy, or how many calories, your body uses or “burns”.  You can think of it as calories in versus calories out.  It’s only when your “calories in” are less than your “calories out” that you start to lose weight.

So to readjust the balance to allow you to lose weight, you need to:

•Reduce the number of calories you eat and drink (calories in);
•Increase your level of physical activity (calories out);
•The most effective choice, do both.

Calories In

This is really just what you eat and drink each day.  A good way to monitor how many calories you are consuming is to keep a food diary of absolutely everything you eat and drink and find out the calorie content of the different foods and drinks.  Checking labels and looking on the internet can help with this.

When looking to reduce your calories in it’s best not to skip meals as this can slow your metabolism down (see more about metabolism below).  Also, if you reduce your calories in excessively, your body may start to break down muscle instead of fat to get its energy and this can also lead to a slower metabolism (again, see more below).

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Calories Out

Calories out will depend on your metabolic rate.

Your metabolism is the name given to all the process going on inside your body to keep you alive and your body functioning normally, like breathing, digesting food and repairing cells. These processes require energy and the minimum amount of energy you require to carry out these processes is called your “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) or your “basal metabolic rate”. Your RMR can account for up to 70% of your body’s daily energy requirements.

While it is difficult to change the rate of your metabolism, you can increase your energy burn, or calories out, through your level of physical activity. The most effective way to do this is a combination of:

•Aerobic activity – such as running, cycling, rowing or swimming. This is the most effective way to burn calories.
•Strength training – focusing on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders, arms and abdomen). Muscle tissue burns more energy than fat so building up the amount of muscle you have will help to use up more calories.
•General activity – like taking the stairs instead of the escalator or walking an extra stop before catching the bus. The more you move the more calories you will burn and these types of changes often don’t take much time but they all add up.

Exercise not only burns calories while you are active but can also raise your RMR for a period post-exercise too. It may also raise result in your baseline RMR being raised.

Putting it together

An average man needs around 2,500kcal a day while an average woman needs around 2,000kcal.  This can vary depending on your age, body size, level of physical activity and other factors but generally speaking, if calories in exceed calories out by 2,500kcal (for men) or 2,000kcal (for women) they will remain at a stable weight.  You can find calculators on the internet which will work out your daily energy needs but you should look for ones which use the Harris-Benedict equation.

To loss weight at a safe and sustainable rate, considered to be around 0.5kg – 1.0kg (1lb – 2lb) a week, your calories in should be around 500 – 600kcal less than your daily needs.  It’s best to aim for a steady, gradual loss of weight around this level as if you lose weight more rapidly than thisyou may be losing muscle tissue rather than fat which is not sustainable or healthy.