A Woman's Calorie Needs

Your Daily Metabolism & Why It Matters

A Woman's Calorie Needs

"How many calories should I be eating?"  This is a question I get asked a lot.  Like, a lot. 

By far, the most common weight-management strategy has got to be counting calories.  It costs nothing.  It never changes with the times.  It requires no real understanding of nutrition. And, as long as you believe in science and the laws of energy and all that nonsense, there's really no arguing with the old calories in, calories out method of weight loss.  Energy doesn't evaporate.  It doesn't turn into other things.  Energy just is.  You must consume energy (food) and your bodily processes and activities will expend energy through chemical reactions inside the body.  If you consume more energy than you expend, your body stores that additional energy in fat cells dispersed throughout the body and according to your gender, body type.  If you expend more energy than you consume, your body will extract stored energy (fat) from within its fat cells, dispersed throughout the body, and convert it into usable energy to sustain your body's processes.

So the question of how many calories you need depends largely upon whether your goal is to gain weight, maintain your weight or lose weight.

Let's come back to that.

First, bookmark this page.  You might like to come back to it from time to time to use the formulas and re-evaluate your caloric needs when your body size or lifestyle changes.

The best place to start is to determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  Your BMR is the number of calories your body requires, at rest, to get through a day.  Basically, this is the energy you require to blink, breathe, sweat, pee, poo, and daydream about George Clooney.  Here's where that junior high arithmetic comes in handy (Your mother told you it would one day.  Now's that day.).   To calculate your BMR, use the following formula. 

Note: I am Canadian and we still like our good ol' fashioned imperial measurements.  You can google BMR to find a metric equivalent that I'll omit here to save space.

Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in year)

So let's say, for example, that you are a woman of 40 years, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 160 pounds.  For you:

BMR = 655 + (4.35 x 160) + (4.7 x 65) - (4.7 x 40)

BMR = 655 + (696) + (305.5) - (188)

BMR = 1,468.5 calories/day

Of course, you do more than just blink, breathe, sweat, pee, poo and dream about George Clooney in a day.  Don't you?  And I don't mean time spent on LaineyGossip.com... I mean cleaning, walking, exercising, playing with the kids, doing your day job, etc.

To calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), or the approximate number of calories you require in total each day, use the following standard formulas based on the amount of physical activity you engage in on the average day. 

Sedentary (little or no exercise, desk job) = BMR X 1.2
Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk) = BMR X 1.375
Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk) = BMR X 1.55
Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk) = BMR X 1.725
Extremely active (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job) = BMR X 1.9

So, going back to our 40 year old, 160-lb, 5'5" woman.  Let's assume she is a mother of young kids, works a standard 9-5 desk job, and maybe jogs 3 days per week.  I would categorize her activity level as "moderate."  While her desk job burns very few calories, housekeeping, playing and generally mothering burns quite a few.  Plus she deliberately burns calories 3 days/week when she jogs.

TDEE = 1,468.5 x 1.55

TDEE = 2,276 calories/day

In order to maintain your weight, aim to eat approximately the same number of calories as your TDEE (give or take a few - this is not a precise number, so don't obsess).

Stay tuned later this week to learn how many calories you need per day if your goal is to lose weight! 


Do you count calories?  Need help determining your BMR or TDEE?  Comment below!



So You Got Sick and Lost a Few Pounds

How to Hang On To Your Weight Loss

So You Got Sick and Lost a Few Pounds

Last week I spent most of my time being vomited and pooped on, and cleaning/laundering other things which had been vomited and pooped on. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my high points. Both Sweaty Baby & Sweaty Kid came down with some terrible, head-spinning-360-degrees, Exorcist kind of sickness.  That's Sweaty Kid to the left... I pretty much didn’t leave the house for almost 96 hours and could barely get hand to mouth to feed myself, resorting to quick carbs and cup after cup of coffee.

Upside? I lost a pound or two.

Downside? Seriously, do I have to revisit the whole getting vomited and pooped on thing? 

Not dramatic enough?  Did I mention that cleaning the furniture/children/floor took priority over cleaning myself?  OK, maybe TMI..

Now, getting back to that pound or two that I lost. When you are sick or otherwise incapacitated (as when caring for a sick relative although not really sick yourself), it is normal to lose a bit of weight as you’ll generally consume fewer calories than you would normally consume to maintain your weight. If you are ill for more than a few days, this can be a marked weight loss. Sick for a week and it might be as much as 4-5 pounds. Sick longer and you should really be speaking with your doctor, not your personal trainer.

If you’ve been sick and you’re not interested in losing weight, increase your calories for the week after an illness and you can easily regain any pounds lost. But if, like me, you’re happy to see the number dip down on the scale a bit, you might be wondering whether you can maintain that “sickness weight loss”.

First, you should know that approximately half of the weight you’ll lose when sick is fluid weight, so you can expect to gain back about half of what you’ve lost within a day or two of recovering.

Here are a few tips if you’d like to hang on to that lower weight and you’re feeling back to your old self:

1. Head to the gym. Or out for a walk or jog. Or do one of the various home workouts available on my Fit Family site. Your body is fatigued, maybe a bit weak and probably a little stiff. Ease into it but begin exercising immediately, and focus especially on cardiovascular activities during the first 1-2 weeks to help you build your endurance back up and strength training to wake up those stiff muscles and rev your metabolism back up from its previous zombie-like levels.  Not feeling up to much?  That's okay!  Small daily workouts will do you better in the metabolism department than a couple of strenuous 2-hour gym visits, anyway.  Consistency is key as you get active again.

2. Get your fluids. If you weren’t eating, you likely weren’t hydrating well enough, even if you were drinking water, juice, tea, Gatorade – whatever you were thirsty for while sick. The truth is, a major portion of our fluids come from healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Incorporate watery foods like soups, milk, yogurt, and lots of citrus fruits, melon, and salad vegetables which have a high water content. These foods will not only hydrate you, they tend to be relatively low in calories while still high in nutrients, so they’ll help satisfy you, hydrate you and keep your calories low enough to maintain that weight loss.

3. Watch your binge reflex. After not eating much for a few days (or more) you may find your appetite is smaller than normal. On the other hand, you may find you are ravenous and find it difficult to control your eating as your body tries to recoup calories lost. Ease yourself back into a full, healthy diet and focus on nutrient-rich but lighter fare like salads, soups, lean meats and fishes and fibrous veggies, fruits and nuts & seeds (which can also help get your digestive system moving happily again if you’re feeling a little, um... backed up). Eat to your hunger level, not to your appetite. Eat frequently and aim for smaller meals, as your stomach has probably shrunk a bit. You’ll be more comfortable and more likely to keep off those pounds lost.

Lucky for me, I've found a week of body-fluid-showers seemed to have had some sort of permanent effect on my appetite.  Or maybe it's the smell of puke that just won't seem to leave the house. 

After a week in the house with the kids, though, I am trying to keep an eye on my "wine reflex."

Just a note here: if you are suffering an extended period of illness and losing a great deal of weight or are experiencing very rapid and unintentional weight loss, please consult your doctor.