This is something I get asked a lot by mums. We are all becoming calorie obsessed with them marked on almost everything we eat and drink, but how do we know how many we should be eating?
First things first what is a calorie?
A calorie is the amount of energy in any food or drink we consume. We have foods and drinks that are higher in calories and others that are lower in calories. There are some that somehow contain no calories (think diet coke).
Why do calories matter?
If we want to lose weight, which is the goal for most people, we need to be burning off more calories than we are eating.
A brief explanation of how calories effect weight loss
We each have a certain amount of calories that we need to eat in order to stay the same weight, and this is different for everyone. It’s affected by how active we are, our age, how much muscle we have amongst other factors.
If we want to lose weight we need to be in what’s called a calorie deficit, which is simply eating less than this. It can also be achieved by moving more but either way this means that our bodies are using more calories than we are putting in and this results in weight loss. If we want to put on weight we need to eat more than we need (a calorie surplus) but this is rarely the goal for most mums so we won’t go much further on this.
If losing weight is as simple as eating less than we need how come weight loss is so difficult for so many people?
The main reason is that people reduce their calories by way too much. This is especially problematic for mums because you are constantly on the go, you need to be eating enough to do your daily tasks. Most people cut their calories ridiculously low, feel like crap for a few days, miss the foods they’ve stopped having and end up giving up and going on a monster binge.
The key is to reduce calories by a sensible amount so that you lose weight but still have enough energy to perform your daily tasks.
So how do you calculate how many calories you need?
There are loads of different ways; you can go on a calorie calculator website (The NHS has one). You enter your age, gender, weight and height and it calculates what’s called your BMR.
Your BMR is your basal metabolic rate and it’s basically how many calories your body needs just to keep functioning if you were to lie still all day. Once you have your BMR you enter your activity levels and this tells you how many calories you need on a daily basis. To lose weight you need to be eating less than this, usually by 300-500 calories.
Another way is to use a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal then weigh and measure everything you eat and drink. At the same time you need to track your body weight and measurements. You can then compare how the calories you are eating is affecting your weight loss and make changes from there.
All sounds a bit complicated doesn’t it? Well it’s just as well I’ve come up with an easier way for you mums then isn’t it!
The two methods described above take a fair bit of organising and that’s fine if you’ve got time but usually time is one thing that mums don’t have much of! Having worked with hundreds of mums I know that you are the last people who are going to have the time to track and measure everything you eat.
This is going to sound like a shameless plug, and it is! I’ve considered all of these factors in creating the Lean Mums Meal Plan, and just because it’s simple, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective!
The Lean Mums Meal Plan contains main meals that are all around 400 calories and snacks that are between 150-200 calories, and there are loads of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options to choose from. And most importantly for busy mums the measurements and quantities are given in spoonful’s and handfuls to make cooking and tracking easier.
This means that by eating 3 of these 400 calorie meals a day you know you are eating around 1200 calories, add in your snacks and drinks and you can easily track what you are eating. The Lean Mums meals also contain a healthy balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
How does this help with weight loss?
At the same time as following the Lean Mums Meal Plan you just need to keep track of your weight and body measurements. To see why it’s often helpful to weigh yourself more regularly check out my blog on how the scales can lie.
If you aren’t seeing the progress you’d like you just need to alter one of the following things:
• Reduce snacks
• Reduce drinks that contain calories
• Reduce alcohol
• Do an extra workout per week
As you do this you’ll be getting a better idea of the number of calories YOU need to be eating to out yourself into a sensible calorie deficit. Notice the word ‘reduce’ not ‘remove’, this doesn’t need to be drastic and be an elimination diet. And if your progress still isn’t as you’d like you just alter something else on the list but again it’s about making small, considered changes.
If you want shorter hair you get a trim you don’t cut it all off. Weight loss is much the same. By using this approach you can tweak and alter depending on your needs. You can also keep an eye on your energy levels, your mood, how hard you are able to train. If any of these things become an issue it’s a sign you are under-eating so then all you need to is add in one of those things, add an extra snack or perhaps remove a workout.
Look at the bigger picture
Too many people only focus on what they eat Monday to Friday and forget that weekends count too. They’ll follow their super low calorie diet all week then go mad at weekends. When you add all of their weekly calories together they are actually averaging more than they need (they are in a calorie surplus for those of you paying attention at the start).
The chocolate biscuit here, or glass of wine there all count so just try to be aware of how many of these you are having. These could be what’s stopping your progress but as with everything else I’ve mentioned it’s not about cutting things out it’s just about being aware of them and perhaps slightly reducing.
If are a details person get yourself on the NHS website and work out your calories and get busy tracking on MyFitnessPal. If you’d like a less admin heavy approach give the Lean Mums Meal Plan a go. If you aren’t already a member you can sign up for just £4.99 a month and you’ll get access to all of the workouts and the chat area of the website too.
Whichever approach you take you’ll hopefully learn more about how many calories are in the foods you are eating and what works for you which is absolutely brilliant. All whilst having enough energy to continue being fantastic mums which is the most important thing!