I get a lot of emails from people that start off like this…
I’m 5’5, 180lbs, and 45 years old. How many calories should I eat?
My response is generally something like this…
Hi 5’5, 180lbs, my name is Tony. That’s a good question, but I need a lot more information than that in order to give you an accurate food intake target. You are more than just a height, age, and weight. This is good data to have, but the intangibles and your past history and skill set are much more important for determining the path you should take.
Is a Calorie Calculator All You Need?
There’s a good chance you’ve played around with a calorie calculator at some point during your weight loss struggles. There’s also an even greater chance that the number of calories it gave you to eat didn’t sound right to you.
It was either too high, too low, or different than the other 10 calculators you tried. So now you’re even more confused.
Calorie calculators are a useful tool. But that’s all they are – a tool. They aren’t meant to be the definitive word. And they aren’t meant to become dependent on.
They are just population averages that are based on height, age, weight, and activity levels. It gives you a starting place to aim for. That is it. You still have to adjust your food intake based on your body’s feedback.
More importantly, you first have to come up with a transitional plan that emphasizes eating consistency before trying to make adjustments to your food quantity.
You Don’t Adjust Calories, You Adjust Consistency
When a client is struggling with their eating, I don’t make calorie adjustments. I make consistency adjustments.
The goal is to first get consistent with your eating, and then you adjust that consistency. You can’t adjust a moving target.
Getting to that consistency is the hard part. Determining calorie intake is much easier, especially once that consistency is established.
For example, if you want to eat 1600 calories, but your week looks like this…
- Sun – 1200 calories with 2 meals + 1 snack
- Mon – 2000 calories (went a little overboard at lunch meeting)
- Tue – 1600 calories – nailed it!
- Wed – 1400 calories (wasn’t hungry most of the day)
- Thur – 1000 calories (was too busy to eat breakfast)
- Fri – 2200 calories (went out to eat with friends and had drinks)
- Sat – 1200 calories (feeling guilty from night before)
…then do you think knowing how many calories to eat is the issue?
It’s not – consistency is.
Focus On Your Eating Approach
The ultimate goal is to become really consistent with how you eat – not necessarily what you eat or even how much you eat. What you eat isn’t always in your control. Our environment tends to determine that more than we’d like.
But your approach to eating can be the same regardless of the circumstances – vacation, parties, holidays, work, or a typical weekday. And this is 100% in your control.
One of the ways you can do this is to focus on eating slowly, mindfully, and to stop at 80% full. This is a skill, so don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this at first. But like all skills, the more you practice it the better you’ll get.
Once that approach is consistent it becomes much easier to adjust your food intake, and your body’s feedback is more consistent instead of seeing drastic fluctuations on the scale or in the mirror day to day.
We are the sum of our behaviors. And our behaviors determine whether we’re in an energy deficit or not. So it makes more sense to focus on your behaviors instead of trying to jump to the side effect of those behaviors – calorie intake.
Consistency before calories. You can’t adjust what isn’t there.