Posted in Being Healthy

How Many Calories Do I Need Each Day? Yes, this is about METABOLISM

Why am I fat? The answer du jour…for about the past 10 years…has been “I have a slow metabolism.”


Your body has a metabolism…a specific number of calories necessary to maintain your basic body funtions: breathing, blinking, making saliva in your mouth, sending visual messages from your eyes to your brain so you know what you’re looking at, peeing, pooping, smelling, laughing, talking, walking from your desk to the snack machine at 2:57 pm at the office.

This means that your metabolism CANNOT be slow or fast; it needs what it needs. You don’t get to determine what your body needs, but if you have the correct information, you CAN make new choices about how to feed your metabolism to effect changes in your body.

If you think you can’t lose weight because you have a “slow metabolism,” you are making excuses for yourself. Yes, I am aware that I am oversimplifying, but I’m trying to make a point here. Take responsibility for and control of yourself and your lifestyle. This includes taking responsibility for knowing and managing any health conditions you have because they ALL affect your weight; don’t feed me lines about your thyroid or PCOS or menopause as if you can’t do something about that.

Other unacceptable excuses: I don’t have time, I have kids, It’s too expensive. These are all excuses for

  1. not knowing what you need to know (which takes all of 10 seconds to discover)
  2. not acting on what you know “because it’s hard” <insert whine here>

Ladies: put your big girl panties on!

Gents: your choice…get a girdle or put your big girl panties on!

What do you need to know to make the right choices? Geez, that is so easy a caveman can do it. You need to know how many calories your body’s metabolism requires each day to keep you alive and perform basic activity functions. Yes, there is a complex mathematical formula for this. Yes, it looks very cool when all the proper symbols are aligned. No, there is NOT going to be a math test. It’s as simple as clicking on this link to a calulator for your Basil Metabolic Rate. Enter your current weight (be shockingly honest), your height, your age, and your sex. Mine comes out like this:

For me to stay exactly as I am, I must consume a total of 1880.87 calories each day; no exercise required.

For me to lose weight, I must consume less than 1880.87 calories each day through a combination of food intake and exercise burn off.

Now, let’s match up a diet and exercise plan to support weight loss. We all should know by now that I’ve chosen Weight Watchers, originally on the Points plan (with 31 points of food a day) and now the PointsPlus plan (with 38 points of food a day). On the old Points plan, each point was roughly equivalent to 50 calories, so that plan (and the nutritional formula) came out to a 1550-calorie-a-day diet. The new PointsPlus plan does not include calories in the formula, so I’m still looking for an explanation of a calorie equation that makes sense, but if we assume the same 1:50 ratio (which is not a rational assumption), the PointsPlus plan comes out to a 1900-calorie-a-day diet.

Dang, it’s a good thing I simply cannot eat 38 points of food on a normal day (special occasions on any version of the plan are exceptions). I average a consumption of around 30 points a day, uhum, just like the old points plan. So I’m still working on a 1500-calorie-a-day diet, which supports weight loss.

Add to that the fact that I exercise at my optimal fat-burning heart rate for 30-45 minutes every day, I’m burning 600 calories of that intake. On Weight Watchers, that 600 more calories I get to each on days when I work out, or roughly 12 more points. And, no, that does not mean I eat 42 or 50 points a day, even on a special occasion day.

Oh, I guess I should say how I know how many calories I burn during a workout. I use a SportLine Solo Fitness Watch that accepts age, height, and weight information and uses that in combination with heart rate data before, during, and after my workout to calculate and track my calories burned. Typically, my main aerobic workout is running (well, technically, jogging at a 13-minute mile pace for you die-hard runners), and I have now three years of data from several sources: my fitness watch, the treadmill (where I enter the same info), the elliptical machine, and my group of friend/trainers at my gym. I can get in 3 miles on the treadmill in 45 minutes or on the elliptical in 30. All of these data sources give me internally and externally consistent data to show that for every 15 minutes I spend at my ideal working heart rate (145-160), I burn 200 calories. (NOTE: the Cooper River Bridge Run takes me 1.5 hours to jog, which means I burn 1200 calories on the run itself and then another 400 calories on the mile power warm-up walk from the house to the start and then from the finish to the ferry to go home; that’s 1600 calories in one morning.)

Okay, so now you are ready to hit me with the trick question: if I need 1880 calories a day to stay alive, how does 1500 calories plus exercise get me by.

Short Answer: ensure that as many of those 1500 calories a day are supplied with super power foods (clean protein, fresh fruit and veggies, high fiber carbs, healthy fats) rather than empty calories (Doritos, cheese puffs, easy mac and cheese, hot tamale candies).

Long Answer: subscribe to my blog 🙂 I will keep talking/writing about this!


If you've had my cooking or heard me sing, you've shared some of the happiest and most memorable moments of my life. But if you've been lucky enough to listen to me sing while I cook, well, then you've seen the real me. And if you've sung and cooked with me, you know what being loved by me is!

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