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How many Calories do we need to lose weight?

By Mark Surdut APD AN

A man’s energy needs are measured in calories (or kilojoules)*

In simple terms, your energy needs are made up of:

1. What the body needs to simply function at rest ie. doing nothing at all (as some of us do!). This is known as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) or Resting Energy Expenditure (REE). It declines with age. A 90kg 40-year-old male, of average height, would have an REE of about 1700 calories

2. What extra energy is required for physical activity (an active bloke may need up to 3,500 calories/day)

3. Illness or injury factors – if you’re unwell or severely injured, your energy requirements go up significantly.

What causes weight gain?

One of the factors that make us fat is over-filling on calories.

But even with the same calorie intake, rates of weight loss vary between individuals. Genes (or our inheritance!) and other factors, perhaps other dietary factors too, also affect our ‘’fat-ness’’.

How do you modify Calories IN to reduce weight?

Well, the textbook offers us some guidance here, suggesting if we reduce our daily calories by 500 to 1000 calories a day, as a sensible starting point for an obese gentleman, we should start shedding.

Very Low-Calorie Diets (VLCDs) comprising of as little as 800 calories are sometimes indicated for more rapid weight loss. Such a restriction in calories may be required in, for example, a man with congestive heart failure that may have resulted from obesity and simply must reduce his shape to save his life.

REMINDER – Calorie restriction is only one strategy for weight loss and this needs to be coupled with balanced eating and exercise. But the idea of weight management simply equaling energy in versus energy out is now clearly recognised as a gross over-simplification of a very complex and poorly understood the issue.

Not all calories are created equal

Calorie for calorie, different foods have varying impacts on different people. I am sure you would agree that 100 calories of choc-chip biccies and 100 calories of lean steak are simply not the same things when it comes to how they affect our bodies.

It’s not that calories don’t count, they sure do, but counting calories alone is no recipe for healthy weight management – we are not simply cars with fuel gages.

Weight management requires an individual approach by an experienced clinician, such as a dietitian.

(*1 Calorie = 4.2 kilojoules)

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