Weight loss: A personal journey – Part 4: It’s all a balancing act!

Find out how your body burns calories to effectively lose weight.

Many people, myself included, use the excuse, “I have a slow metabolism that is why it is hard for me to lose weight. In some ways that is true, because metabolism is linked to weight by influencing your body’s basic energy needs. In fact, it’s your calorie intake (what you eat and drink), and the amount of calories you burn (through physical exercise) that determine how much you weigh.

So just what is metabolism and how does it affect how much you weight? According to Mayo Clinic, metabolism is the process your body uses to convert what you eat and drink into energy. The calories you take in are combined with oxygen to release needed energy for your body to function. You are burning calories all the time, even when you are sleeping because you are still using energy for basic body functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, growth and cell repair. The amount of energy needed to maintain your body at rest is called your “Basal Metabolic Rate” (BMR).

It’s important to remember we are all different, that is why some people can lose weight easily, and some struggle. Michigan State University Extension says that there are several factors which determine your BMR:

  • Body size. Larger people have more muscle to burn more calories.
  • Gender. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than women so they burn more calories.
  • Age. As you get older, you lose muscle mass and increase fat levels, which slow down how many calories you burn.

The number of calories you need to function at rest (BMR) tends to stay consistent and is not easily changed. It accounts for up to 75 percent of the calories you burn every day. In addition, you burn 10 percent of your calorie intake digesting food and beverages you consume. Physical activity and exercise make up the remainder of the calories your body burns each day. Physical activity is essentially the most flexible influence on how many calories you burn each day.

Weight gain is also a result of eating more calories than you burn. Typically, if you want to lose weight, it is recommended that you need to lower your daily calories by 500. This can be done with a combination of lowering calories you consume by eating less along with burning calories by exercising more.

Now that you know more about metabolism and weight loss, you can go to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension to find out how many calories you actually need to maintain or lose weight, where there is a fact sheet that can walk you through the formula. Set your own calorie spending and calorie burning plan, much like a personal budget. Find the balance that works for you!

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