“Summer is coming and I want to look good in a bikini.  I have to start my diet so I can lose weight before the beach weather arrives.”  Have you said some variation of this to yourself?  Or to someone else?

The dictionary definition of diet is a :  food and drink regularly provided or consumed “a diet of fruits and vegetables a vegetarian diet” b :  habitual nourishment “links between diet and disease” c :  the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason “was put on a low-sodium diet” d :  a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight “going on a diet.”  (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

The dictionary definition of eat is to take in through the mouth as food :  ingest, chew, and swallow in turn (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

When most people hear the word diet, they think of the latter definition, “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight (as in going on a diet).”  When I hear the word diet, I think of the food that I consume daily (as in, my diet consists of a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbs).  So for me, diet and eating go hand in hand.  I eat a variety of foods as part of my daily diet.

The word diet has developed a negative connotation over the years because of society’s perception.  A diet seems to have the stigma of punishment for those that have gained body fat (or the popular term “weight”) due to a number of reasons, mainly because we’ve overindulged in food and drink.  So in order to lose that “weight” we must restrict calories and certain foods to achieve our goal of fitting into a bikini and looking good in it.

What the general population doesn’t seem to know is that our bodies require energy in order to function, to breathe, to move, to live!  Where does that energy come from?  Mostly the food we eat.  All living systems require an ongoing supply of energy.  Energy is the ability to cause specific changes.  So if we restrict that energy, what do you think will happen?

All energy comes from the transfer of energy that is stored in macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats) via digestion, absorption, assimilation, transportation and ultimately metabolism.  The body needs energy for thousands of different functions required for LIFE!  That vast majority of that daily energy intake goes toward carrying on the basic life processes.

Metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert what we eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy our bodies need to function.  Even when we’re at rest, our bodies need energy for all its “hidden” functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.

 The number of calories our bodies use to carry out these basic functions is known as our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) — what you might call metabolism. Several factors determine our individual basal metabolic rate, including age, height, growth, body composition, fever stress, environmental temperature, fasting/starvation, malnutrition and thyroxine.
Age – BMR is generally higher in youth due to a higher percentage of muscle mass relative to overall weight
Height – taller people have more surface area which creates a higher BMR in order to regulate body temperature
Growth – higher growth demands more energy; children and pregnant women have a higher BMR
Body Composition – the more lean body mass (muscle and organs) the higher the BMR
Fever – causes a significant increase in BMR due to the body working harder to regulate body temperature
Stress – initially stress hormones increase BMR but prolonged can actually lower BMR
Environmental Temperature – when environmental temperatures are either high or low it requires considerably more energy for our bodies to maintain the optimum range of body temperature
Fasting/Starvation – hormones that are released during fasting/starvation lower BMR
Malnutrition – lowers BMR
Thyroxine – the overall level of the thyroid hormone and its conversion rate play a major role in BMR regulation
Consequences of energy imbalances (either too much or too little) can lead to a number of issues.  If we consume or take in more energy than the body needs, it must be stored as either fat (from any excess calories regardless of the food source) or muscle (if some of the excess is protein).  If we do not consume enough energy, our bodies are forced to obtain energy from energy stores.  For most people, adipose tissue (fat) accounts for the largest energy reserve.  Then the body will tap into lean body mass (which is something we definitely don’t want).  Finding that balance between the two is the tricky part but the good news is it can be done!

There are generally three major goals associated with knowing how much energy and therefore calories are needed each day:

  1.  lose weight (preferably fat)
  2. put on weight (preferably lean body mass/muscle)
  3. maintain weight

Calculating your energy requirements is not at all difficult as long as you are aware of your BMR and the factors that affect it.  Based on our goals, we can easily calculate the number of calories our bodies require to achieve that goal.

Need help with figuring out your energy requirements?  Sign up for my blog http://www.myflexibledieting.blog and follow my page http://www.facebook.com/myflexibledieting for more tips and stay tuned for what’s to come to help you lose the body fat and learn more about flexible dieting!

Cheers to your health!

Lori

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