Fat loss basics

A car needs fuel to drive. Human beings need fuel too. Our “fuel” is in the form of food; and this gives us energy. Our bodies use this energy to function on a daily basis. Energy is measured in calories (or kilojoules).

You need to eat enough food every day to cover the daily energy needs of your body. The more physical activity you do, the more energy you use.

If you eat too much food, more than your daily required energy needs, then that excess does not get used up and gets stored in your body as fat. This is how you pick up weight. So remember, fat is basically just stored energy.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Your Basal Metabolic Rate is the number of calories you need to keep your body functioning at rest. Bear in mind, you BMR is at rest, and usually you will be doing more than just resting. You would be walking around the house, walking to the car, taking out the garbage, cooking, taking the dog out for a walk. So your BMR is the absolute lowest amount you need to function. Its like saying how much energy you need to stay in bed all day. So, your actual energy requirements will be more than you BMR (calculation below), depending on how active you are. But in a nutshell, its the amount of calories you need to function daily.

Lets say your body needs 2000 calories every day to function normally and do daily activities. This means you need to eat 2000 calories of food daily and this will be burned up just by living your life. Thats great right. Nothing to worry about there.

If you consume 2500 calories, this is 500 calories more than what your body needs. You could do exercise and burn it up, but if you you don’t do exercise, this extra amount will be converted into fat, and you gain weight.

How do I lose weight??

If you eat 1500 calories, this is 500 calories less than what your body needs to function. In this case your body will take from your stored energy reserves ie. it will take from your fat!!! And this is  how you lose weight.

You body will slowly start taking and using up all of that stored energy (fat) when eat slightly less than what it needs to function. If you reduce your calories by 500 every day, it will be 3500 calories (7 days x 500cal) for one week. These 3500 calories will burn up and use just under a half a kilogram of fat for that week. This is a half a kilogram of weight loss! The more active you are, the more you will burn up. This is why some people will lose 1kg a week. They are eating less and exercising. Got it?

Important: If you are a healthy weight, you need to maintain your weight and eat the right amount of calories for your body’s energy requirements. Do not reduce your calories. You don’t have stored fat and your body will start taking its energy from your muscles if you eat too little.

How do I know if I am a healthy weight or not?

Before you determine you BMR, you need to know if you are a healthy weight or overweight, or underweight or obese. You can calculate this by doing a BMI (body mass  index) calculation.

The following link will take you to the calculator:    Body Mass Index Calculator

Once you know your BMI, you can calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate) to see how much calories you need daily.

The following link will take you to the calculator: Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator

Please read the notes on the website below the calculators for more information and further explanation and perspective of what these numbers mean. 

How do I know how much calories I am eating?

I use an app called MyFitnessPal, where I track everything I eat. The website is My Fitness Pal  and both the app and website have a wealth of knowledge about weight loss, menu’s and support. It will calculate your daily needs, help you keep track of your calories, weight, exercise and water. It is a fantastic and helpful (and free!) tool that links to other apps as well. Check it out.

I hope this post gave a better explanation of calories, how to lose weight and the tools you can use to help you on your journey.




Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, dietician or medical professional. Please do not take the above as medical advice. Please contact your doctor for further explanation and advice for your body and any health conditions you may have. 



Siham Arieff
Siham Arieff

Siham is a wellness writer, stroke survivor, mom of 3 and coffee lover on a health and fitness journey who recently relocated back home to Cape Town, South Africa.

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