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determining your own dietary needs

Updated on September 10, 2011

Customizing Your Diet for Weightloss and Health

New Years is a great time of looking seriously at ourselves and our lifestyles and determining areas of improvement. One of the most popular resolutions is weight-loss. Lets face it, we all know "we are what we eat". Up to 80% of our health and fitness levels is determined by the food we are eating.

I've been a massasge therapist for about 2 years and I've seen this time and again; and I can't stress enough the importance of taking an active roll in your own health. I strongly suggest getting a complete physical as the first step in creating change. If you have a nutritionist, dietitian and personal trainer in your budget then you can follow their advice. But, I personally believe that sitting down and creating your own plan-of-action -- with the proper understanding of your body -- is the key to success. For optimal weight loss - getting the weigh off the fastest and keeping it off - is a delicate balance between eating the appropriate number of calories and exercising -- energy in vs. energy out. This can be daunting to someone who have had an unhealthy diet for a number of years. It's hard to extend that brief glance in the mirror to sitting down with a pencil and paper and figuring out where you've gone wrong. But, it is the only way to affect serious change. To be forewarned it to be forearmed! There are 3 main areas to affecting this change. Understanding how your metabolism works is the key to achieving the size and fitness level you desire. These 3 main areas are: Caloric Intake, Nutritional Balances (taking your vitamins and drinking water), and Caloric Expenditure (steady exercise). These are the areas I strive to help my clients understand, but by far, the hardest is the Caloric Intake.

We all have been warped into having a relationship with food. We evolved to the point where sitting down to Thanksgiving is like a love affair, we spend days preparing ourselves (mentally eating all those treats) then gorging ourselves on the high caloric content throughout the day.

Of course, Thanksgiving is an extreme example, but generally throughout the week when we are upset or stressed we tend to drift toward those foods that give us an emotional response -- they recall a time when we weren't stressed or upset. We, essentially, associate those happy feelings with the food.

Wrong. Food is a source of fuel - the only one our bodies have. We don't produce energy on our own, our energy is directly associated with in-taking calories. Therefore, the next step to change is to realize exact instances when you turned to food for comfort or happiness and recognize where you went wrong.

Determining Your Caloric Intake: Next you must determine exactly how many calories you need to be in-taking each day. Remember, you must first burn through the calories you ate today to get to the ones that are stored from yesterday (as fat). Now this requires a little bit of math, so grab a calculator, your scale and a piece of paper: Step 1: For Men: 1 x body weight (kg) x 24 = _________ For Women: .9 x body weight (kg) x 24 = _________ * to convert pounds to kg, divide weight in pounds by 2.2 (1) Step 2: Use a body fat calculator like found here: http://www.csgnetwork.com/bodyfatcalc.html to determine (roughly) what percentage of your body is fat.http://www.thecaloriecounter.com/ to determine the calories in each type of food. This is easier than trying to calculate them from a book or from the back of the box. http://www.dietbites.com/Pyramid-Diet/food-group-recommendations-daily-diet.html where you select your calorie range and it gives you a great breakdown of servings. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/issa64.htm Bodybuilding.com, 305 Steelhead Way, Boise, ID Step 3: Take the results from step one and the following chart and multiply them together... Body Fat % = multiplier Men 10-14%, Women 14-18% = 1.00 Men 14-20%, Women 18-28% = 0.95 Men 20-20%, Women 28-38% = 0.90 Men over 28%, Women over 38% = 0.85 For example, A woman who weighs 165lbs: *Take the pounds and multiply by 2.2 tp gain kg's : 165/2.2 = 75 *Input it into the Step 1 equation : 0.9 x 75 x 24 = 1620 *Now after using the body fat calculator and determining she had a body fat percentage of 26% she would use the multiplier from above of 0.95 : 1620 x 0.95 = 1539 calories/day

Applying Your Caloric Intake: You should be eating something every 3-4 hours. This is what will keep your blood sugar level (keeping you from having the energy highs then crashes throughout the day) as well as feeding your muscles and organs with constant energy levels. This means you want to divide your calories/day by about 4-

6 meals. This is where the customization of your lifestyle comes into play. Be realistic! If you have a job on a machine-shop floor then you might be able to eat a power bar while on the job, but not a turkey sandwich. Look at your typical day and plan out times for eating, like you would figure in a time for a shower. Furthermore, you will want to plan for all eventualities. I always say stock your purse, glove-compartment, desk, where ever you tend to be busy with healthy snacks. This is in case you can't have your scheduled meal on time. Most people are most satisfied with a 60/20/20 diet. This means 60% of their calories come from carbohydrates, and 20% each from Fats and Proteins (although some males tend to like a higher percentage of proteins and less from carbs). This is what keeps you full and gives you optimal energy. So what does this mean? Well, you'll want to divide your calories/day by how many times you can realistically eat in the day... so the woman used in the above example would want to eat about 5 meals per day: 1539/5 = 307.8 calories/meal... (in which 184.68 calories come from carbohydrates, 61.56 calories from protein and another from fats). Write out your potential diet using these calories. Breaking everything down. Write out your drinks, any sauces (mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc) and keep totaling them up to make sure you're not over going your caloric needs. You can use online calorie counters like You should sit down each weekend and plan your diet for the week. Weigh yourself every other week. When weight loss is apparent, recalculate your caloric needs and adjust your diet as necessary. Don't stress when trying to come up with a balanced diet that fits your caloric intake parameters. Check out websites like When it comes to fad diets, I strongly try to steer my clients away from them. Any diet that is under 1200 calories is just plain ridiculous. You'd never be able to maintain it. So you might loose weight but when you 'fell off the wagon' you'd gain back twice as much. It is a much better idea that you institute life long dietary changes rather than fad diets.

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  • Marlene F. profile image

    Marlene F. 

    9 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

    Terrific information. Many years ago I began working out in a gym, and learned much of this information at that time. I became lax after a while trying to balance 2 jobs and a teenager. Sometimes we all forget to take care of ourselves, starting with what we put into our bodies.

  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 

    9 years ago from Wisconsin

    Where can you direct me for dietary needs for those with medical issues? I've been to three dieticians and a multitude of doctors and half of them don't know what to do and the others give such conflicting information. I am diabetic, have no thyroid and no parathyroid. I'm told I need to lose weight (which I do not deny) and my cholesteral is high. Each dietician gives me different advice and when I follow it, I'm yelled at by the doctors because blood levels are way off and I have to stay in the hospital to get them regulated. yet the doctors refer me to dieticians to help me. Talk about confusing.

    I want to lose weight, but to be honest, I'm having trouble nailing down exactly how.

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