This is part of the Healthy Weight Management Series of articles, tips, blogs and videos which is available on the Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy Facebook page between 25 April and 28 July.

A common reason that people blame for not losing weight is their metabolism – i.e. “I’ve got a slow metabolism”.

Metabolism is determined by the following (1):

  • Body size: Basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases as weight, height, and surface area increase.
  • Body composition: As lean muscle mass increases, metabolic rate increases.
  • Gender: metabolism is slower in women because they generally possess more fat and less muscle.
  • Age: Lean muscle mass decreases during adulthood.
  • Climate and body temperature: people in tropical climates have a metabolism 5 to 20 percent higher than people in more temperate areas. Conversely, it takes energy to keep the body warm if you work or exercise in very cold weather.
  • Hormonal levels: Thyroxine (T4), the key hormone released by the thyroid glands has a significant effect upon metabolic rate, and can contribute to weight gain if it is too low. 
  • Health: Fever, illness, or injury may double metabolism.
woman looking upwards with question marks in background

You can check your basal metabolic rate with an online “basal metabolic rate calculator”. One such calculator is https://www.mydr.com.au/tools/basal-energy-calculator but there are others.

Depending on your lifestyle, BMR usually accounts for 50 – 80% of your energy needs.

Energy needs are usually 1,500 – 2,000 kcal a day, but they can be outside of this range, so it is worth checking your particular circumstances.

So why do so many people find that they gain weight (or don’t lose weight) even though they are eating a low kilojoule low energy) diet?

Reasons

Kilojoule value of foods can be very different from what they appear. 

Most of us would realise that a slice of chocolate cake, or a slice of lemon meringue pie with cream on top is high in kilojoules. But what about a healthy salad with some dressing? The dressing can contain olive oil, the salad can have e.g. cheese, chicken, ham, fish, or avocado. These all have fat (some healthy fat), but fat still has lots of kilojoules. Three tablespoons of olive oil contains about 300 kcal (1250 kjoules).

A study carried out in 1992 (2) investigated people who claimed not to be able to lose weight, despite restricting their calorie intake to fewer than 1,200 kcal a day. But it turned out that, in their nutrition journals, they underestimated their average calorie intake by 47% and overestimated their physical activity by 51% (3).

Forgetting food that was consumed

When we record our food intake, it is very human to forget some of the items that we ate or drank. This is normal for all areas of life, as to do otherwise would require a 100% correct memory. 

For instance, many dieters forget a few cups of tea or coffee that they had during the day, and also may forget the food consumed with those drinks. The same problem arises with alcoholic drinks, e.g., in a pub. People may forget that they had some snacks or chips with the drink. They may also forget e.g. dressings on salads, side dishes ordered in a restaurant, or forget if they shared or ‘tasted’ some of a friend’s meal in the same restaurant.

How can these issues be solved 

In order to do this, you need to

  • learn which foods are high in energy (kcal / kJ) and limit or avoid them, and
  • record everything that you consume, at least for a while until you get an idea of the number of kcal / kJ that you are consuming each day.

The best way that I have found for this is to use a kcal or kJ counting app. These are now getting sophisticated, and easier to use.

Many apps allow you to store favourite meals, so if you regularly eat the same meal, e.g. for breakfast, you do not have to itemise the ingredients every day.

Many also allow you to scan the barcodes of food packets and this enters details of a standard portion of the food directly into the app, which also saves you time.

Use of the app allows you to get a better idea of the energy value of foods, and I know I was surprised by the kilojoule values of some of the foods that I had been eating. I have experience of using MyFitness Pal (4) but there are other similar apps.


If you would like more help with weight loss, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com. I will do my best to answer any of your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

(1) https://www.sharecare.com/health/how-the-metabolic-process-works/factors-influence-basal-metabolic-rate 

(2) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199212313272701

(3) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/truth-obesity-five-fat-myths-debunked

(4) https://www.myfitnesspal.com/ 

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