During consultations, we ask clients to tell us how active they are based on these descriptions in order to establish their maintenance calories.
However vague you might think those descriptions, or ignoring them altogether, most clients claim they are 'moderately active'. This is usually validated by doing something three times a week for about an hour each time.
But if you consider that there are 168 hours in a week, three hours of activity amounts to just 1.8% of it! When you look at it that way, it doesn't sound even remotely 'moderate'.
Pushing weights in the gym (a popular three-hours-a-week pastime for men) burns even fewer calories than running, which itself might burn just 500-600 calories depending on your speed.
Just as most of us think we are great drivers, most of us overestimate how active we are and underestimate how much we eat. In fact, on average we claim we eat 40% less and do 50% more than is the case!
This is critical when it comes to fat-loss because your activity level is the only thing you can change that will affect your maintenance calories - and you must eat below maintenance to lose body fat.
If you set your maintenance too high then you may actually gain weight, as in this real-life example for a 30-year-old man weighing 100kg:
1. You guess your activity level to be 'moderate' [maintenance = 3000 calories]
2. You plan to eat 2500 calories a day [a daily deficit of 500 calories]
3. Your activity level is actually 'light' [maintenance = 2650 calories]
4. Like most dieters, you miscount. You actually eat an average of 2700 calories each day
5. RESULT: You are in a 50-calorie daily surplus and you slowly gain body fat
Just about everyone (nutritionists and dieticians included) is notoriously bad at counting calories so it is very easy to eat too much, even with smartphone apps.
The bottom line is this - if you are not losing weight then you are not in a deficit. To that end you needn't worry about the actual numbers or count calories - with your current activity level unchanged you just need to reduce consumption until your weight does start to fall. It will only continue to fall if you remain in a deficit (read here why your maintenance is a moving target).
In the meantime you might find this ebook 'Seven Easy Tips for Fat Loss Without Counting Calories' useful to help you achieve your goal!
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