The Simple Equation for Fitness

DenaOctober 12, 2022

Let’s talk about physical health, particularly our physical bodies and body weight, also called fitness. I could write a novel on this topic, you know. I have run the gamut on it. In my lifetime, I have been everything from obese all the way to the picture of health with nearly 0% body fat. And of course, I have been everywhere in between those two places, as well.

Fitness and Healing

14 years ago when I first started writing about health and wellness online, the landscape was vastly different. Social media was still fairly new and wellness influencers were not constantly in your face as they are today. Back then I started writing because I had an important story to tell. I had overcome a lifetime of mental illness and borderline obesity, and I had gotten healthy. When I look back at the first exhaustive post that I wrote on this topic here, Spiritual Wealth = Physical Health, I can see that I had a pretty good understanding of how I got healthy and why, but I was still young and I had a lot more to learn. Back then, I still did not grasp the depth of my personal trauma. Memories of some of the most traumatic childhood experiences that I endured would not surface for another 10 years, so I could not possibly understand, back then, how deep my wounds were and how all of that tied into my ability to be healthy.

The equation for fitness is extraordinarily simple. Anyone can get fit, lose or gain weight, lose or gain muscle, and so on, very easily, by following a very simple equation. And I will share that equation with you in this post. However, the reason why it isn’t just “that simple” is because for many people, lack of knowledge, broken belief systems, trauma and mental illness all factor into the equation, too. Knowing the “simple equation” to achieve fitness is completely worthless if you live in a body that is still working through trauma and living with a mind that is yet incapable of understanding the roadblocks in your path.

You can achieve fitness by following simple equations and taking simple actions, but if you are not also working on healing your personal traumas, no changes will be lasting. You will do more harm than good if you prioritize fitness over true, holistic healing.

Before I proceed, let me reiterate–as you embark on a plan to achieve fitness, weight loss, muscle gain or any other physical aspiration, make certain that you are already on a holistic healing path; or, make sure that you are embarking on a holistic healing path simultaneously. You will never have one without the other. Fitness and healing go hand-in-hand, and even the most well-adjusted, mentally healthy people in this world have healing to do.

The Simple Equations for Fitness

Of course fitness is a relative term. We all have a our own definition of what fit looks like and feels like. So we can take that into consideration. But for the vast majority of people, fitness goals fall into 1 of 3 primary areas: 1. to lose weight, 2. to gain weight/muscle or 3. to maintain fitness.

The Equation for Weight Loss or Gain
First, let’s talk about the equation for losing weight. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. See, I told you it was simple. That is the equation to lose weight. You must simply burn more calories than you consume. What are calories? Calories are units of energy that are released when your body breaks down (digests and absorbs) food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. If you eat more calories than you burn in a given day, your body will store the extra calories as body fat and you will gain weight. If you eat less calories than you burn in a given day, your body will burn body fat and you will lose weight. If you eat just as many calories as you burn in a given day, you will maintain your weight.

As I said, and as you can now see, it is incredibly simple. The challenge for most people is that they are just eating and not paying attention to this process. Most people don’t know how many calories they eat in a day and how many calories they burn in a day. If you become aware of these things and simply start eating the correct amount of calories, and burning the correct amount of calories, you will lose weight. People complicate this matter and consider what kind of food they’re eating, what diet they follow, and so on. But all of those things are irrelevant when it comes to weight. You will gain or lose weight according to the amount of calories that you eat and burn, it doesn’t matter what kind of food it is.

To illustrate, let’s say you burn about 2,000 calories a day, which is the average for most people. If you eat 1,500 calories a day, and you burn 2,000, you will lose weight because that is a 500 calorie deficit. It doesn’t matter if you eat 1,500 calories worth of vegetables, 1,500 calories worth of meat, or 1,500 calories of chocolate or anything in between. Calories are calories. Yes, the food choices that you make will effect your health in other ways, but that is a conversation for another day. I’ve also written about this in the past, see these past posts for more: Whole Foods and Raw Foods. But if your goal is to lose weight, remember that calories are calories no matter where they come from. If you are only burning 2,000 calories a day, but you are eating 4,000 calories worth of broccoli a day, you will still gain weight.

Personally, I have had 3 episodes of substantial weight loss in my life. The first was when I was 21-years-old and I lost 70 pounds after being overweight most of my young life. The second was after my first 2 pregnancies and my divorce, when I was about 32-years-old and I lost about 60 pounds. And the third, is right now, when I am in the process of losing the 30 extra pounds that I gained in my twin pregnancy and the difficult postpartum year that followed. I have already lost 10 of those pounds and I have another 20 to go. Because I am in a mentally healthy place and I am following a simple program that has worked remarkably well for me twice before, this weight loss is happening fairly easily. I will share the exact details of this program in my next post if you are interested.

The Equation for Muscle Gain
The equation for muscle gain is a bit more complicated than the one for weight loss or gain, but in theory it is also simple. Muscle size increases when a person continually challenges the muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance or weight. This process is known as muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibers of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibers by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles.

So, in order to gain muscle, first you continually challenge the muscles through weight lifting or exercise, and second you eat enough calories, and particularly enough protein. The exact equation for this varies vastly from person to person, but on average, consuming 20 grams of dietary protein during or immediately after exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis, and leads to optimal muscle growth. If you want to dive further into this equation, just do a quick search and you will find a ton of resources.

The Equation for Maintaining Fitness
Maintaining fitness requires 1. eating the same amount of calories that you burn each day, and 2. continuing to challenge the muscles that you have built through adequate exercise.

And there you have it, the basic equations for weight loss, weight gain, and maintenance, and muscle building and muscle maintenance. Of course these are simple equations in theory, but in practice these ideas can be very complicated. Still, understanding these basics is the first step to establishing any sort of lasting fitness.

As I mentioned earlier, back when I started my own journey to wellness–about 2 decades ago!–the landscape of social media was very different. It was not like it is today where you have supposed “paths to fitness” constantly pushed in your face from every direction. Today someone will try to sell you a pill, a powder, or a plan every minute of the day and each person will swear they have the answer for you.

But the truth is that there is no magic solution! The solution is to educate yourself on what it actually takes to achieve the fitness that you want, and then figure out what you need to do to make it happen. I’ve never gone down the road of muscle building, although I did get pretty strong when I had a solid yoga practice and I would like to do that again soon. So I can’t teach anyone how to build muscle, etc. However I have lost a lot of weight a few times successfully and I can absolutely share the way that I did it. So that will be coming right up in my next post.

If you have any questions on this topic, please send them to me so that I can answer them in my next post, as well. Also, I am considering doing a third post in this series which would talk about trauma and fitness. Let me know if you would be interested in that as well. xo

Leave a Comment

Prev Post

Favorite Shackets for Autumn

Next Post

A Simple Formula for Weight Loss