The number of calories needed to maintain a specific weight varies from woman to woman and depends on the amount of her daily activity. Weight is gained only if the number of calories consumed is greater than the number of calories burned. Similarly, with weight loss, the number of calories consumed must be fewer than the amount of calories burned.
Calculating Your BMR
Height, weight, and age help determine how many calories a woman needs to maintain her weight. All of those components are factored into your basal metabolic rate, or your BMR. The basal metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn when you are exerting the least energy, such as staying in bed all day. It is important to know your basal metabolic rate because the BMR takes into account the fact that lean body weight declines as you grow older. The number of calories you need to maintain your weight now is different from what it was years ago.
The formula to calculate the BMR for women is:
655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years ) = BMR
Calculating Your Daily Caloric Requirements
You can use your calculated BMR to help estimate how many calories you need to consume daily to maintain your weight. Assume that your BMR turns out to be 1,300 calories a day. If you determine that you burn an additional 500 calories a day through daily activities and exercise, that means your total calorie expenditure would be 1,800 calories a day. To maintain your weight, you would need to consume 1,800 calories a day. If you consumed fewer calories than you burned, you would lose weight. If you consumed more calories than you burned, you would gain weight.
Each day you should eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat or low-fat dairy products while keeping your total caloric intake to the recommended level. Fat intake should range between 20 and 35 percent of daily calories. Be sure to limit foods that contain starch and added sugars.