Where Does Motivation Come From? How To Find That Spark!

Where Does Motivation Come From? How To Find That Spark!

Why does a person try to lose weight 50 times and finally find success on the 51st time? Why does a woman attempt to quit smoking ten times in her lifetime, and on the 11th try, she does it? And why do people tell themselves that they will start an exercise program 100 times over and finally start one on their 50th birthday? The answer is that something just clicks!

We may not know where the motivation to begin our weight loss program begins, but finding it is an essential first step on that weight loss journey.

How Does Motivation Manifest?

I can’t tell you what sets this click in, but I have thought about it countless times. It truly fascinates me, and I wish I could bottle up the click. 

This click is likely the result of a motivational chemical event that becomes permanent in a region of the cerebral cortex, the higher-functioning area of the brain. 

We can all try to motivate a friend or loved one to make healthy changes. For example, you can tell your spouse they need to lose weight or exercise to avoid a heart attack or diabetes. But they need it to click with them.

As a doctor, I can be very firm in telling patients they must lose weight, eat better, increase their exercise, stop tobacco, or cut down on alcohol. But the truth is we all must make our own decisions and find that inner motivation to become successful. 

Most people in the world want to make healthy choices but are very often only able to find the motivation once that click sets in. No one can convince them otherwise until a person decides to take action. 

I am not saying that we should not let our friends and loved ones know that we want them to make healthy decisions and take care of themselves, but it likely is a waste of time and counterproductive to nag them persistently. Eventually, they will stop listening, tune us out, and continue their bad habits out of spite.

How to Foster Motivation

I believe that we need to educate each other and offer support. 

For example, when I see a patient who is a smoker, I often give them several reasons to stop smoking, such as the risk of cancer and emphysema, during multiple office visits.  After two or three attempts, I often say to them, “I hope you decide to quit smoking soon. I won’t continue to lecture you on why, but when you are ready and make that decision, please come back and see me, as I can help you succeed in several ways.” And they often do just that!

I have seen several patients try to diet and lose weight dozens of times with very little success, then finally, they find success with long-term results. 

The truth is, there is no perfect diet or weight loss system. However, there are hundreds of very good weight loss programs out there that will work for many different people on any given day. Any individual just needs to find one that they feel comfortable with and have a connection to. 

Until we make the click, we need to keep trying. Do not give up! Chances are if you keep trying, you will eventually be rewarded with positive results.

Motivation Can Strike When You Least Expect It

The old saying that you must be in it to win it rings true here. For example, I have tried for several years to expand my diet off my limited intake of chicken and tuna fish to become healthier and lose a few pounds. 

Several years ago, I followed a vegetarian diet for nearly two years. I even read a few great books, and had a consultation with a dietician. Though I did not remain a vegetarian, I learned to eat differently and continued to eat primarily plant-based foods. 

Before this experience, I made countless short-term attempts to change my eating habits though it was this experience, combined with working with others on their weight loss and wellness journeys, that created my “click.”

Your motivation and success may come from reading a blog, speaking with your physician, joining a gym, or perhaps reading a book. Most likely, it will be a combination of all these things. 

The important message here is to keep plugging away. Keep trying and keep your mind open to new ideas and challenges.  The click will come as a culmination of many of these experiences, and your brain will finally decide to get on board for the ride.

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How Do I Calculate My BMR? Understanding Basal Metabolic Rate

How Do I Calculate My BMR? Understanding Basal Metabolic Rate

Losing weight is challenging for many people because they can be misinformed about how weight loss truly works. 

In its simplest form, losing weight comes down to a mathematical equation of subtracting calories consumed from calories burnt. 

The biggest factor influencing our ability to burn calories and lose weight is our metabolism. 

In many ways, your metabolism is a like a computer; program the computer to work for you and not against you, and you’ll lose weight naturally. 

That’s why the key to understanding calories and weight loss comes down to calculating our basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which we burn calories at rest.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about your basal metabolic rate, how to calculate it using a BMR calculator, and some factors that influence your BMR.

What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)?

At its most fundamental principle, if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Therefore, calculating how many calories you burn at rest with or without exercise can establish a benchmark for how many calories you need to eat each day under your BMR. 

Once your body exhausts all of its fuel through food and water, it will break down fat stores in the body to convert them to energy. However, consuming too few calories can actually be counterproductive, as we’ll explain. 

Dr. Matthew Kulka recommends consuming between 200-300 calories less than your BMR daily to hit that sweet spot for weight loss and not risk lowering your metabolism too low.

How Does BMR Factor into Weight Loss?

The human body transforms food and water into energy through the process of metabolism. While some people think of metabolism as a muscle in your stomach, it’s a core body function carried out by each cell in the body.  

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculates the number of calories your body needs to run while at rest. 

In scientific terms, your basal metabolic rate measures the number of calories your body burns at rest when the digestive system is inactive in a neutral climate. 

Our bodies need energy to run basic core functions, such as pumping blood, breathing, and all of the other unconscious processes we perform. As a result, it’s estimated that 60-70% of the calories you burn daily come from basic bodily functions.

For example, your body will burn more calories from regulating ion levels in the blood than it will from flexing a muscle. 

Since most of your calories are burned through metabolism at rest, calculating your BMR significantly impacts how efficiently your body can lose weight.


How to Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate

To calculate your BMR, we use a specific formula that gives us the best estimate for your BMR. Unlike measuring your blood pressure, there is no instrument other than a calculator you can use to calculate your BMR. 

Most calculators use the Mifflin St. Jeor formula or the Harris-Benedict equation (Seriously Simple Steps allows for both) to calculate a person’s BMR accurately.

Generally, we divide the BMR formula by sex, so men and women will have different equations to properly calculate their BMR.

Male Equation: Mifflin St. Jeor

(4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) + 5 = BMR

Example: 6’ male, age 38, weighs 245 lbs.

(4.536 x 245) + (15.88 x 72) – (5 x 38) + 5 = 2,069 calories per day

Female Equation: Mifflin St. Jeor

(4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) − 161 = BMR

Example: 5’ 5” female, age 52, 175 lbs.

(4.536 x 175) + (15.88 x 65) – (5 x 52) = 1,405 calories per day

The Mifflin St. Joer formula is considered the most accurate to date. However, you are welcome to use the Katch-McArdle Formula if you know your body fat percentage. 

However, your BMR may not factor in calories burnt through exercise or your daily routine, which is why we often use total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) in tandem with BMR. 

TDEE, RMR, and BMR: What’s the Difference?

Before we touch on TDEE, we need to discuss resting metabolic rate (RMR), otherwise known as resting energy expenditure (REE). This measurement is virtually the same as BMR and tells you how many calories your body consumes at rest.

The only difference between RMR and BMR is that RMR accounts for food digestion, increasing energy expenditure by up to 10%. For the purposes of weight loss, calculating your RMR will not be necessary. 

On the other hand, if you want to factor in how many calories you burn through exercise and physical activity, you’ll need to calculate your TDEE. 

Fortunately, your TDEE uses the same formula as your BMR, except with a multiplier to account for exercise levels. 

In short, you will take your BMR and multiply it by the following values based on your estimated level of exercise:

  • Low exercise or only one day per week = BMR x 1.2
  • Semi-moderate exercise of 1-3 days per week = BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate exercise between 3-5 days per week = BMR x 1.55
  • Heavy exercise between 6-7 days per week = BMR x 1.725
  • Extreme exercise daily = BMR x 1.9

So if we take the BMR from the male in the previous section and say he has been hitting the gym about 2-3 times per week, we can calculate his TDEE at roughly 2,882 calories (2,069 BMR x 1.375). 

Your TDEE is a rough estimate, which is why we use BMR as a better indicator of hitting your caloric goals. 

Factors that Impact BMR

  1. Once you calculate your BMR, the question becomes: is BMR static? 

Your BMR will fluctuate based on weight and other factors that impact our BMR formula. 

In general, the following factors will impact your BMR calculation:

  • Weight:  BMR will change with your weight. As you lose weight, your metabolism will shrink so your body can consume enough energy to stay active. This is why many people may have rebound results after losing a lot of weight. 
  • Age: While conventional wisdom has told us that our metabolism slows with age, a recent study published in Science has challenged this notion. However, age may impact our activity levels, which will alter our metabolism over time. 
  • Fat-free mass and fat mass: The ratio of fat-free mass to fat mass directly impacts your BMR. Since muscles require more energy to function, having a higher muscle mass will boost your BMR. 
  • Exercise Level: Exercise can improve muscle mass, which boosts BMR and your TDEE. 
  • Genetics: Genetics slightly influences your BMR, but this can be altered through exercise and diet. 
  • Sex/gender: Women tend to have much lower metabolisms than men. 
  • Hormones: Hormone regulation from your thyroid gland can impact your metabolism. 
  • Diet/Drugs: Different foods require greater energy to digest and store, directly impacting your BMR. In addition, drugs can also impact your hormones, insulin levels, and other factors that contribute to your BMR. 
  • With these factors in mind, you can discover ways to boost your metabolism to work for you and burn more calories at rest. 

How to Boost Your Metabolism

  • Exercise: Engaging in moderate exercise can significantly boost your metabolism and TDEE so you can eat more and still lose weight. Even walking for a half hour a day can make a big difference.
  • Drink water: Unlike sugary drinks, which increase your calorie intake, water doesn’t add extra calories, and it forces your body to burn more through digestion. In turn, water is a natural way to boost your REE.
  • Get good rest: Sleep regulates hormone levels, organ function, blood pressure, and several other factors that impact our metabolism. For example, studies show that sleep reduces hunger, regulates insulin, and is when you burn most of your calories
  • Eat high-protein foods: High-protein foods that fuel muscle mass require more energy to break down and store, thus improving your BMR.

Is it Harmful to Eat Below Your BMR to Lose Weight?

While severe calorie deficits can lead to malnutrition and extreme thermogenesis, eating below your BMR is not dangerous. In fact, your body will respond by burning more fat naturally.


Unless you have a lean body type, eating below your BMR is not a cause for concern. 


However, extreme caloric deficits can often be counterintuitive, and we’ll explain why. 

Does Losing Weight Slow Your Metabolism

Unfortunately, extreme calorie deficits can lead to a condition known as adaptive thermogenesis. In essence, the more weight you lose, the more your body will slow down your metabolism to keep itself functioning. 


In turn, it can be more difficult to keep weight off the more rapidly you lose it. For example, in a study conducted on contestants of The Biggest Loser, 13 out of 14 contestants put the weight they lost back on.


That’s why Seriously Simple Steps takes a progressive approach to weight loss, only encouraging a mild caloric deficit under your BMR, paired with other nutritional steps. 

To recap, your BMR is a calculation of the number of calories you burn at rest. Since you burn most of your calories at rest, calculating your BMR can help you establish daily calorie goals to lose weight. 


There are several ways to boost your BMR through exercise, sleep, and other helpful factors. However, it’s essential to go about dieting and caloric deficits in a slow and controlled manner, lest you risk slowing down your metabolism and regaining all of the weight you lost. 

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

This is one of my favorite quotes and rings true with many of the difficult things we have to do in life. It applies to long-term goals in school, work, and at home. But, I believe it’s also a great way to look at our health and wellness. 

We can easily become overwhelmed any time we make a drastic decision to change our life, whether it’s starting a new weight loss program or going for a degree at school. There are so many options and choices in the health and wellness world, but, sadly, most people tend to ignore all of them.

Often, it can be for good reason, such as starting a diet that’s too restrictive and that doesn’t allow you to eat out with friends. 

I believe that in order to jumpstart the process, we should choose a single healthy activity or dietary choice and incorporate that one step at a time before proceeding to another lifestyle change.

The Benefits of Gradual Diet Modification

Let’s say someone decides to start exercising and does not know where to start. She may decide to join a fancy gym or sign up for a Yoga or spin class. Unfortunately, she will likely burn out in a few weeks or months because the experience can be so overwhelming. 

A simple approach is for that individual to just buy a $60 pair of sneakers and start walking. She could then add biking or perhaps jogging and up the intensity of the workout the more comfortable they feel with exercising regularly. 

Once she starts seeing the benefits, such as increased energy and weight loss results, she will be motivated to go even harder during each workout. I am a big fan of using simple step-by-step changes in diets and lifestyle choices because they are the easiest to adopt. 

Instead of advising a hesitant patient to enter a strict weight loss program with way too many rules, I usually start with a simple one-step instruction. As many of you know who have started the program, I like to start patients with a simple time-restrictive eating exercise based on their BMR they can incorporate over the course of a week. 

I’ve found from experience this gradual approach to dieting works so much better than an all-or-nothing approach. For example, instead of advising patients to limit all carbs as much as possible, I like to start by limiting their carb intake after 2 p.m. 

My patients tend to learn to cut down on carbs later in the day and get used to eating a larger amount of healthier alternatives such as vegetables, fruits, salads, and lean meats. 

Very often, these dietary changes tend to spill over into their breakfasts and their lunches. If they start to see beneficial effects from cutting carbs (e.g., feeling better and losing weight) then they usually spread the good habits to other parts of their lifestyle. This may encompass things like discovering healthier foods or starting new exercise habits.

Focus on the Journey, Not the Result

My point here is that we should not fixate on the end result. Stop thinking that you must lose 20 pounds or run a marathon. Start focusing on one healthy activity at a time. You can begin by deciding to do just one of the following:

If you already do one of these things, then add on another. If you take the first step, you may soon find yourself on a journey.

Remember, to have a reminder with you that will help you push forward each step at a time. For patients of the S3 program, I like them to wear a gree bracelet that gives them a gentle reminder to make healthier choices so the next time they reach for a cookie, they’ll think about a carrot instead. 


By focusing on simple lifestyle modifications one step at a time, you will be more likely to achieve your desired results at the end of your journey. Just remember to be patient and keep moving forward!

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