Healthy Living Day 4: Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

This is Day 4 of the 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge where hundreds of participants around the world work together to improve on their diet and fitness in January 2015. The challenge is now over, but you can do the tasks in your own time. Visit the overview page for all tasks and posts.

Healthy Living Challenge

Hi everyone!! 😀 It’s now Day 4 of our 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge. Let’s get started!

Over 230 Participants! You Can Still Join Us!

Are you STILL observing this challenge passively?? You can still join us if you want! It’s not too late! 🙂


My Day 3 in Pictures

Here’s a recap of my Day 3 in pictures 😉

Veggie patty

Brunch: Veggie patty burger with lots of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and black olives. The ends of the bread looks burnt but it wasn’t; I think it’s the color correction that made it turn out that way! Thanks to reader Paolo for highlighting to me that burnt carbs can be potentially carcinogenic! Something to look out for next time!

Ginger tea and Grapes

Was busy working on the Passive Income Module 4 the whole day, so didn’t have time for dinner. Had ginger tea and some grapes (30 pcs) before the course itself. (Great session in the end as always, looking forward to Module 5 next week!)

Sugar cane juice and Century egg porridge

After the course, Ken and I went to this quaint Chinese eatery for some nighttime supper (though it was really dinner for me). Sugar cane juice and century egg porridge, shared with Ken!

Rice salad and Strawberries

Supper, rice salad and strawberries (6 pcs). Yum! 🙂 (In fact I’m having them now as I’m typing this post!)

 My 14HLC goals are

  1. Exercise at least three times a week — I’ll be doing my second exercise for the week tomorrow!
  2. Cut out deep fried / oily food from my diet — No fried food today, so all clear!
  3. Eat salads more regularly, ideally once a day if I can — Rice salad, check!

Day 3’s task is to create my calorie list, and while I’ve been tracking calories for years (in turn leading me to my healthier diet today), I want to create a new calorie list to see how I’m doing with my current diet in my life. I haven’t had the chance to do it as I was busy with the Passive Income Course today and now with the writing of Day 4’s task (it’s actually 6 am Singapore time as I’m writing this — not healthy to be sleeping late, I know, but need to get this posted on time!). I’ll be doing Day 3’s task tomorrow and putting my findings in Day 5’s post!

Check out other participants’ amazing food logs and progress updates in Day 3’s comments section!

“Not a Health Guru”

By the way, for some reason this came up in the discussions thread for Day 3, so I thought to take the chance to address it here. A commenter was critiquing my food choices, and how “following [my] lead would unfortunately set her health backwards and not forward.” While I’ve already addressed her response with a lengthy reply (she unfortunately responded with a snide remark which I’ve since removed), I thought to set the record straight here once and for all.

When I started this 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge, it wasn’t because I think I’m a health guru, that I want to be a nutritionist, or that I’m trying to be some health practitioner. The reality is that even when it comes to nutritionists, health gurus, and medical practitioners, everyone has his/her own opinion on what’s the perfect diet, based on his/her beliefs and school of thought. It’s silly, not to mention impossible, to come up with a diet that everyone can agree on. That’s why I never try to do this, but instead encourage everyone to find his/her best dietary habits and way of life.

When I started this 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge, it’s because (1) I believe in healthy living, and (2) I want you to work toward your best health. Best health as defined by you yourself, achieved in your own way, in your own space, and in your own time. Here, PE is this platform for everyone to gather and work on their health/fitness goals together, while I share universal healthy living tasks such as eating more fruits and vegetables, being conscious of your calorie intake, and drinking sufficient water to create synergy in our healthy living efforts.

That’s why you don’t see any part of this challenge where I tell you to eat like me, that my diet is the be-all and end-all of diets, or that you can only eat vegetarian food (quite the opposite in fact; I always believe everyone has the freedom to eat whatever he/she wants, and there’s no reason why people should eat only a meat-based or vegetarian diet). When I share pictures of my meals, it’s just to share what I’ve eaten, and to let you guys know that — hey, instead of buying a McDonald’s burger, french fries, or potato chips from 7-Eleven all of which have become so easy today due to the ubiquity of fast and convenience food, we can make a conscious choice in eating healthily. And it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Do I think that my diet is the healthiest diet on earth? Heck no. Do I think this diet is great for me? Yes I do. Do I think that it can be further improved? Yes of course. Everything can always be better, including the health and fitness area of our lives. Which is why we continue to have the Healthy Living Challenge for the third time in 2015, despite already having it in 2011 and 2012. That’s why I’m in this challenge myself, despite having taken it before and am always working on improving my diet since years ago.

The aim of the 14-Day Healthy Living Challenge isn’t to dictate anyone to eat a certain way and set a be-all and end-all standard for eating. The aim of this challenge is really for you to discover YOUR own health goals, to work on them, and to blaze your own trail in life because of your new healthy habits. Not to pin-point or criticize what others are doing (constructive sharing is okay which some have been doing with no issue). Not to shame others when they’re not eating in a way that matches your personal intent. Not to cast judgment, give negative criticism, or measure people by your own yardstick on what they should eat and shouldn’t eat. No “food police” is essentially what it is.

We’re halfway through the first week and I’m excited at how the next 1.5 weeks are going to pan out. It is my wish that at the end of the challenge, we’ll have newly minted healthy living habits that we can stick to for life. It’s only been three days for me and I can already see how I can sustain my current meal options (daily salad, soup/sandwich, regular fruits) even after this is over. 😀 Are you feeling the change yet? 🙂


With that said, let’s move to Day 4’s task, which is…

Day 4: Calculate Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Apple, Notebook, and Calculator

Participant fufu asked this question yesterday after reading Day 3’s task:

I’m really curious to see if I’m over-eating or under-eating (probably under) and I have a question. What is the ideal calorie intake in a day? Is it 2,000? How do I know if I’m under or over my intake by the time I finish my (calorie) list?

This is an excellent question, and the answer is directly linked to today’s task! 😀

All of us have a calorie intake that we need to meet every day in order to sustain (1) our body’s energy needs at rest (this is the Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR, and it’s the amount of energy your body burns in a day if you simply rest the entire day) AND (2) our daily exercise and activity needs (such as walking, running, talking, typing at the computer, and so on). This daily calorie intake is represented by our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (or TDEE), which is the total number of calories you burn in an average day, including all the activities you do.

In equation terms,

Total Daily Energy Expenditure / TDEE
= Basal Metabolic Rate / BMR (Calories burned when you do absolutely nothing) + Calories burned from activities (This is a calorie expenditure that occurs on top of your BMR)

Now, regardless whether you have weight loss goals, weight gain goals, or weight maintenance goals, it’s always useful to know your TDEE because it lets you know whether you’re overeating, undereating, or eating in line with your needs. Consume less calories than your TDEE, and you lose weight over time. Consume more calories than your TDEE, and you’ll gain weight soon enough. Consuming the same calories daily will lead to maintenance of your current weight.

To figure out how many calories you should consume a day to achieve your weight goals, you need to first know your TDEE. Hence, today’s task is to calculate your TDEE!

Step 1: Calculate Your TDEE

  1. Calculate your BMR. Use this BMR counter. This is the energy requirements just to sustain your body and do absolutely nothing the whole day but lie on your bed, breathe, and rest.
  2. Multiply #1 by 1.2. Most of us have some form of light activity, be it walking around the house, in our neighborhood, typing at our computer, or talking to someone on the phone. Multiplying your BMR by 1.2 gives you the calories you burn a day in a typical day with light activity.
  3. Add your calorie expenditure via exercise. If you’re exercising, then you’ll definitely burn more calories than the number you got in the previous step. So, use this activity counter to know how many calories you’re burning with your exercises. Sum up this number with the answer from #2 and you’ll get your TDEE for the day!

So let’s say your BMR is 1400 and you went jogging today and burned 300 calories. Your TDEE will be,

1400 (this is your BMR) x 1.2 (you multiply by 1.2 to know your calorie expenditure on a light activity day) + 300 (this is your calorie expenditure from jogging)
= 1680 + 300 = 1980 calories

This means your calorie expenditure for the day is 1980! 🙂


For me, my BMR is 1386, based 5′ 7″ height, 128 lbs weight, and age of 30. On a day with light activity, my TDEE is 1663 (my BMR x 1.2). My jogs usually expend anywhere from 150 to 250 calories (my Map My Run app gives me a gauge of calories burned, albeit a gross estimation), so my TDEE is around 1863 on a day when I exercise.

Step 2: Check back with your calorie intake figures from Day 3

What was your total calorie intake for Day 3? Did you consume in line, less than, or more than your TDEE?

  • If you’ve been losing weight, chances are you’ve been eating less than your TDEE.
  • If you’ve been gaining weight, chances are you’ve been eating more than your TDEE.
  • If you’ve been maintaining your weight, you’re probably eating in line with your TDEE!

Step 3: Calculate your calorie deficit/gain per day to achieve your weight goal

If you want to maintain your weight, simply eat in line with your TDEE from Step #1. Easy breezy!

If your goal is to lose weight though, you need to consume less calories than your TDEE. On the same note, if your goal is to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than your TDEE.

It’s generally recommended not to set a daily calorie difference bigger than 500. So if your TDEE is 1700 and you want to lose weight, you should have a daily calorie intake between 1200 to <1700 calories. If you want to gain weight, you should have a daily calorie intake between 1700 and <2200.

By setting your ideal weight and the date you want to achieve this ideal weight, you can then work backwards and calculate your calories intake a day!

  1. Calculate the difference between your ideal weight and current weight. If your ideal weight is 60kg and your current weight is 63kg, the difference is 3kg or 6.6lbs. (1kg = 2.2lbs)
  2. Multiply answer #1 by 3,500. To lose 1 lb, you need a calorie deficit of 3500 calories. To gain 1 lb, you need a calorie over-intake of 3,500 calories. (While there’s debate on whether 3500 calories truly make up a pound, we’ll simply take the age-old assumption of 3,500 calories = 1 lb for simplicity’s sake.) So to know your total calorie deficit or gain, multiply the number from #1 with 3,500.  Example: If you have a 6.6lbs difference, that will be 6.6 (pounds) x 3500 (calories per pound)= 23,100 calories.
  3. Divide answer from #2 by # of days to achieve ideal weight. When do you want to achieve your ideal weight? If you want to achieve your ideal weight by end of Feb (it’s Jan 4 now), that’s 55 days left. Then, divide answer #2 by the number of days left. Example: 23,100 / 56 = 413* calories per day.

    What this means is you need to either (1) consume 462 less calories per day vs. your TDEE, (2) burn 462 more calories than usual every day via extra exercise, and/or (3) do a combination of (1) and (2) to achieve your ideal weight of 60kg by end Feb.

    (* If this number is more than 500, meaning a calorie deficit or over-intake by 500 per day, then extend your deadline such that the number is 500 or below. Remember, it’s more important to have a sustained weight loss/gain than a dramatic loss/gain that rebounds later on!)

Next, Follow Your Plan for Day 4 (Take Pictures Too!)

What tasks have you set for Day 4 of your 14-Day Healthy Living Plan? Do them today!

Take pictures of your healthy meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-day snacks if any — and share them in the comments section. 😀 After all, a picture tells a thousand words, and when you share photos of your healthy meals, it inspires others to eat healthily and gives them ideas on what healthy food they can have too!

Post your initial comment sharing your results for today’s challenge task, then add on throughout the day as you have your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or if you’re doing any workouts. Attach photos of your meals by clicking the image icon on the bottom left of every comment box. As you add on to your comment thread, be sure to click on the reply button directly below your original comment so that you reply to your own thread (as opposed to starting a new thread).

Share Your Results (and Photos!)

Share in the comments section!

  1. Your TDEE, and how it matches up with your Day 3 calorie intake
  2. Your weight goal (do you wish to lose, gain, or sustain your weight?), your ideal timeline to achieve this goal, and the calorie deficit/over-consumption per day to meet this goal
  3. Your progress with your healthy living plan today
  4. Pictures of your meals
  5. Pictures of your workout (if any)

Do check out the other participants’ comments too and share a word of encouragement or two. We’re all in this together, so let’s support each other as a group! 🙂

After you’re done, proceed to Day 5: Create Your Ideal Meal Plan!

Image: Women running, Apple, notebook, and calculator

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