December 27, 2018

The Math of Weight Loss

General Health

Losing weight has easy, hard, and really hard parts.

Let’s start with the easy part: The math of weight loss.

One pound of human fat tissue holds about 3,500 calories of energy. Calories are how we measure energy that our bodies use; it is also how we measure the energy stored in the food we eat – you can see the calorie content listed on most all food containers. You lose fat when you take in less energy than your body uses.

Here’s the math: 500 calories X 7 days = 3,500 calories

So when you consume 500 calories a day less than your body uses, you will lose about one pound of fat per week. Guaranteed.

Here’s the hard part: You have to eat fewer calories than your body uses.

To lose weight, the single most important factor is what you eat. Some people think exercise is the answer…and exercise is great as it has positive health effects and it does burn some calories. Exercise is nature’s cure to many health problems. The bad news is that exercise doesn’t burn a lot of calories.

The average person burns about 100 calories walking one mile. A two mile walk to burn 200 calories is easily ruined by eating one chocolate bar. To lose weight you must pay attention to what you eat.

When it comes to eating for weight loss, there are no magical diets or supplements – Mediterranean, South Beach, Atkins, Low fat, Paleo, Keto, and so many other diets are out there. Medical studies show one diet is not any better than another for losing weight.

The bottom line is the number of calories you eat. For most people who want to lose weight that means changing their current diet. My best advice is to find a calorie-controlled diet that you enjoy so you can stick with it.

Here are some helpful suggestions when choosing what you eat:

  • In a general sense, I do recommend avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates like white flour. They may please your palate but they spike your blood sugar levels and lead to cravings for more.
  • I also suggest increasing the fiber in your diet. Fiber has few or no calories, yet it helps control hunger and is really good for your digestive system. Look at the fiber content on food packaging labels.

At the grocery store you can shop and compare. For example, go with the high fiber loaf of whole grain bread (ideally 3 grams or more of fiber per slice) instead of the low fiber highly processed white bread.

The really hard part of weight loss, is dealing with the social, behavioral and psychological factors that impact our eating habits.

These can be complicated and powerful drivers of when, what and how much we eat. It’s best to realize the impact they have on your dietary habits and address them as you can. Help is out there to deal with these dynamics.

What’s next?

Becoming more mindful about your dietary and lifestyle habits, your ways of dealing with stress, and the challenges that may be interfering with your ability to make positive health changes is an important first step. Being more aware of these things will help you identify habits that may need to be modified. And remember – big goals can be broken down into smaller ones. Losing only 3-5 percent of your body weight at first will still yield positive health results. That’s great news!

Here are some helpful tools and resources to begin using right away:

Still looking for more direct guidance?

Start by talking with your primary care provider. If you don’t currently have one, there’s no time like the present to choose one. Select a provider near you and establish your baseline health numbers and work on weight loss and wellness goals and a plan together.