The Mathematics of Weight Loss

Weight loss is often shrouded in mystery. Thousands of diets with variations on what it takes to lose weight proves this. While it’s not necessarily quite as simple as calories in, calories out, that is a very important starting point to getting yourself to your weight loss goals.weight scale

So much of weight loss comes down to simple math. We already know that Americans consume too many calories every day. I came across data for the period of 2000-2002 that states Americans at that time consumed 3,790 calories a day (UN Food and Agriculture Organization). When you consider the fact that the average man only needs about 2,000 calories to sustain his weight, slightly less for women, it doesn’t take a mathematician to see the dilemma.

There are approximately 3,500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. So, if you create a 3,500-calorie deficit through diet, exercise, or a combination of both, you will lose one pound of body weight.

Let’s say you take the advice of most experts and shoot for two pounds of weight loss a week. That means you need to cut 7,000 calories for each week. That sounds like a lot, but if you are one of the people eating nearly 4,000 calories a day, there are some simple changes that can add up really quickly.

  • If you drink one regular soda a day, go to diet or flavored water and save about 700 calories a week.
  • If you have one 8-ounce serving of milk every day (drink or in cereal), go from 2% to skim and save about 200 calories every week.
  • Bagels and cream cheese are a tasty way to start your day, but man are they calorie hogs. Switch to a slice of whole wheat bread and save about 2,100 calories a week.
  • Do you like a slice of American cheese on your daily sandwich? Leave it off and save about 550 calories every week.

woman lifting weightsThis gets you right around the ballpark of 3,500 calories, or one pound of weight lost. There are many other examples, like these easy ways to cut 100 calories, but you get the point: simple changes in your diet will show progress. And, this isn’t even getting to the point of real sacrifice! Just a few substitutions and minor omissions.

If you really want to get somewhere, add a little exercise to double-up your chances for weight loss:

  • Thirty minutes of moderate-pace walking on a average flat surface will burn about 100 calories.
  • Thirty minutes of stationary biking can net a 300 calorie loss (5 days a week nets you close to a half-pound of weight loss).
  • Moderate weight lifting is worth a couple hundred calories each session.
  • Walking up and down the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator can burn another 100+ calories a day.

Moderate exercise most days of the week can add up to get you that second pound. These are generalizations, but you can see how modest changes to your diet and a little exercise can help you lose steadily each week.

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