Losing weight seems like a pretty easy concept, when you think about it. You eat less, exercise more and the weight is supposed to come off. The fact is, I'll bet you already know how to lose weight. If you're like most of us, you've probably lost weight many, many times...so many times, you're an old pro at it. You may even have your 'go-to' diet or exercise program, powering up your old Weight Watcher's account or starting back to the gym whenever the weight starts to creep up.
But what happens when you go off that diet or stop that workout program? You gain it right back, sometimes with a few extra pounds thrown in.
So what you really want to know isn't how to lose weight, but how to lose it and then make it stay lost...forever. There's no real secret to losing weight. The real challenge is making it permanent.
By the Numbers
Weight loss is such a complex process, the only way we can really wrap our heads around it is to drill it down into a bunch of numbers. You already know these numbers, probably as well as any weight loss expert: You know that, to lose one pound of fat, you have to burn about 3500 calories over and above what you already burn each day. You don't really want to burn 3500 calories in one day, but rather to cut that down into daily calorie deficits, say cutting 500 calories a day with a combination of diet and exercise.
To go by the numbers, you have to go through a few calculations:
- Calculate your BMR
(basal metabolic rate). You have some options for how you can do this:
- Option 1: Do the Math - Use this revised Harris-Benedict formula to get an estimate of your BMR:
- Male: (88.4 + 13.4 x weight in kg) + (4.8 x height in cm) – (5.68 x age)
Female: (447.6 + 9.25 x weight in kg) + (3.10 x height in cm) – (4.33 x age)
- Option 2: Use an online calculator.
- Option 3: Use an activity tracker, such as a Fitbit or the Jawbone UP Activity Monitor
Your BMR is the most important part of the weight loss calculations because it tells you how many calories your body needs to maintain bodily functions such as breathing and digesting and well, existing. This is the minimum number of calories you need to eat each day. Important Note: No calculator is 100% accurate and these formulas don't take into account things like bodyfat, frame size or other factors that can make a difference in your BMR. More about your metabolism.
- Activity Multiplier:
-Sedentary................BMR x 1.2 (little exercise)
-Lightly active...........BMR x 1.375 (light exercise)
-Moderately active.....BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise)
-Very active.............BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise)
-Extremely active......BMR x 1.9 (hard exercise daily)
Mary is 46 years old, is 5'4" and weighs 165 pounds. These are her stats:
BMR = 1465
Activity Level = Moderately Active (1.55)
Food Calories = 2700
TEF Calories = 270
Mary's BMR/Activity level is 2270. She's eating about 2430 calories a day (less her TEF). That means Mary is eating about 160 calories more than what her body needs, which could eventually lead to weight gain.
Is There an Easier Way?
There isn't an easier way to lose weight, but there is an easier way to figure out how to lose weight, if these formulas are a little too much for you. The absolute simplest involves one thing: Make small changes in your diet and activity levels every single day. With this method, you don't always know how many calories you're cutting, or how many calories you're burning. But, if you're doing more movement than before and you know you're eating less than before, you are creating a calorie deficit and the weight loss will follow, even if it's slow. Some ideas:
|Instead of...||Do this...|
|An afternoon Coke||Drink a glass of water. (calories saved: 97)|
|An Egg McMuffin||Eat a small whole wheat bagel +1 Tbsp of peanut butter (calories saved: 185)|
|Using your break to eat chocolate||Walk up and down a flight of stairs for 10 minutes (calories burned: 100)|
|Hitting the snooze button||Get up 10 minutes early and go for a brisk walk (calories burned: 100)|
|Watching TV after work||Do 10 minutes of yoga (calories burned: 50)|
Total Calories Saved: 532 (based on a 140-pound person)
Donnelly, J.; Blair, S.; Jakicic, J.; et al. Appropriate Physical Activity Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults. Med & Sci in Sports & Ex: Feb, 2009. Vol 41, Issue 2.
Kelly, Mark. "Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure it - And Raise it, Too." ACE. Retrieved August 29, 2013. http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2882/resting-metabolic-rate-best-ways-to-measure-it-and/.