Weight loss basics: counting calories

Weight loss is all about the relationship between the calories you eat and the calories you burn—energy coming in versus energy going out.  It’s really that simple.

With that basic information in mind, let’s focus on how to lose one pound by counting calories.  Did you know that one pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories?  It’s true!

Now, that does NOT mean that you gain a pound every time you eat 3500 calories.  You burn calories every single day, even if you lay in bed all day!  You burn calories by:  thinking (yes, your brain needs lots of energy!), sleeping, typing on your computer, walking around the store, etc.  The more active you are, the more calories you burn.  If you add a new habit of going for a walk everyday, you’ll burn more calories every day you walk!  If  you want to lose weight, you need to make sure you eat fewer calories everyday than you burn.  But how do you know how many calories you can eat and still lose weight?

For the answer, we need to do a little simple math.  If you eat 3,500 calories today, and also burn 3,500, that means you haven’t gained or lost any weight today.  Now, let’s suppose you wanted to lose one pound per week.  You’d have to burn 3,500 more calories each week than you eat.  Since there are seven days in a week, you’d have to burn 500 more calories every day than you eat.  So, if you think you burn 2,500 calories every day, then you’d probably want to limit your calorie intake to 2,000.  Simple, right?  But not always easy!

I’ve found that the trick is to cut out a little food at the margin—just a bit here and there.  When I did that, I was delighted to step on the scale and see the pounds start to come off!!

Even better news:  if you’re significantly overweight, your body probably needs more calories to operate, so you may be burning a lot of calories every day!  Moving your body around takes energy—it takes calories!  So take advantage of the fact that you’re overweight, and get moving!

If you’re not losing weight, it means that either you’re eating too much, or burning too little.  That’s it!  So, find a daily caloric needs calculator on the Internet and figure out how many calories you burn everyday!  Then, try to make your calorie intake smaller than the number of calories you burn.

Before I sign off, as always, I want to encourage you to visit HealthyWage, which provides health incentives and contests for everyone.  Incentives make accountability fun, and studies show that incentives increase your odds of success.  Check it out!  Best wishes everybody!

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