The math is pretty simple. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Want to lose a pound a week? Then you need to consume 3500 calories less per week than you use. That’s about 500 calories a day. By cutting out 500 calories a day from your normal daily diet, while keeping your activity level the same, you can lose approximately one pound a week.
All right – that doesn’t sound like much, especially if you’re more than 25 pounds overweight. Study after study has shown, though, that those people who lose weight gradually – at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week -are far more likely to keep the weight off and maintain a normal weight for a lifetime.
So how much exactly IS 500 calories? If you’re going to reduce your daily intake by 500 calories, it helps to know what you need to cut out, right? Here’s how easy it is to lose 500 calories a day:
* Use milk instead of cream in your coffee. Savings? 50 calories per cup.
* Skip the butter on your baked potato. Savings? 100 calories
* Drink fruit-flavored water instead of a 16 ounce soda. Savings? 200 calories
* Skip the Big Mac and have a salad instead. A Big Mac weighs in at a whopping 460 calories. A fresh salad with a light dressing? Less than 100! Savings? 360 calories
* Pass by the bag of potato chips. An average snack size bag of chips has over 300 calories. Savings? 300 calories
* Eat your corn on the ear. A 1 cup serving of canned corn has 165 calories. An ear of corn has 85. Savings? 80 calories.
* Switch to low-fat cream cheese on your bagel. Savings? 90 calories per ounce.
* Love those fries and can’t give them up? Swap the skinny fries out for thick steak-cut ones. Thin French fries absorb more oil than the thicker, meatier ones. Savings? 50 calories per 4 ounce serving
If you’d rather look at losing weight from an exercise perspective, you can also lose one pound a week by upping your activity level by 500 calories a day. How easy is that to do?
Take a look:
* Take a half-hour walk around the park. Aim for a pace that’s a little faster than a stroll, but not fast enough to be breathless. Burn: 160 calories.
* Get out your bike and take a ride. Tackle a few moderate hills and aim for about five miles total. Burn: 250 calories
* Go dancing – and really DANCE. The longer you’re out on the floor instead of at the table drinking up high-calorie drinks, the more you’ll get out of it. Dancing that makes you breathless and warms up your body will net you a nice calorie savings. Burn: 400 calories for one hour
* Swimming is great for you, and a lot of fun, too. The water resistance means you burn more calories, and you avoid the stress impact on joints from aerobics, dancing or walking. Do a few laps at a slow crawl – if you can get up to an hour you’ll be doing great! Burn: 510 calories
* Get out into your garden. An hour of gardening tasks that includes bending and stretching can burn up to as many calories as a brisk walk. Burn: 250 calories.
* Play a game of tennis. Hook up with a friend for a weekly tennis game and you’ll be amazed at the difference. One hour of vigorous tennis is one of the best calorie burners around. Burn: 800 calories
It’s important to keep in mind that all exercise/calorie numbers are based on a woman weighing 130 pounds. If you weigh more, you’ll burn more. Want an added bonus to burning calories through exercise? When you exercise, you build muscle by converting it from fat. Three guesses which kind of body tissue burns more calories – even when you’re not exercising. You got it – your body uses more energy to maintain and feed muscle than it does fat.
For best results, mix and match food savings with exercises that burn calories. Do keep in mind that eating less than 1000 calories a day for more than a few days will convince your body that it’s starving and slow your metabolism. Keep calorie ranges reasonable, and consult a doctor if you want a quicker, more drastic weight loss.
10 Weight Loss Tips
1. Burn more calories than you consume. If this makes you go: “D-uuuh!!”, snap out of it and consider that this elementary aspect of dieting excapes countless clueless — and doomed — dieters. Tabloids may claim to have the “miracle foods” that’ll allow you to eat like a pig and have the pounds melt off, but it’s a load.
2. Establish your base metabolism, and set a target calorie goal approx. 500 calories below it. I wrote an article dedicated to establishing your metabolism earlier, so look it up in the article archive if you need a refresher.
3. Keep an honest log. Make estimates of how many calories you stuff yourself with every meal and tally up the total to make sure you stay within your target calorie goal. Convenient “mistakes,” under-estimates and forgetfulness allows you to eat more now, but you’re defeating the whole point of dieting.
4. Actively choose good sources of fat. This may sound like stupid advice — shouldn’t you AVOID fat when dieting? Well, yes and no. You have to keep consuming some fat, just not going overboard. Avoid butter, bacon, whole milk, coconuts and such like the plague. Instead, make use of olive oil (virgin) and fatty fish. Peanut butter is an interesting topic. I used to put it in the same category as the “bad” fats. It belongs there, packing saturated fat as well as artery-clogging trans fatty acids. However, based on highly unscientific testimonies by others as well as personal experience, it seems like a handful of peanuts once in a while when dieting can do wonders in keeping energy levels up while not wreaking havoc with your overall diet. Strange and illogical? You betcha. But it just so happens to work anyway, kind of like bumblebees flying though they technically shouldn’t be able to.
5. Eat small but frequent meals throughout the day. You’ve heard it a million times, I’m sure, but facts remain: In order to keep an even level of blood sugar, you have to eat small, balanced meals.
6. Don’t go wimpy on the weight training. When you diet, you’re in the danger zone for losing muscle mass most of the time. To avoid this, keeping pumping iron, and be diligent about it!
7. Avoid alcohol. Given that barbeque-season is upon us, this can be tough when your friends bring out the ice-cold brewskis. The solution is simple: Only associate with other bodybuilders, so you at least won’t be the lone dweeb sipping a diet soda! For those of you who have the ridiculous idea that your life should not revolve around bodybuilding: Snap out of it.
8. Do cardio in moderation. Doing 45 mins on the stairmaster every day is a great way to get the pounds off quicker. 2 hours is not so great, since you’re bound to start losing muscle mass. When and how much is individual (and depending on what you’ve had to eat earlier in the day) but avoid cardio sessions in excess of 1 hour. If you need the punishment do one session in the morning and one in the evening. Also remember to stay in the 65%-70% heart rate zone for optimal fat burn.
9. Schedule “cheating” days to stay sane. Dieting is no fun. No matter how gung-ho and motivated you are when you start out, you’ll have days when everything is darkness and the world is out to get you. Make sure to get a treat once a week on a set day (Saturday is good) as it gives you something to look forward to. A juicy burger is fatty and calorie-dense, but if you prepare by doing extra cardio for three days in advance you’ll come in right on target for the week.
10. Don’t be afraid of soy. I used to avoid fake-meat products, but having been married to a vegetarian for 3+ years I’ve tried soy hot dogs, burgers, chicken patties, even riblets that taste just like the real thing. And here’s the kicker: Soy products is mostly protein! Granted, soy protein is not the highest quality out there, but if you drink a glass of milk or have some other high-quality protein source with it you can bump up the overall quality in a hurry. Besides, soy has a number of great health benefits when eaten in moderation and contains very little fat.
My Final Word about Weight Loss
Weight loss is a tough result to obtain regardless of weight or level of physical fitness. There are many different ways to lose weight, some more unhealthy than others, but the ones that work are most times the most complicated to pull off.
Some people may recommend eating less to lose weight, and in some cases eating less is a key component of losing weight, but in most cases, eating is a necessity if one wishes to lower their own weight. Without food and the calories they supply, your body has no energy to burn and in turn will turn your existing muscle into fat. In order to lose weight you must make a commitment, a commitment that must not be broken if you desire results.
Do not misconstrue this for the idea that you can never indulge during your diet, but just be sure that you have set reasonable limits for yourself that you are ready to commit to. If you are on a strict diet, a “cheat” meal here and there will go a long way to keeping you happy.
To be successful in achieving your goal of weight loss: set multiple, smaller, more easily attainable goals for yourself. These will keep you self motivated and more likely to obtaining your overall goal of a happier and healthier life.