Someone interested in losing weight may feel intimidated by the amount of information that touts specific ways to drop pounds. There are weight loss plans and groups, diet pills and patches, nutrition shakes, exercise regimes and complicated equipment that all claim to make you thinner. It is important to note that while many of these things may sometimes aid in weight loss, there is only one way to definitively lose weight: you must create a calorie deficit.

A pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. That means if you want to lose one pound per week, you need to create a deficit of 500 calories a day. The key to this comes from knowing how many calories you need just to survive. This is, in fact, a specific number that can be calculated.

A simple online search for “BMR calculator” will land you with hundreds of places to calculate your daily caloric expenditure. Each person’s number is different. You will be prompted to enter your gender and age and your current height and weight, and the result will be a number that represents how many calories your body would burn if you were lying in bed all day. This is because your body will burn calories just by processing your normal functions: breathing, digestion, etc.

Because most of us do not lie in bed all day, you will now need to take your BMR and use it to calculate your AMR (active metabolic rate). This calculator will ask you what you do on a normal given day. Some BMR calculators ask you to categorize yourself between four or five categories of activity–low to high–and each will have a corresponding number. Multiply this number by your BMR and you will have your AMR.

Again, if you want to lose one pound per week, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3500 per week by either burning more calories with exercise or eating less or both. Professionals debate whether a calorie saved by not eating it is the same as a calorie burned, but you should assume that the focus should be on eating less. Don’t expect to create your entire deficit by exercising for hours every day. You’ll need to target a daily goal for calorie consumption. To configure that, take your AMR and subtract 500. The end result is how many calories you should aim to eat every day.

All of this can be complicated, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’ve calculated your AMR, and it’s 1800 calories–remember, this is how many calories you burn each day just be living and going about your business. You want to lose one pound per week–that’s equal to 3500 calories or 500 calories per day for a week. 1800 minus 500 is 1300, so you should be eating 1300 calories every day. You should never consume less than 1200 calories in a day for good nutrition, and pregnant women and children and adolescents should consult their doctors before abiding by this general weight loss strategy.

If you prefer to create the deficit from exercise as well as eating less calories (which is healthier), then for the above example, you could only take away 300 calories from your diet, meaning you would eat 1500 calories per day (1800-300=1500), and burn the remaining 200 calories with exercise. Not only is physical activity good at burning calories, but it helps keep your heart, and bones healthy, and it’s great for toning your muscles. Studies have also shown that exercise promotes happiness.

In addition to cutting calories and exercising, someone who is seeking weight loss should also be drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day. Water helps regulate the digestive system, perks up your energy, and it improves skin–not to mention, the brain is made mostly of water.

If you want to lose weight, you should also choose healthy foods. Though losing pounds comes down to calories in the end, you can expedite the process and promote nutrition in your body by choosing whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit your intake of packaged foods that contain ingredients that you don’t recognize. And finally, closely examine how you got where you are today. Consider how you’re feeling when you eat, and do not eat out of boredom or stress. Eat when you’re hungry, and sit down to enjoy your food with your family or someone you care about.


IMAGE CREDIT: UrbaneWomenMag