How To Lose Weight

Bathroom Scale

Today is Mardi Gras, and down in these parts (less than an hour from The Big Easy), Mardi Gras is a big deal.

For those not in the know, Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, and in these parts Fat is something we are quite familiar with!

The U.S. has a huge and growing obesity epidemic and New Orleans is pretty much the tip of the spear.

Fat is something we have in abundance, not only around here, but pretty much nationwide. It’s not just a problem confined to the U.S. either. The obesity epidemic is starting to catch on in the rest of the world as well.

Fat is like an annoying relative that just doesn’t want to go away. So let’s talk about this.

It seems like everywhere you look, there’s a new diet plan or secret weight loss pill or hypnotic technique or special tea from the Far East.

Getting rid of fat is a national obsession!

So, how do you do it???

That’s the million dollar question.

Dr. Sam is here to give you the zero dollar answer!

But first a few basic principles are in order. A lot of folks reading this will think “C’mon Doc! I already know this stuff.” To them, I will apologize a little, but remind them that this website is open to everyone, not just the know-it-all types.

Besides, lets face it. You go to any big chain book store and one of the biggest sections there is the weight loss section. It’s chock full of books, each containing several hundred pages of stuff about how to lose weight. I’m going to cover the whole darn topic in a blog post, so cut me a little slack if you’re a know-it-all!

So principle number one….

As mentioned above, there are a thousand and one different folks out there all proclaiming their “secret new breakthrough” for losing weight.

A lot of these things are total quackery nonsense. A lot of them are downright dangerous.

That said, a lot of them have a certain amount of merit to them. Whether you’re talking about the low carb diet plans like Dr. Atkins Diet, or the South Beach Diet, or the low fat stuff like Dr. Ornish for instance, they all have some degree of success to them and are touching on some interesting concepts.

Well, here’s a broad general life principle for you (one thing you’ll eventually learn about me if you read much of my stuff is that I’m sort of big on broad general principles).

In the world of medicine, any time you see a whole lot of different treatments for a problem, it should tell you something. What it should tell you is that NONE of these treatments is the end-all, be-all, magic-bullet answer.

If any one of these treatments was the end-all, be-all, magic-bullet answer, it would be pretty much the only treatment being widely used because it would be the one that works.

When you see a whole bunch of different treatments for the same problem, it’s because while these treatments all may have some degree of success, none of them is so highly successful that it stands out from the crowd and becomes the “Gold Standard” of treatment.

So, as mentioned above, there is a plethora of different treatments being touted for obesity. There’s a new one coming out every day it seems. Yet, we keep getting fatter and fatter and fatter.

So, what does that tell you?

What it tells me is that we just don’t have all the answers yet. No matter how much we (we being the medical community) may act like we know exactly what is going on and what to do about it, the simple honest fact of the matter is that we still have a heck of a lot to learn. I’m pretty convinced there is no one-size-fits-all best answer.

So, here’s another general life principle:

This one goes back to my days in veterinary school. I had an instructor in Anesthesiology named Dr. X (It wasn’t really X, but I don’t have his permission to give his name, so I’m going to respect his privacy).

Now Dr. X was a bit of a drill-seargent of an instructor, but I really admired him. He knew that his subject was very hard and required a great deal of hard work and dedication to grasp it well, and he knew that failure to grasp it well could be catastrophic for the patients, so he made no compromises. He expected you to work hard. He accepted no excuses. He expected excellence and if you screwed up, he really let you know it.

That said, take him out of that environment, and I always thought he was a very nice, generous and caring guy, and sharp as a tack.

Well, Dr. X had a reputation as having made quite a fortune in private veterinary practice prior to becoming a university instructor. So, I used to discuss the business of running a veterinary practice with him now and then to pick his brain.

Well, one day we were getting a dog ready for anesthesia for some surgery. A couple of nurses were in the room and were discussing the latest gimmick for weight loss. It involved some sort of Chinese tape worm that you were supposed to purposefully infect yourself with. Apparently this tapeworm had a short lifespan in humans, so the idea was that you infect yourself, the tapeworm makes you lose some weight and then dies, and then you pass the dead worm in your stool.

Dr X smiled at this and looked over at me and said, “Sam, if you really want to get rich, what you need to do is convince people that you have a product that allows them to get away with not having to exercise any self discipline.”

There’s an awful lot of folks out there who are eager to sell you all sorts of pills, or hypnosis, or surgeries, or devices, etc., that promise to let you “Lose weight without having to exercise or diet. Eat all the foods you love without restrictions and just watch the pounds melt away!”

In my opinion, most of these folks create these products, etc. for one reason and one reason only, and it ain’t so you can lose weight. I think, the ONLY thing that most of them are really interested in slimming down, is your wallet! They are being quite successful with this too! Each year Americans spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 Billion dollars on weight loss products. Yes, that’s Billion with a “B”!!!

So, where’s the general life principle I promised you a few paragraphs ago? Here it is. There aren’t any short-cuts.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, climb Mt. Everest, or learn Algebra, there really aren’t any good short-cuts or gimmicks.

If you are preparing for an algebra test, you have a choice. You can buckle down and study algebra or you can cheat using some gimmick such as writing answers on your palm or looking at your neighbor’s paper. Either way, you have the potential of getting a better grade on the test, but who really comes out ahead, the student who worked hard and learned the material, or the cheater?

The cheater may get a similar or even better grade on the test, but did he or she really learn any algebra? Of course not! Down the road, in future classes, etc., the cheater will lose out because although the grade on a single test was better, the end result is an idiot who still doesn’t know any algebra. Beyond that, cheating is potentially dangerous! One can get caught cheating, and that can have huge negative repercussions.

Similarly, if you wish to lose weight, you have a choice. You can face up to the fact that weight loss is typically not completely easy or pleasant and requires some self discipline and dedication and hard work, or you can try to find some quick fix gimmick such as a diet pill or some crash diet, etc.

Just like the cheater on the algebra test, you may see some short term reward in the form of some quick number drop on the scale, but also just like the algebra cheater, you can just about guarantee that in the long run you will end up on the losing end of this game.

People who look to lose weight quick with easy gimmicks almost always gain any lost weight back, and typically they end up gaining more back than they lost. Similar to the algebra cheater, their gimmick also does not prepare them at all for the future. When they are done with their gimmick, they still have the same bad lifestyle habits they had before trying the latest weight loss fad. Finally, just as cheating on the algebra test carries the risk of getting caught with disastrous results, many of these gimmicky weight loss products and schemes are massively dangerous to your health. Many of them can cause serious permanent injuries, disabilities, and even death.

I can almost hear the readers saying at this point, “Okay, okay, Dr. Sam, enough pontificating already. You promised to tell me how to lose weight. So tell me!”

Patience, my friends. This is a big (no pun intended) topic, and takes a bit of time to cover.

So, how do you lose weight?

First, do you need to lose weight?

I have folks come to see me in my clinic all the time asking for help with weight loss. To be honest, most of them need it. Quite a few however, do not really need to lose any weight, and some in fact could actually stand to gain some pounds to reach a healthy weight.

So, again, I ask, do you need to lose weight?

What’s a healthy weight for you?

There’s a lot of differing opinions on this issue actually. There have been folks trying to dictate a standard for what is a “normal and healthy” weight for years, and these standards keep shifting. This shift is due to social pressures as well as ever-emerging new scientific evidence.

Currently, the “sort of” accepted standards are to either look at what’s known as a persons Body Mass Index (BMI) or calculate their Ideal Body Weight (IBW), or both. There is also a formula for calculating a person’s Lean Body Weight (LBW). The problem with all of these formulas is that they try to put everyone into a category and the fact is that we are all individuals. One size does not fit all.

The reality is that none of these formulas were actually designed with solving obesity in mind. They were designed for other purposes. The BMI formula was designed in the 1800′s as a way of classifying sedentary people of average body composition as part of a study of “Social Physics,” and the other two were designed for the purposes of calculating certain medication doses.

As a result, these formulas can cause some unreliable results if applied to certain folks. Part of the reason is that none of these formulas are actually measuring your fat vs muscles and bone and blood, etc. These formulas all rely on a number from a tape measure and a number from a scale. A normal scale has no way of knowing how much of your total weight is composed of fat vs non-fat.

These formulas work “okay” for the typical person, but we aren’t all typical. Using the BMI formula for instance, a huge body builder with rippling muscles and very little body fat might be classified as morbidly obese, whereas a very flabby person with very little muscle mass, might be classified as normal.

There are ways to get much more accurate measures, but they typically involve more expense and inconvenience than the average person would be willing to undergo. They involve things like measuring a person’s weight and then measuring their water displacement in a large water tank, or taking biopsies, etc. There are other, less expensive and inconvenient methods such as taking measurements of various parts of the body or using calipers to measure fat folds, etc. and plugging these numbers into formulas. If you want to try one of these, go here. There are also some cheap electrical devices of varying levels of accuracy and reliability that measure electrical resistance across a portion of your body to calculate a body fat percentage. Again, however, just like with tests like the BMI, one size doesn’t fit all, and therefore these tests should just be looked upon as a “rough idea” of what your body fat percentage is and the further you are from a “typical” person (i.e. if you are a huge body builder, or a skeletal looking skinner person, or a really, really obese person) the more “rough” that idea becomes.

So anyway, here are some formulas you can try. Some of these formulas use units from the metric system, so I’ve tinkered with them a bit to allow my typical American audience to use units they are used to such as pounds and inches rather than kilograms and meters.

First the Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI = 703 multiplied by your weight (in pounds) divided by your height (in inches) squared. (You are not squaring the whole thing here….just square your height in inches)

So, if you are 71 inches (5 feet, 11 inches) tall and weigh 200 pounds, for instance your calculation would go as follows

703 x 200 divided by 71 squared (in this case, “squared” would be 71x 71, which is 5041)——-> 703 x 200 divided by 5041 ——–> 703 x 0.0397 ——-> 27.9.

So, if you are 71 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds, your BMI is 27.9

So, what’s that mean? Well, there is some variability of opinion from one “Expert” to another as to exactly what BMI is too high or too low or just right.

That said, a normal BMI is typically considered to be between 18.5 and 25. Between 16.5 and 18.5 is considered underweight. Less than 16 is considered starvation. Between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. Between 30 and 35 is considered obese. Between 35 and 40 is considered clinically obese, and greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese.

Again depending on whose scale you are using, there is some variability of these ranges, and there is also some mild variability between the genders, and there have even been some BMI scales developed for particular ethnic groups. (For more detail of this stuff, please see the Body Mass Index link 12 paragraphs above this one.)

Of note these classifications are for adult. For kids, you calculate the BMI the same way, but you then have to put that number onto a chart to determine if it is normal for the age and gender. If you are interested in learning more about this, let me know, and perhaps I’ll write something on childhood obesity.

Now, the Ideal Body Weight (IBW) formula.

To calculate IBW, you can use a formula known as the Devine formula. It’s not really all that “divine”. It was just created by a guy whose last name was Devine. In fact, as elaborated above, it is pretty far from divine in my opinion. I won’t go into details here, but the history of this formula and how it was created leaves an awful lot to be desired scientifically. That said, here’s the formula.

For men and women, the formula is slightly different.

For men, the formula is 50 + (2.3 x height (in inches) – 60). That gives your “Ideal Body Weight” in kilograms. Multiply this by 2.2 to get it in pounds.

For women the formula is the same, except use 45.5 instead of 50 as the first number.

So, as an example, if you are a man who is 71 inches tall, your calculation would go as follows

50 + (2.3 x 71-60) —> 50 + (2.3 x 11) —-> 50 + 25.3 —> this equals 75.3 kilograms as your ideal body weight.

To convert that to pounds, we multiply by 2.2 to get 165.66 or roughly 166 pounds as your ideal body weight.

If you are a woman who is 71 inches tall, you do the same formula, but use 45.5 as your starting number rather than 50. So for a 71 inch tall woman, it would go as follows.

45.5 + (2.3 x 71-60) —> 45.5 + (2.3 x 11) —> 45.5 + 25.3 —> this equals 70.8 kilograms as your ideal body weight.

To convert that to pounds, we multiply by 2.2 to get 155.76 or roughly 156 pounds as your ideal body weight.

Finally, the Lean Body Weight (LBW) formula.

LBW is basically the weight of everything in your body (muscle, bone, teeth, etc.,) except for fat.

This one is a little more complicated, because it requires a bit more conversions of metric units, but here goes.

For Men

Step 1. First, take your weight in pounds and divide that by 2.2, then multiply that by 1.10. Write that number down.

Step 2. Take your weight and divide it by 2.2 again. Get the square of that (by multiplying it by itself). Write that number down.

Step 3. Take your height in inches and multiply that by 2.54. Get the square of that (by multiplying it by itself). Write that number down.

Step 4. Now, take the answer from step 2 and divide it by the answer from step 3. Then multiply that by 128. Write that number down.

Step 5. Now subtract the answer from step 4 from the answer from step 1. That is your lean body weight in kilograms. To convert that to pounds, multiply it by 2.2.

So, as an example, let’s say you are a man who is 71 inches tall and are 200 pounds in weight.

For step 1, 200 divided by 2.2 equals 90.91. When we multiply that by 1.10, we get 100.

For step 2, 200 divided by 2.2 equals 90.91. The square of that is 90.91 x 90.91, which equals 8264.63.

For step 3, 71 x 2.54 equals 180.34. The square of that is 180.34 x 180.34, which equals 32522.5156.

For step 4, we take 8264.63 (the answer from step 2) and divide that by 32522.5156 (the answer from step 3), which gives us 0.2541. We multiply that by 128, and that gives us 32.52.

Finally for step 5, we subtract 32.52 (the answer from step 4) from 100 (the answer from step 1) and this give us 67.48 which is the LBW in kilograms. To convert that to pounds we multiply it by 2.2, which gives us a LBW of roughly 148 pounds.

If we subtract that from the starting total body weight of 200 pounds, that tells us that this man has a total of 52 pounds of fat. Dividing 52 by his total weight of 200 gives us a body fat percentage of 26%.

For Women, the formula is similar but a few of the numbers are different.

Step 1. First take your weight in pounds and divide that by 2.2, then multiply that by 1.07. Write that number down.
Step 2. Take your weight and divide it by 2.2 again. Get the square of that (by multiplying it by itself). Write that number down.

Step 3. Take your height in inches and multiply that by 2.54. Get the square of that (by multiplying it by itself). Write that number down.

Step 4. Now, take the answer from step 2 and divide it by the answer from step 3. Then multiply that by 148. Write that number down.

Step 5. Now take subtract the answer from step 4 from the answer from step 1. That is your lean body weight in kilograms. To convert that to pounds, multiply it by 2.2.

So, again as an example, let’s say you are a woman who is 71 inches tall and are 200 pounds in weight.

For step 1, 200 divided by 2.2 equals 90.91. When we multiply that by 1.07, we get 97.27.

For step 2, 200 divided by 2.2 equals 90.91. The square of that is 90.91 x 90.91, which equals 8264.63.

For step 3, 71 x 2.54 equals 180.34. The square of that is 180.34 x 180.34, which equals 32522.5156.

For step 4, we take 8264.63 (the answer from step 2) and divide that by 32522.5156 (the answer from step 3), which gives us 0.2541. We multiply that by 148, and that gives us 37.6

Finally for step 5, we subtract 37.6 (the answer from step 4) from 97.27 (the answer from step 1) and this give us 59.67 which is the LBW in kilograms. To convert that to pounds we multiply it by 2.2 which gives us a LBW of roughly 131.27 pounds.

If we subtract that from the starting total body weight of 200 pounds, that tells us that this woman has a total of 68.73 pounds of fat. Dividing 68.73 by her total weight of 200 gives us a body fat percentage of 34%.

What’s a normal Body Fat Percentage?

Well, again, to some extent it depends on who you ask. There is definitely some strong variability here based on gender, as well as ethnicity. Here’s a link to a page with a couple of scales showing various ranges. Here’s another article about this topic.

Are you still with me folks? We’ve still got a little ways to go, but if you’ve made it this far, please keep going as I’m about to tie all of the above together for the free answer to the million dollar question of “How do you lose weight?”

I can hear you now. “Okay doc, that’s all great. Now I can roughly calculate what my weight is and what it should be and roughly how many pounds of fat I need to lose. But yes doc, please answer that million dollar question. How do I do it?”

Well, bear with me a just a bit longer and we’ll get into that.

As mentioned near the top of this post, there are a lot of different ideas and theories about weight loss. I think a lot of them have some merit and truths to them, but I don’t think any of them has all the answers for all the people.

For instance, I think there is some merit to the low-carb diet stuff (like the Atkins and SouthBeach diets). The concept of the glycemic index of various foods is something that makes a lot of sense to me and I think likely has bearing on how much a particular food is likely to contribute to fat. I’ve also read a lot of stuff from Dean Ornish and find a lot of his work quite fascinating. His stuff isn’t just geared toward weight loss, but that is a big part of it, and he’s shown some remarkable results with diet changes that focus mostly on low fat.

The thing is, I think they are both right, as well as a lot of the other diet plans out there. But again, I don’t think any of them really give the complete stand-alone solution.

Personally, I think “What” you eat is tremendously important, but exactly what the best “What” is, is still being decided.

All that said, I think something that is extremely important when it comes to losing weight (and by that I mean losing fat) seems to get lost in all these discussions. Patients all the time come to me and tell me, “I’m eating only healthy foods. All I eat is lean meats and vegetables, but I just can’t seem to lose any weight.” Or they might say, “I’m getting almost no fat in my diet. Almost everything I eat is fat-free, but I just keep gaining weight.”

These folks have all been paying so much attention to all these different studies and arguments amongst the experts about “What” they should be eating. Again, I think this “What” is very important, but when it comes to weight loss, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the “What” is trumped in importance by the simple question of “How much?”

These patients that come to me and tell all about what they are eating almost universally look at me blankly when I ask them “How many calories are you consuming a day?”

None of them are paying a bit of attention to the calories. They don’t have a clue about how many calories they are eating. Some of them even get annoyed with me when I ask. They immediately try to change the subject back to the “What” of their diet.

Folks, here’s the deal. I don’t care if you are eating the healthiest stuff in the whole wide world. If you eat enough of it you will gain weight.

While the substance of what you eat is very important, none of these plans can escape the simple fact that if you consume and absorb more calories than you burn, you will gain weight and conversely, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. This is simply dictated by the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Mass.

To put it simply, if every time you go to the gas station, you put less gas in the car than you burned, eventually the tank will become empty.

If you keep putting more gas in the tank than you burn, eventually, the tank will start to overflow, in much the same way that many of us have guts that are over-flowing over the top of our pants.

So, how much gas are you burning? In other words, how do you know how many calories to put in your tank?

Well, that is determined by a lot of variable factors. Just like not all cars are equal when it comes to fuel efficiency, not all people are equal when it comes to fuel (calorie) efficiency.

Also, just like the gas mileage in your car is largely dependent on how you drive it, so also your body burns calories dependent on how you drive it.

If you’ve got a super efficient little Smart Car, its tank is going to tend to overflow a whole lot easier than a Hummer. Similarly, some people are just a lot more efficient than others. They tend to have a lower metabolism. The energy their body needs to carry on with the basic tasks of staying alive is a lot less than folks with a less efficient metabolism.

So, people with more efficiency, who have a lower metabolism, tend to get fat easier.

Going back to our car example though, it’s common sense that even if you’ve got a Smart Car, you won’t get nearly as good an amount of gas mileage if you drive everywhere with the pedal-to-the-metal. Even a Smart Car won’t get very good gas mileage if you speed everywhere, make jackrabbit starts, etc.

Same thing is also true with people. Even somebody who is super efficient and has a low metabolic rate, can counteract that somewhat with that tried and true method known as exercise.

Even the Smart Car, as efficient as it is, can and will run out of gas if it burns more than you put in the tank.

It works that way for you too!

Now, I know, somebody is reading this and thinking, “But doc, you just don’t understand. I have a thyroid condition. That’s why I can’t lose weight.”

I do understand. I totally get what you are saying.

The fact is, there are a lot of different factors that can make it easier or harder for someone to lose weight. Low thyroid, certain medications, etc. can all make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Other things like a hyperactive thyroid, for instance can have the opposite effect.

However none of these factors allow you or anyone else to violate the basic laws of thermodynamics linked to earlier in this post. All any of these factors do is either increase or slow down your basal metabolic rate a bit.

They just make you more or less efficient with your calories. They just make you more like either a smart car or a hummer. You can still gain or lose weight however, regardless of how fast your basal metabolic rate is.

Even if you have low thyroid hormone levels or some other factor slowing your metabolic rate down, if you put less calories in your mouth than you burn, you will lose weight.

Okay, I’ve beat you over the heads with that point enough. If you still don’t get it, leave a comment for me.

So, again, the question, “How many calories should I be consuming?”

Well, once you understand that we are all a bit different, the next step is to do some calculations.

The first thing we need to calculate is just what is our basal metabolic rate. Think of this as the amount of gas that Smart Car or that Hummer is burning when it is just sitting still with the engine idling. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories you are burning when you are just sitting there idling as well. This is the energy your body uses to maintain basic life functions like breathing, pumping blood, etc.

How can we calculate that? Well, to get an exact figure, you can take a trip to some place like the U.S. Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs and spend thousands and thousands of dollars. They can hook you up to all sorts of machines that will measure your weight, and body temperature, and measure exactly how much oxygen you are using and carbon dioxide you are expelling, and man they can give you some pretty impressive numbers.

But, hey, who the heck has thousands of bucks and a bunch of spare time to go do this sort of thing. Surely there is an easier way.

Well, you might find a local weight loss clinic with a “Diet Doctor” who might have some similar high tech equipment and machines and can give you some pretty good numbers too. It probably won’t cost as much in time and money as the trip to Colorado, but you know, it’ll still take up a good bit of time, and will probably still cost at least a few hundred bucks.

Anyway, I promised earlier to give you the zero dollar answer.

So here goes. While all the high tech gadgetry mentioned above is nice (and if you are an elite Olympic caliber athlete, where hundredths of a second in a race can be the difference between a gold medal and last place it may even be mandatory), you can still get a pretty darn good idea about your metabolic rate and the amount of calories you are burning with some simple math formulas.

The one I particularly like is known as the Harris-Benedict equations.

First we calculate the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

So, take for example a 40 year old man who is 71 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. If we plug his numbers into the equation for men above, we get a BMR of 1941.7 calories.

So what that means is that for the typical or average 40 year old man weighing 200 pounds and standing 71 inches tall, his body is burning about 1941.7 calories per day just to stay alive. In other words that’s the amount of gas he burns just idling. If he does nothing all day, but lay perfectly still, that’s about how many calories he’s going to burn in 24 hours.

But just like we don’t typically just have our car sitting there with the engine idling all day, we don’t all just lay perfect still, do we? We do things! Some of us do more than others. Some folks mostly just sit about the house watching television all day, and some folks are hitting the gym hard every day.

So, we have to factor our typical activity level into this as well. The way we do this is by multiplying our BMR by an activity factor. This factor will vary depending on how active you are.

If you are the person who does very little, who just watches TV all day, multiply your BMR by 1.2.

If you are somewhat active, maybe doing some light exercise like comfortable walking a few days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.375.

If you are somewhat more active, maybe doing brisk walking or light jogging 3-5 days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.55.

If you are real active, maybe doing hard aerobics or hard jogging 6-7 days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.725.

Finally, if you are an extremely active person, (think army basic training) with hard, hard activity all day long 6-7 days a week, multiply your BMR by 1.9

The number you get when you multiply your BMR by the activity level factor should be looked upon as a starting point. It is a rough estimate of the total number of calories you are burning in a 24 hour period.

If you are the typical average person and you consume this number of calories every day, your weight will likely not change very much at all. You will not gain weight. You will not lose weight. Your calorie burning and consumption will pretty much be in balance.

But, we aren’t all typical and average, and the title of this post is How to Lose Weight.

So, let’s put everything we’ve been discussing together.

Where can the Harris-Benedict equations go wacky. Well, they can go increasingly wacky the further one gets from being the normal average man or woman.

If you are someone who already has a very low body fat percentage and is extremely muscular, think Arnold Schwarzenegger for instance, then your BMR is likely going to be a good bit higher than what the equations will calculate. This is because all that muscle uses up a lot of energy just staying alive.

Conversely, if you have an extremely high body fat percentage, and not as much muscle, then the formula will likely calculate that you are burning more calories than you actually are.

So, the further you get from the normal average man or woman, the more valuable that Lean Body Weight we calculated becomes. If you are pretty far from the typical average healthy man or woman, you might want to use your calculated Lean Body Weight, rather than the number you get on a scale, when doing the Harris Benedict calculation of BMR.

If you aren’t extremely far from the typical man or woman, but are still pretty muscular or pretty obese, you might want to split the difference somewhere between your calculated LBW and your actual weight on the scale and use this number in the Harris Benedict calculation.

This isn’t exact stuff here. If you want that, go to Colorado. This is all about getting a “pretty good ballpark figure” for the number of calories you are burning.

Again, these formulas are designed with the typical person in mind. They don’t really take into account the extreme folks. They also don’t take into account the various medical conditions, medications, etc. that can affect your BMR.

We’re going to get to how to deal with these in a few moments. Oh, and I promise we are getting near the end of this long post. Thanks for your patience so far.

So, as mentioned a moment ago, the title of this post is How to Lose Weight.

Well, now that we know a rough estimate of how much gas we can put in the tank and have the weight stay the same, it’s really just a simple matter of making adjustments to either how much gas we are putting in or how much we are burning, or both.

In other words, if you want to lose weight, you simply increase that activity level and eat fewer calories than what you just calculated.

So how much do you decrease the calories? It depends on how much weight you want to lose and how quickly.

Now a pretty good and generally accepted rule of thumb for successful weight loss is to set a goal of losing between 1-2 pounds a week.

Now a lot of people get annoyed at this. They think, “That’s not enough. It’ll take me forever to lose any significant weight.”

Well, the truth is, if you are significantly overweight, I bet you didn’t get that way overnight. It probably took months and years for you to get that way. Months and years of counterproductive lifestyle habits.

Well, to successfully lose weight and keep it off is probably going to similarly take months and years of productive lifestyle habits.

But before you get too discouraged at this, please do a little simple math.

If you lose 1 pound a week, at the end of a year, that’s 52 pounds. That’s a lot of weight.

If you lose 2 pounds a week, at the end of a year, that 104 pounds. That’s like losing an entire cheerleader from your belly and butt!

How’d we come up with the goal of 1-2 pounds of week? It’s through years and years of experience with seeing what works.

Typically, if you are losing less than a pound a week on average, then you really aren’t being serious enough about your diet and exercise plan. You are likely to get discouraged with your progress and you will likely give up eventually and go back to the weight-gaining lifestyle.

If, on the other hand, you are losing more than 2 pounds a week on average, then you are probably being a little too hard on yourself, and are eventually going to get sick and tired of all the suffering and similarly give up and go back to the weight-gaining habits.

Trust me; shoot for 1-2 pounds a week average. The reason I say average is because we aren’t machines. As we lose weight over the course of a year, it’s not just a smooth machine-like steady loss. It’s really more like a jagged line, where it may go down a couple pounds one week, and maybe go up the next, and then down a pound the week after that, etc. You aren’t likely to actually lose exactly 1-2 pounds each and every week. It’s the averages over time that matter.

So, how many calories do I need to burn to lose 1-2 pounds a week?

Well, on average a pound of human body fat is about 3500 calories. So, if we divide that by the seven days in a week, that equals about 500 calories a day.

What that means, is that if you change your diet and exercise habits so that you consume 500 calories a day less than you burn, you will on average lose about a pound of fat per week.

If you consume 1000 calories a day less than you burn, you should average about 2 pounds a week of weight loss.

So, if by using the formulas above, you calculate that you are burning about 2500 calories a day to maintain your current weight, then if you decrease your consumption to 2000 calories a day, and make no changes in your activity level, then you should lose on average about a pound a week.

If you decrease your consumption to 1500 calories a day, and make no changes in your activity level, you should lose on average about 2 pounds a week.

Again, however, these are not exact numbers. These are pretty good estimates that should be used as a starting point.

If you put all this into practice and after a month or two, you find you aren’t losing quite as much as you calculated you should, then you will need to make some adjustments. The first thing to look at is the amount of calories you are consuming. You have to be very careful and make certain that you are counting ALL of the calories that are going in your mouth. Look on the labels of everything you eat. This includes beverages. This even includes things like vitamin pills. Count ALL the calories. If something you eat says it has 100 calories per serving, and there are 3 servings per container and you eat the whole container, then that is 300 calories. Get it?

Oh, and you should be writing all this stuff down every day so you can be sure you are keeping track of all the calories. Get an actual piece of paper and keep it with you. Every time something goes in your mouth, you write it down immediately. If you tell yourself that you’ll do it later, you’ll forget about it and miss those calories in your daily tally. This is the discipline part I was talking about earlier. DO IT!

If you do this and you are absolutely 100% certain, that you are counting all the calories, then the next step is to make an adjustment here.

It may be that your actual BMR is somewhat different that what you calculated, so you may need to cut back on the calories a bit more and/or increase your activity level a bit more.

Be careful here though. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that if you cut your calories back too severely, it may actually be counterproductive to weight loss. The thinking is that if you cut back too much, you body thinks you are experiencing a famine and will slow down the metabolic rate to try and conserve calories.

In general, the thinking is that the absolute minimum calories you should consume to prevent this is about 1200 calories for the typical woman and 1500 calories for the typical man.

If you are already down to these levels and still aren’t losing at least a pound a week, then you need to do two things.

1. You need to visit your doctor and get examined to make sure that there isn’t some undiagnosed medical condition or medication, etc. that is interfering with your goal.

2. You may need to examine your activity level and see if there is any room to increase this.

Again, though, give it a good month or two before you decide that you aren’t losing fast enough. That will give you enough time for your body to respond to the changes and will also give you enough time to gather some meaningful data to work with.

I know I’ve rambled on for what seems like forever here, so I’m going to bring it to a close now.

Keep in mind that this is just a brief overview and is by no means an exhaustive review of all things related to weight loss. If you have specific questions, please leave them in the feedback section and I will try to address them.

Also, as you’ve probably seen a million times before, always consult your own personal physician prior to starting any diet or exercise plan.

In the meantime, have a great Mardi Gras. Be careful out there, catch a lot of beads, and Laissez Les Bon Temps Roullez!!!!!

…Sam

1 Response to “How To Lose Weight”


  • I’ve no time for people who eat like pigs and then try to find magic pills, diets and programs. By eating a lot of, you will be fat no mater what. And i am not especially slim but I do run and feel healthy, without feeling hungry all the time. Get a grip folks!

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