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Weight Loss Is Not Just That Simple, Or Is It?

The idea of weight loss becomes less intimidating to me when I think about it in terms of energy in and energy out; sort of like a math equation. Energy in is the caloric value we need to maintain our energy  in order to live our lives and energy out is the caloric value we exert, regardless if we are at rest or exercising.  If you look on food labels, most nutrition are based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet.  The average person lives on a 2,000-calorie diet, but keep in mind that your caloric intake should be based on your personal basal metabolic rate (BMR). In other words, your BMR is unique to you and indicates the amount of energy your body needs to function at rest. Our gender, physical build and activity level play a part in this equation. Of course, I would be neglecting an important reality if I didn’t add that what we eat plays a part in how we feel during the day. Let’s be honest.  We can’t consume 2,000 calories of chocolate Hershey bars and feel energized.

On average, my personal BMR burns about 2300 calories, however if I work out, keep active all day and get those 10,000 steps in, I can burn about 3300 calories for the day. So it becomes simple math:  If I consume 2300 calories in a typical, active day, I should remain stable.  However, if I add some planned activity, plus only consume 2300, I could lose weight.

The equation looks like this:

Energy in (food consumed) – Energy out (BMR, plus exercises) = a lost or gain in weight

Keep in mind a pound of body fat equals 3500 calories (and looks like pound of butter!), so for every deficit of 3500 calories, one pound of body weight is lost.

For me personally, my daily diet of 2,000 calories minus my BMR of 2,300 calories equals a deficit of 300 calories for the day. Over a week’s time this adds up to a little bit more than a pound of weight loss per week.  Other things I could do to affect this equation include, with proper guidance from a doctor or licensed dietician, possibly drop my caloric intake to 1700 calories and/or introduce am exercise plan improving the amount of weight lost in a week.

Sounds simple, right? Just by watching the numbers, I personally have lost a lot of weight (and, have gained some back).  No problem though!  It’s just math.  I can lose it again, right? Well I’m finding that it is not that simple. As I slowly watch my weight gain increase, I myself thinking “I will get back on track tomorrow.” After all, the plan was simple, so I convince myself that I would just do the same routine I did before: exercise three times per week, keep active on the days I did not work out, watch what I eat, and work the simple energy in/energy out equation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working this time.

So what changed? After researching the internet for answers, I was reminded that many weight loss programs (e.g. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc…) simplify or disguise the energy in/energy out equation.  For example, Weight Watchers uses a point system and, though easier to compute is still a variation of the energy in/energy out equation. Other programs (e.g. Jenny Craig) simply plan your proportioned meals in advance, making it easy to decide what and when to eat.  For me the question is, “Does simplifying or disguising the caloric value in the short term help the long-term efforts when you are no longer on the program?” I do know of several individuals that have successfully lost weight following such programs, however I also know a few that continue to go back on regular basis because they tend to gain back the weight.  

It is worth noting that weight loss programs do teach portion size; what a well-balanced meal or snacks look like. Furthermore, such programs have coaches to educate and help us understand our personal relationship with food.  So there are lots of benefits to consider, but for me it still comes down to making appropriate choices, a simple equation and lot of hard work and effort to keep on track.

Weight loss is simple, or is it? For me, once I made a conscious choice to lose weight and work the simple math equation, the process became simple. The hard part is making the right choices after that.