Embrace the Equation

woman cradling scale

Honestly, for most of us, losing weight is like taking on a second full-time job: counting points, calories, grams of fat, carbs, sugar, and reading diet books on how to crunch all those numbers. Even worse, many fad-type diets are nutritionally just wrong, unhealthy, and the vast majority are both unsustainable and ineffective in the long run.

Most diets also fail to take human nature into account. They prescribe the diet based on the target weight, which, depending on how much we need to lose and how fast “they” think we should lose it, could mean an immediate and dramatic cut in food intake. If it were that easy, everybody would be slim and fit.

In truth—and this is based on rock-solid science—it doesn’t have to be difficult, complicated, or miserable to lose weight. All we need to take weight off, is simple arithmetic and a little knowledge about how the weight went on. I like to call it “embrace the equation.”

What’s the Equation?

It’s simple, and pretty obvious.

Calories In – Calories Out = Calories Stored

However, this may surprise you: 1 pound of body weight is 3,500 calories. Let’s say you eat 100 extra calories per day, which is easy to do. Take a look at what 100 calories will buy:

  • A kid’s order of McDonald’s fries. That’s about 10 fries. Literally.
  • A 7.5-ounce can of non-diet cola (94 calories)
  • A Starbucks Chai Tea Latte with nonfat milk and no whipped cream (105 calories)

So just one year of eating 100 calories extra per day, we’ll gain just over 10 pounds. (In math, that’s 365 days x 100 lbs/day = 36,500 calories gained. That’s more than 10 pounds.) That’s the bad news!

Here is the great news! Just one year of reducing your daily calories by 100 (just 10 French fries) will allow you to lose over 10 pounds per year. Go for a 200 calorie reduction per day (reduce that 400 calorie evening snack with a 200 calorie one) and lose 20 pounds per year!

Now we know the real driver behind the so-called age-related weight gain that pumps the spare tire around our middles. It’s not age, it’s the little things we add that become habits: the scone on the way to town (+460 calories), the brownie with midday coffee (+112 calories), the microwave popcorn while watching TV (+60 per cup, and who eats just one cup of popcorn?). You get the point.

Let’s use this information to help ourselves in a way we can sustain our weight, or lose weight if we choose, long-term. Get a postal scale and a notebook and start weighing and keeping track of what you eat. Be sure to count the salad dressing on your salad, the butter on your toast, the honey in your tea. Next to each entry, write its calorie count. You can get that info from the food label, or from any number of food calorie databases online. In writing this letter, I happened to use CalorieKing.com, but there are others.

At CalorieKing.com, I scrolled down to see how many calories we should be eating. Based on height, current weight, age, sex, and daily activity level, it’ll calculate BMI and ideal weight. If you’re overweight, it’ll give the number of daily calories that’ll get you to your ideal weight by losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. This is the where most diets fail miserably. Here’s why.

Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week puts you on track to lose 50 to 100 pounds in a year. That’s unrealistic. You would be taking the weight off much faster than you put it on and enduring way too much of a calorie cutback, way too fast. You would likely get discouraged and quit.

We already know it would have taken two years of eating 100 extra calories a day to put on 20 pounds, and that we’d hardly notice those extra calories going in. Now, with the help of journaling, you can simply reverse the process at the rate it happened in the first place, and, once again, you’ll hardly notice. You’ll not only lose the weight, you’ll understand how it’s happening, and you’ll believe in the process. With the power of knowledge, you’ll stick to it, for good.

Want To Go Faster?

The Equation considers not only calories in, but also calories burned, which we can boost by increasing our physical activity level.1 If you don’t feel like cutting back, do an activity that burns 200 calories every day without increasing your food consumption and you will lose 20 pounds per year.

Weather permitting, I highly recommend going outside for an hour every day. Walk briskly, climb hills, ride your bike, stop and do a few yoga poses, jog with your dog, try the climbing wall at the local health club, whatever strikes you as a fun way to get muscles working and heart pumping.2 My Fitbit activity tracker tells me that my daily 45-minute walk up and down hills, interspersed with dips and pushups, burns 460 calories. That more than makes up for my two glasses of wine each evening for my heart health.

And—this is important—mix it up that so your metabolism doesn’t know what to expect. The human body is designed to provide us with energy efficiently by anticipating our needs based on what we usually do. It then equips each cell with just the number of mitochondria needed to provide that amount of energy. (Mitochondria are the cells’ tiny cigar-shaped power plants that convert the chemical energy from food, into the electrical energy that runs our bodily functions.)

Tossing in some short, strenuous bouts of activity, in between moderate-energy activities, tells the body to prepare for more childlike, unpredictable bursts of activity. The result: boosted metabolism at the cellular level—and more weight lost.3

Embrace The Equation is better than a diet. It’s a tool that makes us smarter about food by removing the mystery. Food mysteries and magic formulas sell diet books. But rather than making the authors successful at selling books, I want you to be successful at losing weight. The added bonus is the health benefits you’ll enjoy from losing that weight for good.

About Author

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the President of Gene Smart and the leader of our Gene Smart team. His mission is to provide supplements to help you control your inflammation, your weight, and your life, based on the latest scientific information.

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