It’s that time of year where most of us set resolutions to improve ourselves. The most common of those is to lose weight. Yet, most of us don’t successfully achieve this goal. Patients often ask me, “What is the best way to lose weight?” The answer is there is no one best way to lose weight.
I believe we complicate the dieting process. It all “boils down” to decreasing our daily caloric intake. It is that simple. There is no complicated formula. It doesn’t matter if you adopt a Low Carbohydrate Diet, a High Protein Diet, an All Fruit Diet. These diets all have one thing in common: for them to be effective, you have to burn (use) more calories than you consume.
The focus is on calories. The next question to ask yourself is, “How many calories do I need each day to maintain my current weight?” This question can be answered easily. Here is a link to a website that will calculate your daily caloric needs www.active.com/fitness/calculators/calories. That is, if you consumed this number, you would neither gain nor lose a pound. In order to lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories each day on average. Let’s say that number is 2,500 calories per day. If you decreased your caloric intake to 2,000 calories per day, you would be have burned 500 calories. If you did this each day for one week, you would have burned 3,500 calories. 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of calculating this number, a good target is 2,000 calories per day for men and 1,500 calories per day for women. It does not matter where the calories come from. The total number of calories is what counts. You will find that eating foods that low in fat and refined sugars will allow you to eat more per day. The target foods should be lean meats (fish, poultry, lean pork), fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads (in moderation), and unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocados).
In order to keep your caloric intake within your target, you need to understand how many calories are in the foods you consume. This requires an understanding of true serving sizes (refer to Reference Guide at the bottom the text).
You have to maintain a daily log of your calories. This is important for several reasons: it enables you to accurately track your progress, and you are more likely to stay on track. Otherwise, you will never truly know how many calories you are consuming. I recommend purchasing a calorie counting paperback book. They are inexpensive and available at bookstores and your local grocery store.
I often have patients give me the excuse, “I can’t lose weight because I’m unable to exercise due to ______________.” Fill in the blank: my arthritis, my busy job/schedule, shortness of breath, etc. The truth is the majority of your weight loss will come from reducing your caloric intake; not from exercise. Of course, it would be preferable to perform aerobic exercise in conjunction with reducing calories. Most will be able to begin an exercise program once they lose some weight!
Most of us seek to lose weight so that we look better in clothes. There are, however, so many other important reasons to achieve an ideal body weight: reduction in heart disease (the number one cause of mortality in the United States by far), decrease risk of many cancers (including colorectal cancer, breast, pancreas, endometrial), reduced gastroesophageal reflux disease and it’s complications (Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer). Obesity is also linked to fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
Finally, many of the patients I see in my practice with chronic gastrointestinal complaints are often linked to obesity. Instead of taking a pill or multiple medications, wouldn’t it be better lose weight, feel better, and simplify your life?
Richard M. Warneke, M.D., M.S.
PORTIONS/CALORIE REFERENCE GUIDE
BASEBALL = 1 CUP
Vegetables (raw) = 35 calories
Fruit = 80 to 100 calories
Potatoes = 120 calories
Rice or corn = 170 calories
Pasta, Oatmeal, Cereal, Beans (cooked) = 220 calories
DECK OF CARDS = 3 OUNCES
Lean Beaf, Chicken, or Pork = 150 to 200 calories
CHECKBOOK = 3 OUNCES
Fish = 100 to 150 calories
COMPUTER MOUSE = 3 OUNCES
Lean Deli-Meats = 75 to 90 calories
4 DICE = 1 OUNCE
Cheese = 110 calories
PING PONG BALL = 1 OUNCE
Nuts and Seeds = 170 calories
THE BEST OF THE REST
1 Slice of Bread = 70 calories
1 Flour Tortilla = 70 calories
1 Slice of Bacon = 40 calories
1 Pat of Butter = 50 calories
1 Cup (8 ounces) of 2% Milk = 130 calories
1 Large Egg = 70 calories