How to Lose Extra Weight
Calories In, Calories Out
On paper, losing weight is a simple formula. A person must eat fewer calories than he or she burns. Eating 3,500 calories is equal to 1 pound of body weight. If you eat 3,500 calories more than your body uses, you will gain 1 pound. On the other hand, if you burn 3,500 calories more than you eat, you will lose 1 pound.
Think of it as a simple math equation.
- Calories eaten = calories burned. If both sides of the equation are equal, your weight doesn't change.
- Calories eaten > calories burned. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
- Calories eaten < calories burned. If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight.
Decrease the number of calories you consume
Losing weight is a matter of using more calories than you consume. One approach is to eat fewer calories. However, this does not mean that you have to eat less food. It means you need to eat fewer calories. If you avoid high-calorie foods and focus on low-calorie foods, you can decrease calories without decreasing the amount of food you eat.
Increase the number of calories your body burns
The other way to lose weight is to increase the number of calories you use. Your body burns calories in a number of ways, some of which we can control:
- Normal bodily functions (digestion, breathing, brain function, and circulation)
- Regular daily activities (cleaning, working, walking, and shopping)
- Moderate to vigorous physical activities (fast walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, swimming, playing basketball, bike riding, and dancing)
It is all about balance. Let's say each day you cut out one 300 calorie snack and start burning an extra 100 calories by walking up 10 flights of stairs. You will create a 400 calorie deficit. After 9 days, the 400 calories used will add up to about 3,500 calories, and you will have lost 1 pound.
Exercise and Weight Control
Regular exercise is crucial to managing your weight. Any time you are physically active, your body increases the number of calories it uses. The result is weight loss. Exercise helps your body attain and maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight isn't the only benefit of exercise:
- Getting in shape helps your body burn more calories all the time, not just during exercise. This is because exercise can change fat into muscle. Muscle mass is like an internal weight control system. Muscle helps your body burn more calories all day – even when you are sleeping!
- Some research suggests that being physically active may be more important than eating habits for long-term weight control. So if you want to keep weight off, making exercise a part of your life is the key to success. Being physically active will help you maintain weight loss.
- Being physically active will help you look and feel trimmer. Lean body mass weighs more that fat, but it takes up less room. Because of this, exercise can help you lose inches from your entire body, even if you don't see results on the scale.
- Exercise can boost your mood and confidence and build a fortress of willpower and determination. Armed with a good workout, you'll find that the donuts in the break room may not even turn your head.
Tips to Get Moving and Keep Moving
It is never too late to start being active. If you haven't been exercising recently, you could start with a short walk once every day. Pace yourself and then slowly build up over time.
- Choose something you like doing. Think about what types of activities you enjoy. Some people prefer individual activities like walking or hiking, while others like group activities such as dance classes, yoga, or a team sport.
- Have an open mind. You might like something you never thought of before. Ever considered kung fu, water aerobics, or salsa dancing?
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise each week. This is about 30 minutes 5 days per week. A good goal is to try to get some activity every day.
If time is short, divide your exercise time into short workouts. For example:
- First thing in the morning: 10 minutes of situps, pushups, squats, and stretches
- Lunch time: A vigorous 10-minute walk
- Immediately after work: 10 minutes on the exercise bike or a quick, fast-paced walk or jog
How to Stick with it
- Consider finding an exercise partner. Ask neighbors, family, or coworkers to join you. Having a buddy makes exercise more enjoyable and helps you stay accountable.
- Try not to worry about your level of ability. Choose something simple or take an introductory class to learn the basics. Remember, your goal is to be healthy.
- Vary your activities to keep it interesting. If you normally walk, try riding a bike or swimming on the weekends. Learn a new sport or try resistance training to mix up your workouts.
- Remind yourself why you are committed to being fit and burning calories. Make a list and post it near the front door, your walking shoes, or in the car. This can help you stay motivated even on those low-energy days.
- Take the stairs or park away from your destination. These small steps help maintain weight loss over the long-term.
- Consider setting some long-term goals. Aim for a race or charity event. Give yourself plenty of time to work up to it and find a friend to join you.
Healthy Eating for Weight Loss Maintenance
A healthy diet will help you lose weight and the right kind of weight: fat rather than muscle. Consuming the right amount of healthy, low-calorie foods allows you to feel satisfied while cutting calories.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are low in calories. Since they usually have plenty of water and fiber, they make you feel full. Aim for 5 to 9 servings a day.
- Instead of starches, get your whole grains. Try replacing bagels, white rice, and pasta with whole wheat or whole grains to feel more full and shed pounds faster. Look for whole-wheat bread and pasta products. Replace regular rice with brown rice and try other whole grains such as bulgur, oats, barley, and quinoa. Aim for 6 to 8 servings a day.
- Go for low-fat protein. Skinless chicken, lean cuts of beef, fish, beans and legumes, tofu, and texturized vegetable protein are all good sources of low-fat protein. A little fat is important to help you feel full, but since a gram of fat has more than twice the calories of other nutrients, shifting to low-fat foods is an important strategy for getting trim.
- Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Get the calcium you need to stay strong even as you shed pounds. Low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese, and yogurt are your best bets. If you are not careful, cutting calories can leave your body deprived of important vitamins and minerals.
- Watch your portions. You may be eating all the right stuff but too much of it. Use smaller plates to avoid overeating. Pay close attention to portions when dining out. Restaurants often serve large portions and calorie-packed foods. The plate method can help you eat a balanced meal.
- Avoid empty calories and high-fat foods. Starchy, sugary foods and alcohol have lots of calories and little nutritional value. Since fat has more than double the number of calories than other foods, it is important to eat it in moderation. Avoid fried foods, keep red meat servings small, eat nonfat or low-fat dairy products, and avoid butter and creamy sauces.
Following these guidelines is easier when you have a positive attitude about your healthy eating habits. If you focus on what you can eat, you won't have to worry too much about what you cannot. And remember, you can occasionally indulge in treats when quantities are reasonable and you compensate by eating fewer calories later.
Don't Go Hungry
Though you are eating fewer calories, there is no need to go hungry. These strategies will help you feel full and avoid getting hungry between meals:
- Get plenty of fluids. Drink lots of water throughout the day and eat foods with high water content. In addition to fruits and vegetables, consider making broth-based soups a staple. Soups can help fill you up without adding excess calories to your diet.
- Focus on fiber. Not only does fiber help fill you up, but foods with lots of fiber take longer to digest, so you feel satisfied for longer. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes are good sources.
- Variety helps you feel satisfied. The more types of foods you eat, the greater variety of satisfying nutrients you get. Since different nutrients are digested at different rates, variety in your meals makes it more likely that you will feel truly satisfied for a longer time after eating.
- Eat breakfast every day to avoid getting too hungry and overeating later. People who eat breakfast regularly are more successful with losing weight and keeping it off.
- Choose healthy snacks. Eating healthy snacks in between meals helps you stay energized and satisfied. Bring an apple in your purse or grab low-fat string cheese for a great snack.
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This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.