Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:51 p.m.
When most people say they want to get back in shape, it usually means that they want to lose weight.
The magic formula for weight loss is as follows: If more calories are burned than are consumed weight loss occurs. It really is that simple.
If I expend 2,000 calories per day and eat only 1,500, I'll lose weight. Over time, I'll lose a lot of weight. So it's important to know how many calories you typically burn and how many you're consuming.
So, how many extra calories do you need to burn or eliminate from your diet to lose a single pound?
For the average person, 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat. What does this mean? If you want to lose one pound per week, you could look at it this way. Eat 500 less calories per day than what your body needs, and you'll have burned 3,500 calories and lost a single pound. (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories less per week - the equivalent of 1 pound)
Does it matter where I get my calories? If you don't want to feel like your starving yourself, it's important to watch the types of foods you eat.
For example, the calories in nine Hershey Kisses equal that of a nice Italian meatloaf with side dishes to boot. Sit at your desk and snack on a tin can of nuts, and you'll eat your entire daily allowance of calories before you've had a single meal.
So, how many calories are in a gram of food?
As the above examples show, that depends on the type of food you select. A single gram of fat contains more than twice the calories of a gram of protein or a gram of carbohydrate.
So, it matters quite a bit if you're filling up an empty stomach with a grilled salmon filet, or a pound of penne pasta, or a bucket of fried chicken.
If you can't reach your goal weight by exercise alone, how can you make better food choices?
There are several solutions we'll explore here.
  • at each meal, and save the remainder for the next day.
  • Read the labels on everything you eat so that you know exactly how many calories are in a single serving (and how big a single serving really is).
    For example, you may look at the calories on a loaf of bread and find that the 150 calories listed is for a single slice alone, not the two you are using to create a sandwich. Eat only a single serving to cut calories.
  • Most of your extra calories come from those foods you can't stop yourself from eating once you start. Pick out two offending items (or categories) and allow yourself to eat them only two days per week.
    For example, my two food vices are chocolate and alcohol. I abstain from both except on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Trade in fatty foods for those comprised of complex carbohydrates and protein. As you saw earlier in this chapter, a gram of fat contains more than twice the calories of a gram of carbs or protein.
  • Avoid refined sugar, trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, and products that are heavily processed with chemicals and preservatives you can't even pronounce. If the food contains an ingredient with more than three syllables, it's probably not good for you.
  • Cook at home rather than going out. You'll save money and get to control the content of your food.
  • Choose foods that will fill you up but are low in calories. This just requires a little education, and not a ton of sacrifice.
    Want to lose a pound a week? Check out sites like to identify where you can cut 500 calories a day from your current dietary habits.
    These are lifelong changes, so be certain you're comfortable switching from waffles to French toast and from Oreos to Animal Crackers. With a little education and some slight changes, you might not even notice you've given anything up at all.
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