We’re big fans of the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) of health, and thus I now present to you the tried and true dieting secret:
3500 Calories equals 1 pound.
I kid you not. Many patients are surprised when I reveal this number to them–amazed that it even exists–and it’s probably the basis for The Weight Watchers Points system and most other similar products. The idea is simple, but just for repetition: 3500 Calories equals 1 pound. That means that for every 3500 calories you expend, you lose a pound, and for every 3500 Calories you take in, you gain one. (This is not a perfect correlation, but it’s pretty accurate.) Want to lose a pound a week? Eat 500 less calories a day. Or eat 250 less and exercise 250 more. I found a nice simple chart that gives some rough estimates of various exercises one can do and their Calorie expenditure per 10 minutes.
So how many Calories do you “need” each day? 2,000-2,500, depending how active you are. For a better estimate, try the male or female Calorie calculator.
And remember, you didn’t gain weight overnight. It was a gradual process–over months to years–so it’s not fair (although we’d all prefer it) for the weight to come off in a couple weeks. Slow and steady wins the race. 4 pounds a month is almost 50 pounds a year. And don’t forget to reward yourself; losing weight is a difficult process. Your body will fight you as much as it can; it’s still stuck in the evolutionary adaptation of trying to hold on to as many nutrients as possible.
Portion control is one of the easiest ways to lose weight; you just have to eat less. (Exercise has many of its own benefits as well, aside from helping you lose weight.) If you normally eat until you’re stuffed, try this: eat until you’re not hungry. They’re very different entities.