The Basic Math of Losing Weight

Losing weight is somewhat complicated because of metabolism issues, etc, but in the end, weight loss is basic math. Even though it is more complicated than this, basically, 3500 calories is equivalent to one pound of body fat. So, to lose a pound of body fat you must burn 3500 calories more than you eat over a given period of time. In other words, if one day you worked out really hard, let’s say you worked as a construction worker, followed by going to the Y in the evening, and burned 4500 calories, and only consumed 1000 calories that day, you would, in theory lose a pound (but because your calories were so low, your metabolism would soon slow and you would be in danger of burning muscle tissue).

Now, let’s apply this to weight gain. Let’s say you pig out at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and take in 5200 calories that day (this is high, but not impossible for people who go overboard at a buffet), yet you sit all day at work and at home, burning only 1700 calories. You have, in theory, just gained a pound. Trust me, it is far easier to gain the excess 3500 calories, than burn them.

This is where Fitday is helpful (or any other diet tracking software). Fitday has a cool feature that allows you to program in your weight loss goal, and the date for that goal. Then, it calculates how many pounds a week you have to lose to reach that goal. And here comes the cool part. It also tells you how many calories you must restrict each day to meet that goal. Right now for my goal (13 pounds by Labor Day, starting last week), I have to burn 875 more calories than I consume each day to meet my goal. Obviously, it is not just this easy because of other factors like muscle gain, etc, but I find this a very helpful tool for gauging how well I did for the day. This allows me to eat a little more on days when I exercise like crazy, because the goal is based on calorie restriction, not on a set number of calories per day, the latter which is more artificial, because some days we burn more calories and may need to consume a little extra. Below are screenshots of what I am talking about.

In the first image, you can see I have entered into step 5 of the Fitday weight assessment process, in which I can plan out my calorie restriction needed to lose weight. It does the math for  me based on what I set as my weight goals in an earlier step. Click it to make it larger.

In this second image, you can see that I am over the calories Fitday estimates I need to meet my weight goal. However, because I am active, I have burned 1023 more calories than I consumed, which is over the 875 I need restricted to meet my weight goal on time. You can also see that Fitday allows for customized food, and that I even add my supplements. And by the way, yes I am a firm believer in Fitday, and I gladly paid 20 dollars for the software.

[Of note, you can also see some of my eating habits here…like adding cocoa to my coffee, drinking a lot of coffee, taking 1/2 a vitamin E softgel (it isn’t always easy to do that), using fiber powder to make sure I get 30 grams of it a day, making tuna salad with light mayo and honey-roasted nuts, etc. Its not on here (because it is insignificant calorie-wise), but I put cayenne powder in the soup and tuna salad, and on the fries]

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, writer, and speaker. His articles, about topics from weight loss to popularity, receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in many publications. He writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.