Understanding this math could mean the difference between weight loss success and failure. The math isn’t hard, but it is critical to know. Billions of dollars are spent every year by individuals out of their own pockets, to try and get their weight under control. Hours are spent exercising and changes are made to diets. And it often results in nothing but frustration.
According to the Centre for Disease Control, 69% of Americans are either overweight or obese. That’s not a very cheerful statistic, particularly if you are in the 69%, but it is a serious issue that is not going away on it’s own.
We are going to need to take some control if we want to change our personal situations. It can be frustrating and challenging, but fixing the problem is completely doable.
Just to set some perspective, this is how the CDC comes up with that number. It defines overweight and obese this way…
An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
BMI (Body Mass Index):
BMI is a simple ratio between your height and weight. You may have had this done at the doctor’s office. It’s not perfect since it ignores a few variables, for example it doesn’t account for additional healthy, muscle weight if you are an athlete, but it is a guideline.
Here are some BMI examples.
You can plug in your own numbers and get your personal BMI at the government website by clicking here.
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches
Weight: 150 pounds
Your BMI is 25, indicating your weight is in the Overweight category for adults of your height.
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches
Weight: 180 pounds
Your BMI is 30, indicating your weight is in the Obese category for adults of your height.
Being overweight tremendously increases the risk of diabetes, heart attack, cancer, knee and hip replacements. Not to mention the psychological and social impacts due to body image.
For all those reasons, billions are spent and people commit serious time and put in tremendous efforts to lose weight.
Why Does The Math Matter?
Many fat loss efforts are not successful. One of the reasons is that the math associated with losing weight is not well understood. This can set people up for disappointment and make it hard for them to know why their efforts are not working the way they expected, and what they should change to get on track.
The Fat Loss Math
Calories Eaten and Calories Burned Off
The most important measurement in fat loss is “calories consumed and calories burned”. It’s not a supplement or some magical combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Food either goes to supporting the bodies maintenance and building processes, or it gets stored as fat. Fat is nature’s energy storage medium in case we need it later. This was more important when we were hunters and gatherers. But Nature doesn’t know that.
It is very common for people to be so eager to make changes that they just jump in and start. They start changing the way they eat and start exercising, which is good.
But without knowing what those changes have done to the calories consumed vs. calories burned math, there is no reliable way to know what fat loss results to expect. This is a setup for disappointment and quitting.
The Food Math
A pound of fat = 3,500 calories. If you eat 200 calories more per day than your body needs, then that works out to 21 pounds of fat per year. Rarely is the math so simple, since some days people will eat more than they need and some days they will eat less than they need.
Overall, if you consume more than your body needs that will result in fat.
And that 200 calories mentioned above is not hard to get. A glass of milk and a cookie is about 200 calories. A muffin is about 350.
Step 1: If you are changing your diet, then track what you currently eat for 3 days before you make any changes. All of it, even the tiny snacks. Then add it up using an online calculator like this one. Be careful to get the food portions right. We often eat larger portions than we think.
Step 2: After you make the food intake changes, add up everything you eat and drink for 3 days. Compare this new food intake math to your new old food intake numbers.
Remember that a pound of fat = 3500 calories. Understanding the before and after of your diet will help you set expectations for how slowly or quickly you should be shedding fat.
The Exercise Math
Exercise is a critical part of the fat loss equation. Not only does it make our hearts, muscles and bones stronger but it uses food as fuel and reduces our fat stores.
Using the same math as above, burning 200 calories per day would be about 21 pounds per year. Of course, if you added the effects of diet changes and exercise, you are looking at 40+ pounds!
But it is very easy for us to over-estimate how many calories we burn during exercise
– Brisk walk for 20 minutes = about 100 calories
– Jogging for 20 minutes = about 150 calories
For that cookie and a glass of milk mentioned earlier, we need to go jogging for about half an hour just to get back to break even.
This is a good calculator for getting calories burned from activity. You can input your statistics and pick the activity.
Just like with the diet changes, you want to know the impact of any exercise and activity changes you make. Add up the calories burned due to the new activities you are adding to your health routine, keeping mind that 3500 calories equals a pound of fat. Make sure to be realistic about how frequently you do them, for how long and how intensely.
Once you have a good understanding of the math associated with the changes you are making in calories consumed and calories burned, then you will have a clear picture of what the fat loss progress should look like.
This will help you set expectations (so you don’t get disappointed) and make decisions about what further changes you can make.
Good luck and go get it!