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Do the Math, Lose the Weight

Are you hoping to lose a few pounds (or more) in time for summer months? Do you want to skip the cape over the bathing suit at the beach? Or maybe you want to buy clothes that actually fit, instead of hiding under loose tops that give an appearance of being slimmer (but really don't).

After pregnancy, I had a mission to lose over 40 pounds as quickly as possible, to avoid the real possibility that I would soon look like a mother to my husband. I had a scary vision that people would look at us and think “Oh how cute...mother and son holding hands.” So, I began reading book after book on the most effective ways to lose weight safely and quickly.

And that’s a lot of books. There are a ton of diet plans out there, all touting that they are the best, the healthiest, the longest lasting, and the easiest. The Paleo Diet, South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, Fit For Life Diet, Raw Food Diet, Skinny Bitch Diet, Macro Diet, and the Eat Everything You Want and Still Lose Weight Diet…. But let me skip the comparison details about these diets and just tell you, in simple terms, about what I call the Common Sense Diet. It's what finally worked for me.

If you can do simple math, you can lose weight. Losing weight equates to achieving a net loss in calorie intake. When number of net calories increase (you consume more than you burn), you gain weight, and when there is a decrease (you burn more than you eat), you lose weight. So if you start tracking your calories, and you aim for a certain number each day to achieve a net loss, I guarantee you will be on the path to losing weight. There are many apps online that can help you track your daily calories including what you gained from eating and what you lost from burning.

As an example, say you want to lose a pound a week. One pound of fat is equal to about 3500 calories. To lose a pound a week, reduce your daily net caloric intake by at least 500. You can do this through diet, or exercise, or both. This sounds pretty easy, and it actually start with. With calorie counting, you will see that during the first few weeks or months, the pounds come off just as the equation dictates. But where it gets tricky is when the body adjusts to your new caloric levels and requires that you start burning more calories to shed fat. This is why you can start off losing weight (and perhaps quite a bit) through diet alone, but eventually you will need to exercise to burn more calories, so that your net deficit continues to increase.

Apps can also help you track how many calories you burn doing everyday tasks like vacuuming your Living Room, climbing stairs to work, or massaging your spouse’s legs after a long day. Every physical movement counts towards burning calories, so next time you're asked to give him a massage, RUN and grab the oil. He may get a moment to indulge, but you will be skinner. Winner: You.

Here’s the way to successfully lose weight with calorie counting:

  • You must track EVERYTHING you put into your mouth (minus water). Record in your app. Even if you’re just trying to eat healthier, this task will really make you think twice about having that piece of chocolate in your colleague’s candy jar. You will no longer want “useless calories”. That’s extra time on the treadmill.

  • You must eat smaller portions of your main meal. Instead of having your plate full of rice with sides of sabzi and daal, switch this. Have mostly vegetables on your plate with a side of rice...and use a smaller plate.

  • Choose nutritionally dense foods. 200 calories of steamed vegetables and 200 calories from a cup of ice cream is not the same thing. Remember food has other effects on your body, besides just adding calories. What is the point of losing weight, only to gain ill health?

  • Snack on low calorie health foods...or don’t snack. Supermarket fat-free yogurt with fruit is not a health food. Sorry. (Separate topic). A bowl of strawberries is. (Compare fruit also. One banana has 105 calories. Five fresh strawberries has 19.)

  • Fast one day to give yourself a huge caloric deficit for the week. You can come up with a fast that suits you - perhaps water all day and only one meal. Or a fruit-only fast. Or a no-grain fast. You don’t have to suffer through a day of no food at all (it may end up causing you to feast the next day.)

As I said above, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, but you do want to become a healthier, more conscious eater, I highly suggest that you keep a record of your daily eating and calorie intake using a simple app. When you know you have to record it, you will be forced to think before you eat it. And that’s what many of us need most... the ability to think before we eat. So much of our eating behavior is impulsive or non-conscious. Like snacking while working or munching while watching TV. Before you know it, you’ve just inhaled 500 calories, and you weren’t even enjoying what you were eating because you were doing something else! So what was the point!

Next time, with your app on, you'll probably choose to munch on carrots. :)

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