Beginner’s Guide to Losing Weight
So you want to lose weight? Excellent! Well hop on the treadmill and start running for five hours a day and those pounds will start flying off! That’s how it works right?
Well, uh, no. Look at the explanation over here.
So let’s start dropping some of the preconceptions about weight loss and how it works. In this guide I will cover the basics of weight loss, the physics behind how it works, and provide some starting steps to get you on the right path.
How weight loss works
So now that we have the exercise myth out of the way, let’s take a look at how weight loss works. The bottom line to weight loss is that it is simple physics. Fat is simply energy that is stored for long term usage. When the energy that is stored in your fat is used, it is “burned”. When you have more energy available than you are using, that energy is stored as fat.
This means that, to lose weight, all you need to do is burn more energy than you are using.
So how do you know how much energy is in your food?
Energy is measured using a unit called calories (sometimes referred to as kilocalories, kcal, or cal). Calorie information is typically available on nutrition labels and, increasingly, restaurants and other food establishments are including calorie information on their food.
So how many calories do you burn a day?
This can be a little tricky to figure out. The figure that we need to calculate here is called your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). There are several calculators that you can find online that will help you estimate this. Here is one that I’ve used in the past
The bottom line: Calories In < Calories Out
Frequently referred to as CICO, Calories in (how many calories you eat) versus calories out (how many calories you burn) is what determines your weight loss. In order to lose a pound of fat, you must burn approximately 3500 more calories than you eat.
This is why food is such a big deal.
Think about it.
A standard Reeses package (the ones with 2 peanut butter cups) has 232 calories in it. Depending on your body stats, that could quite literally take you an hour to work off.
OK fine I get it, my diet needs to change. What’s the plan?
The best plan for weight loss is any plan that both maintains a calorie deficit and you can stick to it for the long term. Remember that if you fall back to your old habits after you are done, you’ll start putting the weight back on again. The best thing to do is change your habits at a pace appropriate for you and to change them in a way that they become your new lifestyle, not just some crash diet you are going on.
Here is the process I propose you follow:
- Start tracking your diet! Everything! Right now! Yes that includes sodas, juice, sweet tea, and any other sweetened drink. If you cook your food in oil, that needs to be trackedtoo. I would suggest downloading an app such as MyFitnessPal. where they have pre-established databases of foods and calorie content.
- Calculate your TDEE as best as you can. This will give you a good idea of what your typical calorie expenditure is.
- Create a goal and plan it out. If you are overweight or obese, losing 1–2 pounds per week is a reasonable goal. Be reasonable with yourself about what you can accomplish here. Running a deficit of 500 calories a day will lose about one pound per week. Apps such as MyFitnessPal linked above frequently have weight loss calculators built in.
This guide is evolving
This guide is continuously evolving along with this site. As time goes on I will be adding more information here. Bookmark this page and check back later!