The Jenny Craig Diet. Weight Watchers. Jillian Michaels. The Hilton Head. MyFitnessPal Premium. What do these diet, support group, fitness celebrity, resort and iPhone app have in common? In the name of assisting you to acquire the body deemed desirable by retail industries: Each of these humbly entreats for the swipe of your credit card.
Don’t get me wrong; Weight loss can be beneficial for many reasons. Many studies link high body fat to an exponentially greater risk of cancer, as well as overall fatality. Meanwhile, having a healthy muscle:fat ratio is linked with higher metabolism, increased energy and, superficial expectations or no, feeling better about yourself.
It seems just silly to me for the 108 million Americans actively attempting to lose weight to spend their hard-earned dollars feeding back into the very industries that are body-shaming us. I don’t presume to be an authority on the science of weight loss, but I’ve found many reputable sources to be pointing to the same thing.
Presupposing that you don’t have a medical condition specifically preventing weight loss, losing weight all comes down to the numbers.
But which numbers? According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and MayoClinic, one pound of your body is equal to between 3,500 and 3,750 calories. Several recent articles have tried to dispute these findings, but even the most convincing argument still concedes that one pound equals between 2,843 and 3,752 calories.
Picking the more challenging number, let’s say one pound is worth 3,750 calories. Divide this by 7 to get 536 calories.
Now, you need to know how many calories you consume per day in order to maintain your current weight. This number can be discovered either through self-observation over time, or estimated by something like USDA’s Body Weight Planner.
Say that you need to consume 2,000 calories per day in order to maintain your weight. Remember that number, 536? Let’s subtract it from your daily calories to get 1464 calories.
This is the number of calories you can consume per day in order to lose one pound per week. Of course, you will need to reevaluate your calories-per-day quota as your weight decreases and your body needs fewer calories to operate.
Do the numbers actually work?
From personal research, I can answer this question with a resounding “yes!” Following these principles without altering any other habits, I am pleased to say I’ve lost more than three pounds in the past three weeks. We’ll see how it continues.
Of course, everybody and every body are different. But, at the end of the day we can be happy to know both that our goals are attainable, and know what we need to do to reach them.
And to think we gave math such a bad rep in high school. Rock on. Math on.