Weight loss or management is fraught with pitfalls. In order to avoid them down the road, it’s important to address them now.
The first stumbling block involves expectations. Unrealistic expectations, to be exact. Given the number and prevalence of weight loss advertisements these days, it’s no wonder that folks are out of touch with reality when it comes to weight loss. Claims of losing 10, 20, or even 30 pounds in a matter of weeks are not uncommon (often backed by heavily manipulated before-and-after photographic “proof”).
Two pounds per week
That’s the maximum sustainable rate of weight loss per week. And even that may be too much for some folks. In most cases one pound per week – or even a half pound per week – is far more realistic. Let’s explain it by the numbers.
One pound of excess body fat is equivalent to approximately 3500 kilocalories (kcal). Two pounds equals 7000kcal. In order to lose two pounds per week a person would need to create a 1000kcal deficit per day. On the intake side of the energy balance equation (see previous post), 1000kcal may be a third to a half of a person’s total caloric intake for a day. On the energy expenditure side of things, 1000kcal is equivalent to walking or running up to ten miles per day (depending on a person’s current weight)! Imagine how difficult these changes would be to make and sustain. Some folks might be able to handle it for a week or a month, but long term that sort of change is simply too much to ask.
That’s why it’s important to nip unrealistic expectations before they start. Think smaller, be reasonable. For instance, consider what it would take to lose a half pound per week: drink one less soda or latte per day (150kcal) and walk one more mile (100kcal). Sustainable weight loss will likely occur much slower than weight gain. Meaning that if it took a month to gain two pounds, it’s not unrealistic to expect it to take a month to lose two pounds. Regardless of what the television and internet advertisements claim.
Food for thought
What are some modifications that you could make to your current diet or lifestyle that would help with weight loss or management? Could you drink coffee or tea without cream or sugar? Could you switch an energy-dense snack (e.g., candy bar or bag of chips) with a less caloric alternative (e.g., whole grain crackers or a bag of carrot sticks)? Could you incorporate more physical activity into your lifestyle by riding or walking to work instead of driving?