How weight loss works

When we talk about energy balance in weight management, we're talking about the balance between the energy that you get from the foods you eat and the energy that your body burns in everyday activities such as walking, dressing, growing hair... even breathing! Energy that comes into the body through the food we eat is measured in calories.

Now for the balancing part.
If you eat food containing more calories than you use up, your weight will increase, as the extra calories that are not used will be stored as fat. The opposite is true for weight loss: when your energy use, or the number of calories that you burn, is higher than the number of calories you consume, you lose weight.

So to maintain your weight, keep your energy balance in mind. Energy in is food; energy out is exercise.

There are three ways that you can tip that energy balance equation towards weight loss:

Reduce your total daily calories: Eat less. Reducing your food intake by 500 calories a day (that's 3,500 calories a week) will help you lose one pound a week. That's due to the fact that to lose one pound of fat, you will need to use 3,500 calories more than what you eat, since one pound of body fat equals about 3,500 calories.

Maintain normal calories and increase energy use: Eat the same number of calories and exercise more. You'll be tipping the energy balance towards needing more than your body gets with food, so your body will burn fat to get the extra energy it needs.

Reduce your calorie intake and increase your energy use: Eat less and exercise more. If the thought of eating 500 calories less a day turns you off, no problem! You can still lose weight if you eat only 250 calories less per day and exercise enough to burn the other 250 calories. A simple way to burn off these extra calories is walking about two and one-half miles.

Lowering calories will require you to think about what you eat, to make sure that you fuel your body properly without tipping the balance. There are lots of healthy, great tasting foods out there that will keep you satisfied and help you achieve your weight goals.

Keep in mind, though, as you approach your weight loss goal, that your body's energy needs will change as well. This is because it takes less for your body to carry around less weight! So, you will have to adjust your caloric intake the more weight you lose.

If all this seems overwhelming, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you meet your individual needs in your weight-loss journey by guiding you towards making healthy choices towards effective weight loss.

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