5.10 Basic Concepts of Weight Loss
In this HeartStrong.com video, we will go over some basic concepts of weight loss to help us get a good understanding of the weight loss terminology that we need to know and calculations that we need to do in order to get us where we want to be.
Losing weight is not complicated at all, even though the overall process can be quite a challenge and take time. If it was easy, everyone would be a normal weight! Understanding these key concepts can really help guide us in the right direction and help us to monitor our progress and achieve our goals. Trying to lose weight without specific goals and without a basic understanding of things will make the process a lot more difficult if not impossible.
Alright, losing weight is just a matter of burning off more calories than you eat right? Well…yes and no. We will see that not all calories were created equal. A large study of 120,877 published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that even after balancing for calorie intake, people eating processed or unprocessed meats, sugar sweetened drinks and potatoes (including potato chips) were significantly heavier. Those who ate a higher proportion of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts weighed less!
Many diets have you track calories closely and keep them within a certain range. However, the best diet is the one that you don’t even know that your on. Constantly tracking calories will have you constantly thinking about food and specifically unhealthy foods that you wish you can eat. The focus is more on the things you CAN’T eat when you count calories and really you just need to concentrate on adding good healthy foods to your diet such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts/seeds and grains of a whole food plant based diet. Focus on the great things you can eat and you will be successful.
Even when eating healthy foods, calories balance is still a little bit important. While it is VERY hard to overeat calories of vegetables, adding lots of whole grains and nuts/seeds can end up packing on the calories, so moderation is still important with these. Thus, the calorie balance concept is not completely irrelevant on a healthy diet, so lets talk about it a bit here.
Historically, it was taught that your weight will stay the same if you EAT the same number of calories than you BURN OFF which is where you want to be once you are at your ideal body weight.
It has been taught that you will GAIN WEIGHT if you eat more calories than burn off and of course that’s not good.
Everyone says that we need to tip the scale this way, BURN OFF more calories that we eat. This allows you to lose weight, which of course is what we are looking for.
While the general concept is indeed true, as we mentioned before the type of food you eat significantly impacts your weight as well. It is nearly impossible to over eat fruits and vegetables like you can overeat calories from saturated fats, sugars and oils.
It’s not always easy to figure out how many calories you are actually burning off every day and how many calories you are eating, but we CAN get a good estimate of these numbers which we will get to soon. In the end of the day, we will see that the best way to tip the scale in the direction of weight loss is a combination of a healthy, lower calorie diet by adding lots of fiber that fills you up and then burning off more calories by increasing your activity level.
As a general rule, you have to use up about 3500 more calories than you eat to lose 1 pound. Sounds like a lot, but it not as much as you think as we will see.
So, to get a good understanding of how weight loss works, lets go through some basic terminology and calculations. We need to know the following terms and how to calculate them for you:
- Body mass index or BMI
- Ideal body weight
- Basal metabolic rate
- Percent body fat
There are mathematical formulas to figure out these numbers, but at the bottom of this video you will find links to some calculators to make it easier for you to get your numbers if you would like.