This'll be long, sorry.
Okay -- #s.
1 pound = 3500 calories
. How many calories do you need in a day? For that you need a BMR Calculator
. For example, I am a 47 year old female, 5'6", weighing just about 179. My BMR (this is the # of calories my body burns every day, just undergoing the business of living and NOT exercising) is: 1522.95
I walk almost every day and go to a gym three times/week. Today, for example, I've burned 1088 calories (according to www.sparkpeople.com
). I'm going to eat right around 1800 calories today.
1800 - 1500 (let's just round the BMR #, okay?) = I'm eating 300 calories above what I need to maintain. BUT, I've also burned 1000 calories today.
Hence I'm at a 700 calorie deficit. Do 5 of those per week and, in theory, I lose 1 lb. in a week.
But wait a second! It doesn't always work that way.
Why would I possibly lose less, or not at all, or even gain? Here are a few reasons
* I underestimated my portions. Portion control or at least portion knowledge is important.
* I failed to record/take into account something I ate. Hence food journaling is important.
* I ate too much salt, so I retained water, which weighs more than nothing. You should intake no more than about 2400 mg of sodium/day.
This isn't even a diet recommendation; it's to keep your blood pressure good.
* I didn't drink enough water. Yes, you get water from your food, but drinking water (and the old rule of eight 8-ounce glasses/day is a pretty good one. Personally, I drink ten of those glasses these days) is helpful because (a) it gives you a feeling of fullness and (b) it replaces higher calorie beverages. So, drink water
* I overestimated my exercise length and/or intensity. Hence exercise journaling is key
* Something else happened. I'm premenopausal; I don't have to tell you what happens to me every month. Despite my best efforts, there are just some weeks where, hormonally, I just don't/can't lose.
* I have a medical condition that is somehow preventing weight loss. I actually do; I have hypothyroidism. But I've been taking hormone replacement therapy for it for years. I don't blame it for my initial weight gain but it can, at times, make it harder to lose. If I go for several months without weight loss, even though I'm doing what I'm supposed to, I'll call my doctor as sometimes my meds have to be increased. But this is not a common thing.
Why would I possibly lose more than a pound in one week? Here are a few reasons
* The tail end of "that time of the month" can (without getting too graphic) bring on a lot of, er, release of fluids. 'Nuff said.
* I might have exercised more than I'd recorded. BUT I caution you to not work yourself to death (it's not efficient anyway; you hit diminishing returns). Seriously, you can lose weight doing no more than 2 hours/day of exercise, and often less than that. But the bottom line is, if you're spending an entire 4-hour morning in the gym, it's overkill.
* I might've eaten less BUT not so little that I'm starving myself. A deficit of 700 calories/day is perfectly safe. A deficit of 3500 calories/day is hazardous. What's a happy medium? Hard to say exactly what it is but generally a consistent loss of 1 to 2 lbs./week is perfectly fine. That number can and will fluctuate; I'm talking about an average here.
* I'm taking a weight loss medication. I actually did (I've finished it). It's called alli but it is absolutely NOT for everyone. However, even on alli, I've never lost more than I think 8 lbs. in a week (that happened once, and once I lost seven). My average weekly weight loss on alli is something like 2 lbs./week but for the first six months or so it was closer to an average of 3 lbs./week. Your mileage will vary if you decide to go this route.
* Something else. There are diseases (you don't want them; it's stuff like cancer) where one of the symptoms is unexplained weight loss. This is not a cause for a celebration.
* Something I'm not thinking of.
Eating less is one thing, but 1800 calories of potato chips is not going to help you lose weight as you will not be getting proper nutrition. Aim for proportions somewhat like this:
about 45% carbs tied together with fiber (you want the fiber; it keeps you feeling fuller longer)
about 40 - 45% protein
about 10 - 15% fats (and within this %, about 3/4 should be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats).
What do those proportions mean? A few guidelines:
* You eat out a lot less (although you're not totally deprived of it)
* You cook a lot more
* You eat from a plate divided into, more or less, 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 starch (like potatoes - nope, they don't count as a vegetable) and 1/4 protein, and the fat you get is partly included in the protein and fruit/veg, plus maybe a SMALL amount added (such as a tablespoon of parmesan or a couple of tablespoons of salad dressing).
* With the water you're drinking (see above, plus you need water to metabolize all that fiber), you generally don't have a beer or soda to accompany your meal. You have water or, perhaps, skim milk (calcium).
And, to add, eat slowly and be patient. Rome was not built in a day, and the same is true of weight loss. Do your best and be honest with yourself about your efforts.
I hope this helps.