Thursday, May 24, 2012

If you know exactly how many calories you normally consume each day (and you can figure that out by keeping track of your calories in a food diary, as demonstrated in Chapter 4), use this shortcut to find out how many calories you need to cut from your daily diet. To lose a pound of body weight in a week without doing any additional exercise, you have to cut 3,500 calories from your diet that week, or an average of 500 calories a day. So, if you currently consume about 2,000 calories a day, you have to cut your daily calorie allowance by 500 calories, to 1,500, to start losing a pound a week.

At some point, the number of calories you can eat and still lose weight will get too low and you’ll have to stop cutting calories. Your only option at that point is to exercise more. That’s why losing weight initially is much easier when you have a lot to lose and much more difficult when you’re down to those last 10 pounds and you don’t have many calories left to cut.

In the following sections, I give you a couple of strategies, based on the formulas in this chapter, for choosing a calorie range that can help you lose weight or maintain your current weight and prevent more gain.

Finding your weight loss range
Everyone has a range of calories within which they can lose weight. If, through your calculations, you determine that you can lose a pound or two a week if you stick to a 1,500 calorie diet, you’ll find that you can lose that same amount of weight on a 1,400- or 1,600 calorie diet.

Sometimes the best way to find your personal calorie range for losing weight is by trial and error. If you want, you can skip all the formulas and calculations in this chapter, go right to Chapter 6 (featuring a variety of menu plans), and put yourself on a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet plan. That level may or may not help, but it won’t hurt you. If you find it impossible to stick with, or if you stick with it and lose more than 2 pounds the first week, you may consider adding 100 or more calories to your days. (A safe limit when you’re losing weight is 2 pounds a week. If you lose more than 2 pounds, you’re losing too quickly. If you lose too much weight early on, you’re more likely to gain back some or all of it.) If you don’t lose any weight at all, skip down to a 1,200 calorie plan and see what happens at the end of a week.

After you master the art of eating low-calorie meals and sticking to a prescribed number of calories every day, you may see that you can “cheat” a little on your diet by occasionally indulging in some of your favorite higher calorie foods and still lose or maintain weight. Eventually you can figure out how to balance your calorie intake over the course of several days, or even a week, rather than focusing on one day at a time.

Preventing weight gain
If you’ve recently been gaining weight, or you’re not quite ready to commit to the lifestyle changes required to lose weight, you first want to avoid any further weight gain. Doing so can be a huge accomplishment in and of itself. After you stop gaining and your weight levels off, you can move on to the next stage of your plan, which is to start losing weight.

To stop weight gain in its tracks, use the quickest formula for figuring out how many calories you need to stay at your current weight and possibly start losing weight: Multiply your weight times ten. Stick to within 100 calories of that amount on most days so you can stabilize your weight until you’re ready to embark on a sensible, long-term plan.

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