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Sustainable Weight Loss for Smart People

Updated on July 18, 2010

Most people won't want to hear this:

To lose weight you need to eat less calories than you burn.

To maintain your target weight the two need to balance.

There are no quick fixes. All you need are determination and a bit of intelligence - here's how to get a healthier, happier you:

Firstly, how many calories should you be eating?

If there's "1 Rule To" losing weight it's this: Work out how much you should be eating, and stick to it.

Are you sticking to the 2000 (for women) or 2500 (for men) calorie guidelines on food packets, but not losing weight?

What you should be eating can be calculated by this very simple formula to find your Base Metabolic Rate:

British / American BMR formula:

  • Women: 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in lb ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age )
  • Men: 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in lb ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age )

Metric BMR formula:

  • Women:655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kg ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) - ( 4.7 x age )
  • Men: 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kg ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) - ( 6.8 x age )

Note that "weight" is your target weight, not your actual weight. This formula will tell you how many calories you need daily to maintain that weight, assuming you do no exercise at all.

For example, a 30-year-old woman, 5 foot 6 inches (or 66 inches) tall, who wants to maintain a target weight of 10 stone (or 140 pounds) works hers out like this:

655 + (4.35 x 140) + (4.7 x 66) - (4.7 x 30)

= 655 + 609 + 310 - 141

= 1433 kcal a day.

Everybody does some exercise every day, even if it's only climbing a flight of stairs, running for a bus, or doing the shopping. You can add 20% to your total to account for this, so x by 1.2:

1433 x 1.2 = 1719.6

To maintain a weight of 140 pounds, she'll need 1700 calories a day - not the 2000 recommended by the food manufacturers!

Don't go crazy!

The main problem people have with "dieting" is that they crash, lose loads of weight, then go back to eating what did before - and end up putting weight back on. This is what diet people rely on - they don't gain anything if you end up maintaining your target weight, they want you to keep coming back to their diet plan!

  • Don't try to lose too much, too fast - it's just as unhealthy for your body as being overweight to start with!
  • Focus on changing your lifestyle to maintain your calculated calories - do you want sustained weight loss or crazy yo-yo crash dieting?
  • Don't worry about the odd "day off" - have a nice meal with a loved one without worrying, once in a while. It's the overall improvement in your health you're looking at, not the week-by-week weight loss.

How many calories should you eat to lose weight?

3500 calories equates to a pound of fat, stored or burned, for most people. If you're over by 100 calories a day, you'll put on a pound every month or so - this is why it's important to go by your BMR, not the 2000 / 2500 on the food packaging!

If you can get your daily intake under by 500 calories a day, that's a pound lost every week.

Even if you can only get it under by 100 calories a day, that's just under a pound lost every month!

Don't forget though, the BMR formula was worked out for your target weight.  If you can maintain your BMR intake then you'll naturally gravitate toward your target weight; the calories you're eating won't be enough to maintain your current weight, so eventually you will reach your target!

The most important thing is to realise that you need to make a long-term commitment to being healthier, not a short term "target" for weight loss. If you set your target as the number of calories you calculated at the start, and stick to it, you'll get there in the end - and you won't have any problems maintaining your target weight because you just have to carry on doing what you've been doing!

What about exercise?

Exercise is good for you. There's no disputing that - it burns excess calories, tones muscles, makes your heart healthier and makes you happier by releasing endorphins. If you're feeling tired and miserable, the best thing for you is probably to get exercising - but how?

  • Again, concentrate on a sustainable lifestyle change, don't go crazy! Small steps will still get you there in the end.
  • Go exercising with friends - have fun together and keep each other motivated.
  • Do something you're interested in: dance, martial arts, football, golf, trampolining ... sex? It doesn't have to be the gym!
  • Whatever you burn from exercising, you can knock off your target for the day.

Whatever you do - stick at it, and GOOD LUCK!


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    • SherryDigital profile image

      Sherry Duffy 6 years ago from Here. There. Everywhere. Currently: Portland, OR

      A great read with practical tips! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ken Frederick 6 years ago

      Thanks for those awesome article. I actually watch for checking extra because of anyone when you need it.