How to Lose Weight

by Anne Bennett on November 10, 2009

You want to lose weight? I’m going to make it easy for you. If you haven’t already figured this out, I’m going to tell you exactly what you have to do to shed pounds. First, you must figure out how many calories you burn every day just sitting there at your computer. This is called your BMR, or your basal metabolic rate. This is your resting rate and does not take into consideration any activity. Your BMR is calculated using the following variables: your height, weight, age and gender.

Get your calculator out because this requires doing some math. Here is the basic BMR formula for a woman:

655 + (4.3 X weight in pounds) + (4.7 X height in inches) (4.7 X age in years).

This is how I came out:   655 + (4.3 X 135) + (4.7 X 65 inches) – (4.7 X 58)

or:   655 + (580.5) + (305.5) – (272.6),  which equals:  1268.4.

(Go here for an easier way to get your BMR.)

In other words, I burn about 1270 calories every day just being alive. If I want to factor in my daily activities as well, I have to do one further calculation and multiply my BMR by between 1.2 and 1.725, using the following scale:

  1. Sedentary (little or no exercise) :  BMR x 1.2
  2. Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) :  BMR x 1.375
  3. Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) :  BMR x 1.55
  4. Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) :  BMR x 1.725

I do Jazzercise a couple of times a week so I’ll call myself moderately active. By multiplying my BMR of 1270 by 1.55, I get a total daily caloric expenditure of:  1968.5.

Now, here’s the easy part I promised. In order to lose weight all I have to do is eat less than 1968 calories a day. But I’m a Weight Watcher, you say, and I count points, not calories. How many points constitutes 1968 calories?

Points are a combination of calories, fat and fiber, and vary from between about 50 to 90 calories per point. If we round this out to approximately 65 calories per point, I need to eat about 30 points per day in order to maintain my weight at my current level of activity. To lose weight I need to eat significantly less than 30 points per day. That’s not a lot, considering that the typical Thanksgiving dinner, including one piece of pumpkin pie, can add up to about 40 points.

(Necessary disclaimer: This is my personal calculation, using a well known scientific formula (go here for calculations for men) and is not endorsed by Weight Watchers of North America, Inc.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the process of losing weight is not rocket science. You absolutely must consume less food than you need in order to burn fat. I’ve seen lots of diets come down the pike in the last 30 years. Some of them have been more stringent than others, and it was those diets, brutal though they were, that shed the pounds fastest.

Weight Watchers in the 1970’s is a perfect example. The list of “illegal” or forbidden foods was several pages long and seemed to include all things delicious. There was also no mention whatsoever of exercise. It was a hard-core, crash course in food deprivation, and we were always hungry, but it worked. A typical 1970’s Weight Watcher member stood to lose at least 10 pounds a month, a hefty amount by today’s standards. That’s probably because we were eating only about 1,200 calories a day regardless of our height, age or weight. It was a one-size-fits-all diet, and it was designed to produce fast results.

But today most of us have grown accustomed to eating throughout the day and have no desire to endure such a rigorous diet. We don’t want to feel hunger pangs, and despite the fact that we’re getting fatter, we don’t want to give up all the highly processed snack foods that have become a staple of our daily diets since the 1970’s. According to many experts, we’re actually weaning ourselves off real food.

Here’s an example that nearly sent me into sugar shock: as I left my doctor’s office yesterday, I overheard a conversation between an overweight male security guard and an equally overweight female maintenance worker. She offered him her snack bag and he responded, “I can’t eat that. I’m diabetic.” She replied, “I’m diabetic too but I like it so I’m going to eat it!”  Not even the very real dangers associated with her disease could stop her from eating junk food.

If you really want to lose weight, I think you must have a come-to-Jesus talk with yourself about what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it. Losing weight isn’t easy, and the statistics of long-term success aren’t exactly encouraging, but that should not stop you. People do lose weight, and people do keep it off.  You can be one of them. Actually, when you think about it,  there’s only one person holding you back. And that person has to get his/her hand out of the Cheetos bag, brush off the orange dust and get real.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael Bloyd November 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

Anne,
Thanks for the hard truth.
I cannot consume things that are not good for me and stay healthy.
I cannot consume more calories than I burn in a day.
I need to exercise if I want to eat and stay healthy.
I cannot pretend that alcohol is calorie free.
I am responsible for my body and no one is going to “make” me be healthy.
I can fool myself and pretend I can consume junk and be healthy.
I can wait until later to take control of my life but my health will pay a price.
Thanks for the reality check and now on to my oatmeal breakfast and some walking.

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