Posted - February 19, 2010

Get back to weight-loss basics

Diet experts have been saying for years that burning more calories than you consume is the only reliable way to lose weight. But how does counting calories lead to weight loss, and what are the best ways to cut calories?

What Calories Have to Do with Weight Loss

The calories you eat are either converted into energy or stored within your body as fat. Your body will convert calories into energy for basic body functions and for all of your movement, but any calories that aren’t used for basic function or movement will be stored as fat. If you want to reduce your fat stores, then, you need to make sure you don’t have any “extra” calories left over. You can accomplish this by consuming fewer calories in your food or burning more calories through increased physical activity, or, ideally, through a combination of both.

Simple Ways to Cut Calories

How many calories do you need to burn or cut in order to lose weight? One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So losing one pound per week means burning an extra 500 calories a day through increased physical activity, or cutting 500 calories a day from your diet. Try these simple tips to consistently cut calories.

  1. Skip One High-Calorie Item A Day. Keep in mind that your goal is to eliminate 500 calories a day from your diet. One or two replacements can do the trick. For example, giving up one 3-ounce snack bag of ranch-flavored tortilla chips can save you 426 calories. You might also consider giving up your morning flavored latte or your late-night bowl of ice cream. One change, when made consistently, can make a big difference.
  2. Switch to Low-Calorie Varieties. Look for foods or ingredients you use regularly that may have low-calorie alternatives. For example, instead of using whole milk, which has 149 calories in every 8 ounces, try skim milk, which only has 86 calories per 8 ounces. Switch to diet soda, which usually has no calories, instead of sugary sodas or coffee drinks.
  3. Practice Portion Control. The easiest way to eat fewer calories, of course, is to eat less food. Unfortunately, portion control can be the most difficult diet method to follow. Try using a smaller dinner plate to help guide you and make an extra effort to eat more slowly. Research has shown that taking 20 to 30 minutes to eat a meal can help you feel more full on less food.