As a doctor, weight can be one of the touchiest subjects to deal with. It can stir up a lot of mis-emotion or upset when talked about, and typically does. I have seen this in many settings. At the clinic, it is all too common that when the topic of weight is brought up there is an instant disconnect between the patient and provider. There can also be a disconnect between family members as it can be an area of contention or disagreement.

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that most people are pretty smart and very able. When given the correct or true data on any subject: they can take responsibility for a situation, apply the true knowledge, and fully control their situation. I have seen this countless times for various conditions in life. The same is true with regards to medical or body conditions. When a person really has the knowledge and understanding of their body condition, there is instantly an ability to handle their situation completely. Body weight and how to maintain the ideal size is a simple subject really when a few concepts are fully understood. This always leads to the ability of a person to completely control their body weight.

The first concept that needs to be understood when it comes to weight and weight loss is the body mass index or BMI. One definition of weight is a body’s relative mass or quantity of matter contained by it, giving rise to a downward force that can be measured. Mass is the entirety or whole body of matter or the amount of matter that something contains. An index is an indicator, sign or measurement of something. So, BMI or body mass index is simply the relative measurement of the mass of a body. It is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of the person’s height in meters. A person’s BMI is one tool that when combined with other factors is extremely useful when assessing the health of a body.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy size. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. When the sex of the person is considered, my observations are that an ideal BMI for a woman is typically from about 19 to 22 and for a man about 23 to 25. Here is a link to a BMI calculator. Use this BMI calculator to quickly check your current BMI then get back to reading this article.

So now you know where you are at as far as your BMI. And you also know where you need to be.

So how do we get to the ideal body weight? There is an abundance of information about weight loss that is conflicting and confusing. But it is quite simple. A PERSON WILL ONLY LOSE WEIGHT BY BURNING MORE CALORIES THAN THEY CONSUME. As a reminder, a calorie is a unit of energy used to express the nutritional value of food, equivalent to the heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree centigrade.

Now there are only two sides to weight loss, reduction of calorie intake (eating less calories) and increase of calorie expenditure (more exercise). So first let’s talk about calorie reduction. An average adult body typically needs about 2000 calories a day to function and maintain a stable weight. (And yes, there are several apps that can be used to calculate a person’s exact daily caloric needs.) So, by reducing calorie intake and keeping the activity level the same, a person WILL lose weight. Notice I have not talked about any specific diet. It’s all about reducing the calorie consumption. Now there will always be a few people that will claim that they “barely eat anything” which may in fact be true. But this brings up another extremely important point, it’s not necessarily the volume of food, it is the calories. So yes, you are eating “less” volume of food but you are absolutely consuming the same amount of calories.

In fact, this point is probably the most important and most misunderstood when it comes to weight loss. It is extremely common for me to have a patient who tells me that they are “dieting” to lose weight. They go on and tell me how “clean” they are eating. How they have cut out sugars and cut back on carbs. They eat only healthy organic foods. Some even have a food diary to show the types of foods they are eating. Then I ask the million-dollar question: HOW MANY CALORIES ARE YOU CONSUMING IN A DAY? And then I get a blank stare. The reality is if you don’t know how many calories you are consuming you absolutely will not lose any weight. It’s all about the calories. If you reduce your caloric intake and maintain your current activity level, you will lose weight.

Now on the other side of weight loss there is the burning or using of calories or the calorie expenditure. How much fuel are you burning? If a person simply increases the amount of calories that they are burning and continues to eat the same amount of calories, they will absolutely lose weight. Some people do this and prefer this as they like to eat food. (That would be me.) And there is nothing wrong with that. The fact is that if you are exercising and burning more calories than you are consuming you will lose weight.

Now here is where I think a lot of people have a misunderstanding. When I ask my patient who is trying to lose weight what they are doing for exercise to lose weight the number one answer I get is…”walking.” Before we go any further let’s clear the definition of exercise. Exercise is an activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness. EFFORT. Exercise requires effort. This is an important concept that is overlooked by most patients trying to lose weight. The effort required in exercise to lose weight is grossly underestimated. If the effort is not there, the weight will not come off. I had a friend one time put out a video stating that “walking makes you fat.” She was right to a degree. It’s all about burning calories. Walking simply is a very inefficient way to lose weight. The amount of time a person would have to spend walking to burn a significant amount of calories is just not worth it. Now, that being said exercise should start on a gradient and in some cases that means initially walking. But if the effort is never increased the weight will never come off. You probably will just maintain and stay where you are at with walking as your main form of exercise. Ideally for weight loss a person would both restrict caloric intake and exercise to have the most success.

Anyway, we could definitely go on and on about this subject. And there are more specifics on both sides to cover which we will, but I think you get my point. A person will only lose weight by burning more calories than they are consuming.

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