You've heard it before: Losing weight is a numbers game. You must consume fewer calories and/or burn more calories in order to lose weight. The exact number of calories to eat to lose weight is different for each person, depending on his current weight, age, gender and activity level.
To lose one pound of fat, you have to create a 3,500-calorie deficit. This can be accomplished by eating 3,500 fewer calories or burning 3,500 calories. Most people find success when they combine the two methods to create a deficit by the end of the week. For this article, we'll focus only on eating less.
Consume Fewer Calories
To begin, you have to know how many calories you are currently eating. Keep a food journal for a few days to determine your current calorie intake. Once you know where you're starting, you can determine the number of calories you should eat per day to create the deficit. A 500-calorie daily deficit is typically a good place to start.
Do the Math
Let's say you're currently eating 2,200 calories a day. To lose weight, you have to eat less than 2,200 calories a day. Without figuring exercise into the equation, the number of calories you eat will determine the number of pounds you lose. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, a 200-calorie deficit, you'll lose 1 pound in almost 18 days. However, if you eat 1,700 calories a day, a 500-calorie deficit, you'll lose 1 pound in approximately seven days.
Nutritious Food Choices
Believe it or not, calories can add up very quickly, especially if you're not making good food choices. If you eat nutritious foods, you'll find you can eat a lot more than if you waste all of your calories on high-calorie or high-fat foods. For example, a medium order of french fries at McDonald's is approximately 4.1 ounces and 380 calories. In comparison, an average 5.3-ounce apple is only 77 calories. A large order of fries at McDonald's will cost you a whopping 500 calories, your full deficit goal for a day. Stick with healthy food choices!
Many people make the mistake of thinking if a small deficit is good, a deeper deficit is better. While a 500-calorie deficit will put you on track to lose weight, a 1,000-calorie deficit can be dangerous. Eating too few calories can put your body into starvation mode, which will make it hold onto every calorie possible rather than shedding the weight. It's important to make sure you're eating enough calories.