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Diet Tip: Keep the Formula Simple

We read it time and time again, but one of the simplest rules of weight loss is often ignored: To lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you take in. There are plenty of dieting strategies to help you do this, from keeping a food diary to cycling calories. But the magical, yet simple, formula remains the same.

In a recent column on Yahoo Health, personal trainer Debbie Rocker elaborates on this quintessential weight loss equation with some common-sense reminders, which I can certainly use from time to time! To see Rocker's advice,


Rocker hammers home the equation with a few crucial points; here's more from the column:

  • Adding (more) exercise, and not changing your diet at all, will cause weight loss only if you are burning more calories than you are taking in . . . So if you are exercising enough to push the equation over to the deficit column (where you are basically in the red with calories — spending more than you are taking in), then you will begin to lose weight.
  • Reducing your food/caloric intake and not adding exercise will result in weight loss only if you have reduced food intake enough to tip the energy balance to the negative, whereby you are taking in less than you are expending.
  • Obviously, adding exercise and reducing your caloric intake, will make it more likely that your equation will swing over to the negative — the weight loss side. And of course, the greater the difference between intake and expenditure, the faster the weight loss (or gain, depending on which way the equation swings).

What do you think: Is it really that simple?


Join The Conversation
Stellanz Stellanz 9 years
heineken67 has a really good point i'm at a witts-end and it's driving me mental!!!
writerchic373 writerchic373 9 years
My boyfriend cut his calorie intake and has been doing 20-25 minute moderate cardio sessions every day and moderate strength training three times a week. He's lost over 20 pounds in a month. It is difficult, but he's not starving himself. Now that the weight has started to come off he's starting to drag me to the gym and not vice versa.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
kiddylnd it's def a delicate balance. Lots of math ladies. ;)
heineken67 heineken67 9 years
It's actually not so simple. Reducing caloric intake can lower the body's basal metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of calories used every day just to live - not for activity). Exercising more can also (in some cases) result in the body trying to conserve energy more at non-exercise times to compensate for the expenditure during exercise. Either way, the body is fighting not to use more energy than it consumes. It's a survival mechanism. I work in medical weight management, so I'm not just making this up. There are many common (and sometimes major) misconceptions about weight and weight loss. Maybe Fit could do a post on some.
AMP AMP 9 years
It is that simple.. when starting out! Then you start hitting the plateaus and can't figure out what you're doing wrong, how to change things up, if you should eat less, exercise more, or if you are doing both and nothing is still working, you just start getting frustrated.
idawson idawson 9 years
thanks melizzle!
AtlantaNoleGirl AtlantaNoleGirl 9 years
I agree that it's this easy (I've been losing this way for 3 months now) - however, I don't think I could do it without my food diary, also, because it helps me keep track and make sure I'm reducing my calories/increasing my exercise by the appropriate amounts to create a deficit.
melizzle melizzle 9 years
@cvandoorn: 1800 would be crazy! To lose a pound a week, you need to create a 500 calorie deficit a day (500*7=3500=1 pound). That means you could cut 250 calories of food a day and add 250 calories worth of exercise daily. It's pretty easy, actually, just a matter of time, commitment and motivation! :strong:
idawson idawson 9 years
for the past few months i have been advised that based on my body type that i have to maintain a 2000 calorie a day diet, which when combined with exercise will allow me to lose at leas 1 lb per week; anything less and my body would be starving. at 2k a day i have lost over 2/3 of my goal weight loss. as for the burn you need to lose weight, there is an amount of "standing" amount of calories burned per day. fitsugar, can you clarify how caloric burn works? thanks.
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
For my body weight and height, the ideal amount of calories is 1,800 per day (i'm very active). So does that mean I have to burn that much off every day to lose weight? No thanks!!
ms660bk ms660bk 9 years
yes, it is that simple... in theory. then again, communism also works... in theory.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
It's definitely all about calories in vs. calories out, but there are a lot of variables that you have to consider when you're talking WEIGHT loss. If you work out a lot and eat quite a bit of carbs, you may actually gain weight because your body will start storing its energy as glycogen and not fat, so you'll hang onto water weight. But you're actually in better shape and have less body fat than you had before. I find too, that it's easier for me to lose weight when I cut calories instead of increasing my working out; probably because it's fairly easy to cut 100-200 calories a day, but burning an additional 200 calories a day takes some effort. When I do BOTH, I can lose weight pretty quickly.
jjlyn jjlyn 9 years
what i always wonder is - when they say to "burn more calories than you take in", are they saying you should consume fewer calories than you burn through exercise, or that you should consume fewer calories than (exercise) + (BMR) ??
juju4 juju4 9 years
Also, I think that the way points one and two are delivered make it sound like if you don't exercise hard enough, you won't lose weight. I think that some people are constantly consuming more than they are burning, so they are endlessly gaining weight. For those people, just getting active and walking outside might not mean that they are going to burn more than they consume, but it might keep them from gaining the amount of weight they would have gained if they had not been active. So in a way, it is a type of weight loss.
jill37 jill37 9 years
Even thought these points are "true" they leave a lot of room to be misinterpreted or abused. This doesn't distinguish between healthy and unhealthy weight loss at all.
kiddylnd kiddylnd 9 years
Well yes and no - I mean if you take in too LITTLE calories your body won't just keep losing. It a fine balance of enough of each.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 9 years
Yep. eat less calories, burn the alloted calorie intake and you lose weight. granted you'll go mad and be drained from energy after the first couple days but the body gets used to it. i don't recommend that much.
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