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Want to Lose Weight? Understand Calories

The United States is facing an obesity "epidemic" and the interest in the perfect diet for weight loss has never been higher.  Low-carb, low-carb-high-fat, HCG, Mediterranean, Paleo, anti-inflammatory diets each have their own champions and doctors who swear this is the final answer to losing weight.  Each week there is a new medical analysis on mainstream news that touts the effectiveness of a certain weight loss diet. This week it is the low-carb-high-fat ketogenic diet.  Maybe it suppresses hunger.  Maybe it's the diuretic effect and rapid weight loss in the first week.  Maybe it reduces insulin secretion. But maybe it is really because people have reduced their caloric intake.

Here's a fact: all diets work when people reduce their caloric intake.  

The various well-known diets all result in similar weight loss if the individual sticks to the diet.  Each diet reduces calories.  And when the diet is over, if the calorie count goes back up...weight is regained. An easy way to think about it is that if one reduces the daily calorie count by 500, a person will lose 1 lb. a week.  We are lucky now that calorie counts per serving can be easily found on all prepared foods by reading the nutritional label.  And it is easy to find the calorie count of just about every item or combination of foods on-line. Apps like Lose It can be used to set the desired weight loss and the app will tell a person how long it will take to reach that goal based on how many calories they eat in a day. The app will also give calories of certain foods and allow customization so a person can watch how many calories they are eating in a day. Understanding nutrition labels is key to understanding how many calories one is eating daily. "Low Fat" or "Low Carbohydrate" on foods is misleading because these foods can be very high in calories. Reading labels helps a person see that 15 potato chips is 150 calories. 2 Tbs of Kraft 1000 island dressing is 110 calories.  One Duncan glazed donut is 260 calories.  An orange is 45 calories and a Big Mac with cheese is 540 calories.  For weight loss to work, calories must be understood and limited.  As people's eyes are opened up to the calories in various foods, they can make trade-offs based on what they like.

Important things to note on the label are the # of servings in a container.  If a person ate the entire box, they would eat 1000 calories.  And they would be getting no fiber and loads of saturated fat.  This is a terrible choice for weight loss (or good health).

Once a person knows how many calories a day they want to eat to lose weight, it's pretty easy to make food choices that get there.  And once the high caloric foods are known and avoided for every day meals, healthy eating is preserved and the weight loss can be sustained.  That is the hard part of any diet.

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