Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Real Secret to Weight Loss

by Elizabeth Hanes, RN-BSN

As a nurse writer, I receive many press releases every day. Many of these pitches tout products, books or experts on weight loss and related subjects. Since I don’t report on weight loss, I usually toss these into my e-mail program’s trash folder and move on.

Recently, I’ve seen an uptick in press releases about “cleanses” and “detox” programs. Some of these are marketed for weight loss, while others claim cleansing, detoxing and fasting help “rid your body of toxins.”

What rubbish.

Before I get to the real secret to losing weight, the nurse in me wants to spend a moment debunking these often-dangerous practices.

The notion your digestive system requires “cleansing” to function well or that your digestive tract is teeming with toxins that periodically should be washed out is not supported by any scientific evidence. None. Zero. In fact, your digestive system is a finely tuned machine that usually will work just fine as long as you eat plenty of nutritious foods that contain fiber. Think whole grains, raw vegetables and whole fruits. Some fruits and vegetables contain more fiber than others. You’ll find plenty of sources online that list the fiber content of various fruits and vegetables. Adult men should aim for about 35 grams of fiber intake per day, while women should aim for about 25 grams.

If “cleansing” and “detox diets” aren’t the way to lose weight, then what is?

Here’s the secret to weight loss I promised you: You must consume fewer calories than you burn off. The “secret” amounts to nothing more than simple mathematics.

If your recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories, but you routinely eat 2,500 calories each day and never exercise, then you are going to gain weight. Each extra pound of weight is the result of 3,000 extra calories eaten. So, if you’re eating an extra 500 calories a day, you will gain one pound every six days (3,000 calories [one pound] divided by 500 calories per day equals six days).

It’s not hard to see how easy it can be to pack on the pounds!

Luckily the reverse equation works, as well. Let’s say you consume 500 calories less per day. That means you would lose one pound every six days. Pretty sweet, huh?

Of course if you add exercise to the mix (which burns calories), you might lose weight even faster. Experts generally consider a weight loss of two pounds a week to be safe for most people. No one should go on a diet or exercise regimen without consulting their doctor or nurse practitioner first.

You can find many free online resources to help you keep track of how many calories you eat and how many you burn through exercise. A couple of programs I like are Spark People and My Fitness Pal. If you want to make the process super easy, try something like the BodyBugg or the FitBit, both high-tech toys for tracking calories consumed and burned.

If you’re ready to get fit and lose those extra pounds (and isn’t spring a wonderful, renewing time to consider it?), don’t fall for any fad programs like detoxing and cleansing. Just use the simple math method of calories in versus calories out to help you reach your goal. It’s the true secret to weight loss.