Weight loss and dieting: knowledge is power and power is successs

Thomas Secrest's picture
Thomas Secrest

In yesterday’s article we took a close look at calories and how they affect your effort to lose/gain/maintain weight. The article conclude with the following summary: Your body counts calories and could care less where they came from.

To quickly review, the energy your body uses to stay alive comes from the energy in the bonds that hold atoms together to form molecules. By breaking a molecule apart your body can harvest the energy and use it to grow, repair, move and think. In fact, all body activity is dependant on energy.

Many diet plans, videos, web sites, and gurus often dwell on very unimportant facts about calories. In essence they are talking about a swimming pool and giving you information about saving drops of water. The numbers are so disproportionate as to be meaningless.

When it comes to losing weight, it is all about calories.

During the day your body burns a certain number of calories even when you’re doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. These calories represent the energy your body needs to stay alive (at idling speed). These basic life maintaining processes began before you were born and will continue until you die. The minimum energy to keep you alive is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

The BMR is a very hard number to calculate, but an approximation is a useful number to know. You can calculate your BMR here. There are multiple formulas for calculating BMR, the calculator I recommend uses what is considered the best formula. If you want additional information on the BMR you can find it here. !! REMEMBER -- this number is an approximation and it is a number that will change as your weight changes.

I’m sure you have seen horrific pictures of people who are near death due to starvation. Those pictures drive home the need for food energy. Starving to death is nothing more than not consuming enough food energy to meet your BMR. Without that minimum energy, the body cannot repair the micro-traumas that occur daily. Over time the micro-traumas result in organ dysfunction and slow death from multiple organ failure or a superinfection.

You need to consume more than your daily BMR.

Obviously we want to do more than just survive. Every activity we add above and beyond simple survival will require additional food energy (calories) above your BMR. The activities can be low energy, e.g. doing a load of laundry, moderate energy, e.g. vacuuming, intermediate energy, e.g. walking or cycling, or extreme energy, e.g. running a marathon. Each requires its own unique food energy intake, relative to you.

If you want to MAINTAIN your weight then the food energy (calories) you consume must exactly match the calories you use to meet your BMR requirement plus ALL other activities.


Calorie intake = (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT MAINTENANCE
Calorie intake Calorie intake > (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT GAIN

It’s painfully simple. If you eat more food energy (calories) than you use each day, then you gain weight. If you eat exactly the same, your weight stays constant and if you eat less food energy (calories) than you use each day, then you lose weight. This 42 second video is a nice illustration of this concept.

Because we don’t exactly know our BMR or how many calories we burn each day, balancing it exactly with what we eat each day is almost impossible. Therefore our weight tends to drift around from day to day.

Let’s end by adding in the theme from yesterday’s article. Let’s suppose we live in a world where the only food available is rocky road ice cream or if your prefer, a world with only twinkies. The following will still be true:

Calorie intake from ice cream = (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT MAINTENANCE
Calorie intake from ice cream Calorie intake from ice cream > (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT GAIN


Calorie intake from twinkies = (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT MAINTENANCE
Calorie intake from twinkies Calorie intake from twinkies > (BMR + all activities) = WEIGHT GAIN

Your body doesn’t know where your calories come from, it simply knows how many you eat.

Tomorrow we will take the next step towards a complete understanding of weight loss and dieting by looking at how and why the body wants to store your excess food energy intake. I hope you to see you then.

If you have any special questions you want answered as part of this series of articles, please let me know and I will address your question in one of the upcoming installments. You can contact me at: [email protected]