What is the weight-loss equation?

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT

Weight Loss = Calories Consumed < Calories Burned

That is, if you consume less than you burn over time you lose weight. The opposite is also true. If you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Consuming the same as you burn maintains your weight. Key factors to help you lose weight include paying attention regularly by tracking calories daily (or at least until you can do it “automatically”) and weigh or measure yourself at least once a week to make sure you are trending towards your goal.

A good weekly goal is to lose ½ to 2 pounds per week or approximately 1% body fat every two weeks. The number of calories you eat to accomplish this needs to be approximately 250 to 1000 calories less than your daily calorie burn. The more overweight the person, the greater the allowed weekly loss.

Be sure to weigh or measure yourself in the same clothing, at the same time and on the same scale. Take care to also use the same method or device if you’re having your body fat measured.

A measurable or visual reduction in body fat or weight should take place in a fairly consistent manner. This includes a decrease in circumference inches, pounds or clothing fit. If progress stops or slows dramatically, one or a mixture of the following adjustments will be necessary to re-start the process:

  • Increase daily activities with more daily steps or other non-exercise activities. Standing and pacing burns at least 2-3 times more calories than sitting for the same time period. There are approximately 2000-2500 steps (depending on stride length) in a mile. Walking 2000 steps will burn ~75-150 more calories (depending on individual size) than sitting for the same time and only takes 20-30 min. This can be done anywhere, even in the office, while on the phone or watching TV
  • Increase workout time or intensity
  • Decrease food intake approximately 200 to 300 calories per day or remove a small portion of your largest meal

Repeat the process any time weight or body fat is stable for two consecutive weeks. Always remember if you stop losing weight/fat you need to eat less, move more or a combination of the two regardless of what you read or hear from others. Once you have achieved your body composition goals, increase your calorie intake, decrease activities or a combination of the two in order to maintain desired weight.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Total Calories in < Total Calories burned/out = Weight Loss.  It takes ~3500 calories to add or lose 1 pound of fat!  Ideally, you want to do this gradually, start by creating a deficit of ~500calories/day x 7 days = ~1# weight loss.A registered dietitian can provide you with detailed and individualized guidelines to assist with your weight loss needs.

The weight loss equation is simple. Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. Burn less calories than you consume and you will gain weight. Burn the same amount of calories as you consume and you will maintain your weight.

One pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. Therefore if your goal is to lose weight you will want to create a daily negative calorie balance. Decreasing your caloric intake by 500-1000 calories per day, should result in an approximate 1-2 pound weight loss per week.
Losing weight is one of the simplest concepts around, but sometimes difficult to implement and stick with. There are 3500 calories in one pound of body fat, which simply means if you want to lose weight you just have to burn through a bunch of those stored up calories. Say, for example, that you want to lose 10 pounds of body fat. This means that you will have to use up 35,000 calories, so you will need to create a negative calorie balance, or calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit through diet alone, exercise, or a combination of both. Simply put, you will need to eat less, move more, or do both. Doing a combination of both will most likely prove to be the easiest way to stick with your program and get your results as quickly as possible. You want to think about implementing small changes in many areas of your life.


With our 10 pound example, if you want to lose two pounds per week, then that means you will have to create a calorie deficit of 1,000 calories each day until you hit your goal (five weeks if you stay on track). You can start by eating 500 calories less per day and spreading that reduction out over multiple meals so it isn’t as noticeable. For example, eat 150 calories less at each major meal by cutting things like cheese, dressing, and butter. You should then try to burn an additional 500 calories each day. If you are just starting out, my best recommendation is to aim burning 300 calories in a workout session and 200 by increasing your activity level.  If you engage in moderately intense cardio for 30 minutes, you should be able to accomplish the 300 calorie burn. In order to burn the additional 200 calories, make efforts throughout the day to increase your activity level. You can do things like parking farther away, making multiple trips to accomplish the same task, standing and walking while talking on the phone, sitting upright at your desk, using a restroom farther away than the closest, and taking the stairs. Accomplishing these tasks will make your weight loss more manageable and easier to accomplish.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.