Your Health Checkup: The Simple Truth about Losing Weight

Dropping pounds is simple, but it’s not easy. Dr. Zipes offers some tips to help you with your weight loss goals.

Woman holding how enlarged pants, showing how much weight she lost
kurhan / Shutterstock

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“Your Health Checkup” is our online column by Dr. Douglas Zipes, an internationally acclaimed cardiologist, professor, author, inventor, and authority on pacing and electrophysiology. Dr. Zipes is also a contributor to The Saturday Evening Post print magazine. Subscribe to receive thoughtful articles, new fiction, health and wellness advice, and gems from our archive. 

Order Dr. Zipes’ new book, Bear’s Promise, and check out his website

Calculating how to lose weight is as easy as calculating how much money is in your bank account. If you deposit more money than you spend, your bank balance increases. If you spend more than you deposit, your balance decreases.

Weight loss is based on the same principle. Burn more calories than you take in, and you lose weight. Take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight.

Seems simple, right? I wish it were.

I would love to lose ten to fifteen pounds. I try to eat less and exercise more, but nothing seems to work, especially during the inactivity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been estimated that by 2030 nearly 1 in 2 U.S. adults will be obese.

Exercise alone won’t accomplish weight loss and must be accompanied by dieting. The reason is obvious. Depending on your weight and type of exercise, an average individual can burn in the range of 6 to 13 calories per minute. For example, a 140-pound person burns approximately 13 calories per minute running, while walking would burn a little more than half of that per minute. So, a half-hour run would burn almost 400 calories compared to 230 calories walking.

Since you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose one pound, if you averaged 10 calories per minute exercising you would need to exercise 350 minutes or almost 6 hours to lose a pound. Running would require four-and-a-half hours to lose a pound.

As I have written previously, if I cut just 300 or so calories a day — roughly two slices of buttered white toast, or three large scrambled eggs, or a large bagel, or two glasses of red wine — I would lose a pound in about two weeks. Kept up for a year, I’d shed over twenty pounds, which would be fantastic and would improve my health and sense of wellbeing.

There are additional things— simple things—that might help you take off a few pounds. After all, every little bit helps.

1. Avoid soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and saccharin. Even though you may dodge a few calories with them, they may increase your desire for sugary foods and have been associated with larger waists.

2. If you dine with others, pick people who are as calorie conscious as you. We tend to mirror the eating habits of people dining with us.

3. Eat off a smaller plate because you’ll pile on and eat less food.

4. Take brief breaks from your diet. You’ll return to it with increased vigor to comply, but equally important, you may avoid the weight loss plateau we’ve all experienced during dieting.

5. Avoid using computers and smart phones before bedtime. The blue light from the device suppresses melatonin needed to induce sleep. Sleep loss is a known risk factor for obesity.

6. Sleep in cool rather than warm room to increase energy expenditure during sleep.

7. Eat more slowly and stop eating when you feel about three quarters full. There is a lag time between eating and when that food tells your brain you are full. So, give the food a chance to send that message.

8. Avoid fad diets and pick one you will stick to long term. Switching to the Mediterranean Diet can result in weight loss as well as reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular disease.

9. Avoid between-meal snacks, skip dessert, and shun ultra-processed foods loaded with calories and little nutrition.

I need to practice what I teach. Happy weight loss!

Featured image: kurhan / Shutterstock

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