The skinny on losing fatAchieving weight loss success is a feat that eludes millions of people the world over. Daily they struggle with being overweight, sometimes obesity and the varied and numerous weight loss tactics circulating the Internet and our communities. Many of them though just have misguided concepts as to what actually triggers weight loss.

Starvation mode

The first common tactic that humans “logically” jump to in their attempts to lose weight is depriving the body of food. Although cutting back on calories is a vital step towards achieving weight loss goals, most people are much too drastic. When we cut back too much on our regular caloric intake, the body goes into starvation mode. This happens because the body is no longer receiving enough calories to facilitate its regular internal bodily functions along with the energy you exert each day going through your daily routine.

Basically, in starvation mode, fat does not get burned! The reason being is that fat is like the gold reserve or Fort Knox of the body. It is really a safety mechanism in tough situations only to be used as a last resort to sustain life. Thus, unbelievably, the body is much more willing to use muscle and organ tissue before burning fat once calorie levels dip below a certain level. This is why starving yourself is so very harmful. I strongly recommend against it.

It’s not only harmful but it doesn’t even create a good look for your body. I had a friend in college who cut back a good deal on calories to lose weight. As a result, you could tell from touching her arms and stomach that what she had actually lost was muscle because much of the fat remained. Of course, she was noticeably smaller, but it gave her more of a flabby look, undefined look and she didn’t have much strength in her limbs. I’m very sure this is not what any of you are going after.

Just enough calories

To switch the body into “fat burning mode” instead of starvation mode, one needs to eat just the right amount of calories based on your size and activity level. Larger and more active people will most definitely need more calories per day. Men also burn more calories daily than women due to more muscle mass and thus higher metabolisms. This is why woman always complain that men can start an exercise program and lose weight almost instantaneously, while they labour along seeing only slight results. Don’t blame us though – blame nature.

 So first, you want to avoid taking in too little calories because then you’ll be in starvation mode and you want to avoid taking in more calories than your body can burn or excrete because it will end up being stored as fat. You want to eat just the right amount for the body to begin to dipping into fat reserves because it feels confident that its caloric requirements are being adequately met. Go over this too much and the body will have to store what it can’t dump (pun intended).

Eating the right amount is fairly simple though. First, you will have to get an approximation on how many calories your body burns daily. This is equivalent to the amount of calories needed daily to maintain your current weight. This is based on a few factors (size, age, gender) as stated before and you can use this simple calculator as a starting point: Now, you should aim for about 250 - 500 calories or so below this below this figure so that to cover your daily requirements the body would need to supplement the remaining calories from your fat reserves. Remember about going too low and entering starvation mode – stick with cutting back just a bit.

Cutting back

Cutting back can be easier than you think. Here are caloric values in some foods that will shock you.

McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder, Sandwich alone – 740 calories

Wendy’s Baconator – 840 calories

20oz bottle of soda – 250 – 275 calories

Snickers Candy bar – 266 calories

This is a just a sampling of some foods we all can do without. Just cutting back on a soda or chocolate bar can cut a good bit of calories. Examine your daily intake and make a note of what you are eating. You’ll notice a lot of unnecessary calories you can cutout. Cutting out a few snacks can make a drastic difference. Calories are easy to take it, but hard to burn off!

Getting active

Once you have cut back enough on calories, any other activities that you add on to your daily routine would further dip into your fat reserves. The body would need to burn more fat to supply your muscles with the necessary energy to complete the added tasks. This happens because your caloric intake has not dipped so much that the body feels threatened. You have just cut back a bit on your calories, thus, the net effect here would be a negative one (positive for your figure though)  with your burning more calories than you are taking in.

Exercise surprise

One major misconception with exercise is that most people overestimate how many calories they are actually burning with certain activities. Many believe that they can walk/jog for half an hour and burn enough calories to offset eating eggs and bacon for breakfast, steak for lunch, three slices of cheesecake and chips and soda all day long! It’s just not going to happen. Walking at 3mph for half an hour only burns about 190 calories and jogging for the same amount of time just 300 calories. One slice of strawberry cheesecake can have as much as 390 calories! So one cheesecake slice is worth (a bit more than) a half hour to 45 minutes of getting sweaty and jogging – remember that. The three we mentioned earlier are equal to almost 1200 calories all by themselves – remember that as well.

Don’t believe me? Check out for the exercise figures, and for the food data. I didn’t just make those figures up. Some exercises that can burn the most calories are step aerobics and cycling which both can burn from 400 to 500 calories every 30 minutes.  For more intense burns, jumping rope and sprinting can use massive amounts of calories. Sprinting has an added effect of keeping your metabolism high even days after! Therefore, those whose knees, limbs and bodies can support such intense activities, may consider choosing a combination of jogging and sprinting as their fat burner of choice.

Doing the math

So to breakdown the figures, by cutting 500 calories each day, and walking for an hour three times a week, we can determine the overall caloric burn as follows:

(500 calories x 7 days) + (380 calories x 3 days) = 3500 + 1140 = 4640 calories burned

Seems like a lot of calories but to put perspective on it, one pound is equivalent to 3500 calories, thus by following our regime above one would lose about a pound and a half (1.5lbs) a week or 6 pounds a month. Granted that you are able to consistently cut back 500 calories each day and put in the required exercise. For those with massive amounts of weight to lose this can be a painfully slow process.

Pills and supplements

What some doctors sometimes suggest, is that patients with more than 40 or 50 pounds to lose utilize a diet pill or supplement to give them an initial boost. When dieting the first weight you will most likely lose will be water weight. Although it will be a visible change it won’t translate into much on the scales. After this, it will seem as if everything has slowed down, as you won’t be able to see a difference as quickly as before even though you are following the same routine. This is what discourages most people.

Thus, some doctors recommend that obese patients use a pill or supplement that promotes weight loss for an initial boost. Weight loss pills can help the body to lose as much as 15 - 20 lbs a month! This is a change that you will be able to see and feel and once seeing and feeling the difference most are motivated to continue with a diet and exercise plan to further reduce their weight.

It is recommended to never use any pill or supplement continuously for longer than one month though. Thus, only use them for a boost to get your morale high then you can switch to a diet and exercise plan to reduce your weight gradually even more. Some people give their bodies a break for a month or two, then start taking the pills again to get another boost. Then once they’ve lost all they need to lose, they keep their caloric intake at a level to maintain their current weight.

People have reported losing like up to 10lb – 15lbs in a month (although some sites claim as much as 20lbs, I haven’t personally heard of that much yet). Diet pills are not magic though, you’ll still need to follow a diet plan because let’s face it, if you’re stuffing down 1000 – 1500 extra calories a day, no pill can help you burn all of that off! So when you any pill, follow a diet plan and get some exercise in as well for the ultimate results. Once you’ve kick started your diet routine you can cut back on the pills, control your caloric intake and gradually continue to lose weight.

Scale back a bit

Remember though that whatever weight loss method you choose, don’t be so quick to jump on the scale. Weight loss is a gradual process (even with pills) thus changes you see and feel won’t translate into pounds right away. This can discourage many people!

I had an obese friend who was trying the pretty restrictive Atkins diet. After about 3 days she stepped on the scale and was floored to see an increase of two pounds. This totally broke her momentum so she broke the diet and ate a cookie. Afterwards she told me what happened and I explained that it was too soon to weigh and that she should have just relied on how she looked and felt in the early stages as an indicator of success.

I assured her that she would see or feel a change quicker than seeing reduced numbers on that evil little box that lives in the bathroom or sometimes under the bed. I also enlightened her on the differences between digital and analog scales. Analog scales have the ability of being more accurate than digital scales. Digital scales most likely have some calculations going on that round off numbers probably to the higher half pound. Slight inaccuracies from signals could cause a slight shift in numbers as well.

Also, I told her that weighing in different clothes or before or after eating (or even excreting) can very well cause a difference well within the 1 – 2 pound range – especially on a digital scale that rounds off. Even on an analog, dial bathroom scale if you don’t set the little pointer precisely, you could very well be off a pound or two when weighing.

In my opinion it’s best to always weigh stark naked for the most accurate results. That way you’ll always remember what you had on the last time you weighed – nothing! Also remember that most household scales normally stop at 300lbs. They do come in higher capacities but you may have to call around or order one from an online store. Here is one that goes up to 400lbs on Amazon if you need one.

Weight translates to wait, it didn’t get there overnight

If you really sit and think about how long it took you to gain all the extra weight you have, you’d probably end up with a figure totaling months and even years. Most don’t realize how long it took to gain the weight because it was a gradual process. A friend of mine was convinced that he weighed 150lbs because that’s how much he weighed the last time he checked. When he went to the clinic for another matter, he found that he actually weighed 198lbs! However, the process of gaining that weight took about a year or two and he didn’t even realize it was happening. Weight comes on so gradually that we don’t even notice it.

Thus, if weight takes a while to gradually pack on, then why would it be logical to assume that it will take a short time to burn it all off? Let’s be real, if it took about a year or two of nonchalant living to gain that extra 50 pounds, then it will most likely take another year (or more) of conscientious living and eating to reverse the effects.

All good things come to those who wait. If you follow a diet plan, be dedicated, and committed enough then you’ll reap the rewards. He lost that weight by the way and got back to around 150 – 160lbs after his rude awakening.

Putting it all together

In order to lose weight, you can’t eat too little or starve yourself or your body will go into starvation mode and actually burn less fat. You want to eat just the right amount, because too much will cause your body store excess calories as fat. When you ascertain how many calories you need to maintain your current weight, cut back about 250 – 500. These start an exercise program to burn additional calories. You want to aim for a ratio of 55% carbs, 30% protein and 15% fats to be in optimum fat burning mode. If you’re really overweight or really stuck in a rut, diet pills may give you an initial boost to get your morale up so you can continue dieting. Don’t weigh too much and be consistent and persistent.

Keep in mind as well that this article only talks about cutting caloric intake to lose weight. There are other factors out there concerning your overall health that you will need to take into consideration such as the proper ratio of carbohydrates to protein to fat and the proper intake of other vitamins and minerals. Thus, keep in mind that to be healthy overall there are other factors that will need to be considered. Do the research to get your body in the best shape ever!