The Best Way to Lose Weight? Burn off More Than You Take in

Some diets are more crackpot than others (remember the cabbage soup diet? The grapefruit diet?). But if you are serious about wanting to lose weight, the best method is the time-honored one:?Eat less. Move more.

A popular columnist lost 85 pounds a couple of years ago. His secret was the same secret that doctors, nutritionists and dietitians have been promoting for years. It?s all about the calories. If you expend more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.

A calorie, you may remember from high school chemistry, is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius (a little less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit) at sea level. The kind of calorie we talk about when discussing food is actually 1,000 of those calories; it is the amount of energy required to raise a liter of water (about a quart) by 1 degree.

You use a lot of calories just by living. A moderately active man weighing 175 pounds uses an average of 2,625 to 2,800 calories a day; a moderately active 135-pound woman, on average, uses 2,025 to 2,160 calories, according to calculations by the University of Washington.?All you have to do to lose weight, in theory, is to consume fewer calories than you use by living. If you burn off more calories by exercising, you will lose even more weight.

Of course, it is harder to do in practice than that. Our columnist friend assiduously counted every calorie ? a smartphone app made that much easier ? and found that he would use all of his allotted calories by the middle of the afternoon. So he had to adjust his way of eating, by eating more low-calorie foods that made him feel full throughout the day.

He made sure not to deny himself any foods (except processed snacks that come in packages ? Lay?s potato chips are his downfall). He just ate smaller portions of them than he did before, and he adjusted his intake of other calories for the rest of the day accordingly.

He also exercised more, and, he said, ?the more weight I lost, the easier it was to exercise.? His knees stopped hurting, and he could hike farther, do more.

The Hollemanesque columnist was inspired by a story he read about Mark Haub, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University. Haub wanted to test the theory that eating fewer calories than he expended would make him lose weight, no matter where the calories came from. So for 10 weeks, he ate little but Twinkies, Oreos, Little Debbie?s snacks, Doritos and the like. He also took a multivitamin pill and had a protein shake every day, along with some vegetables.

The result? In 10 weeks, he lost 27 pounds.

Not only that, but his levels of cholesterol and triglycerides dropped considerably. Because of what he was eating, he had assumed they would rise, but losing the weight apparently made a bigger difference than what he ate. His sleep apnea also went away, a direct result of losing the weight.

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