The Calorie: Your Weight-Loss Friend

Diane Hendericks offers her calorie-saving tips for dieters. Getty Images.

By Diane Henderiks, R.D.

The US is tipping the globe with overweight and obese people and only few Americans have a metabolic or medical reason that makes dropping weight more difficult. For the rest of us that is just not the case - we CAN lose weight and keep it off.  The diet biz is a gazillion (I know it's not a word but it drives the point home) dollar industry that offers pills, powders, shakes, frozen meals, diet plans, staples, hypnosis, laxatives, rubber bands, magnets, books and the kitchen sink all for the promise of weight loss.

I'm going old school in this piece with some basic math and calorie calculating.  It's nothing new but may be getting lost in the proverbial haystack of weight loss solutions.


Noun:  The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C

Calories have always been at the core of weight loss…to lose weight you need to take in fewer calories than you burn.

For those of you who are more visual:

Energy in < Energy out ? Weight Loss

Energy in = Energy out ? Weight Maintenance

Energy in > Energy out ? Weight Gain


Energy in -  calories/energy from any food or beverage item that passes through your lips

Energy out-  calories/energy used during physical activity, breathing, digestion and any other active function in your body

  Here's a quick formula to estimate calorie needs on a daily basis:

Your Weight X 12 = Number of calories needed for weight maintenance

To lose about 1 pound per week: Reduce intake by 500 calories/day

Use this number as reference point for when you're reading labels and/or planning daily meals.  I don't want you counting the calories of everything you eat, I want you to have some idea of how many you need each day.  If you exercise (and you all should be) you need more energy, so eat a little more good stuff.  Use your energy level and feelings of hunger to determine if you need to eat more.  You should be satisfied after each meal and ready to nosh on something about three hours later.  I recommend 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily.

Not all calories are created equal and the quality of your calories is very important (that will be a whole other article)! Here's the deal…you all know that candy, soda and fast food are junk foods and that broccoli, walnuts and oranges are not…correct?  Ditch the bad foods and choose the good stuff like fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and fish, nuts, seeds, low fat dairy, good fats, lots of fiber-filled foods that are all unprocessed with no added sugar or salt.  You can gain weight eating healthy food so use your daily calorie number to gauge when enough is enough.  Go for it and let us know how you make out.

Henderiks is the founder of and a "Good Morning America" health contributor.

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