Weight Loss: Rethink Calorie Counting & Shift Your Focus

caloriesIf you’ve ever downloaded a weight loss app or searched a diet, you’ve probably heard of counting calories. The old rule says it takes a 3,500-calorie deficit to produce one pound of weight loss. This rule has been around for more than 50 years and followed by many. The problem? It’s wrong.

The rule dates from a research article posted in 1958, which concluded that a 500-calorie deficit per day would produce a loss of one pound a week. The rule stuck and many conventional weight loss plans still use it today! You wouldn’t follow exercise advice from the late 50s but you might be basing your diet around it – crazy, right?

The numbers are actually pretty accurate… if you are burning a pound in a chemistry lab. When was the last time you went to workout in a lab with scientists? Or you were a science experiment?

Your body has many reactions to changes in calories, carbs, fats, proteins, and even your hormones. Women, especially, have unique challenges to body composition changes based on hormones that men simply do not!  All of these reactions tend to work against you when trying to lose weight, or more accurately, improve your body composition. As a result, cutting 500 calories every day has a lowered effect every single added day. Day 2 is less effective than 1, day 3 is less than 2, and so on.

The National Institutes of Health created a Body Weight Planner that allows individuals to plan a more realistic weight-loss strategy. The weight loss tool is built off a database of strict, well-controlled studies where researchers could monitor both calories consumed and physical activity in a realistic setting.


These studies discovered that over the course of the first year, individuals would actually lose only half the weight that the 3,500-calorie rule predicts. Beyond that, it showed how individual a weigh loss program is. The most overweight people will lose the most weight in the first months, while the leanest people will lose the least. That’s why the “last five pounds” are always the toughest. Everyone’s “last five” are totally different! Especially if you’re trying to lose less.

While this might be depressing news to some, it’s less devastating than starting a diet plan and getting subpar results. If you are ready to drop some weight, all hope is not lost. Use the tools such as the Body Weight Planner and talk with your health professionals to determine the best course of action. Considering your total health, and not just a number on a scale can also help: remember, there are people who weigh less but aren’t actually very healthy. They may have poor health metrics, such as high cholesterol, out-of-control blood pressure, and poor cardiovascular health. The scale doesn’t tell the entire tale! Try to focus on your body composition: consider building muscle and reducing fat instead. Weight training, improving your cardio fitness, and getting a balanced, healthy diet are all good steps to take vs simply restricting your calories.

If you need help improving your health, Body One Physical Therapy is a great place to start. We’re locally owned and operated and have served the Central Indianapolis area for twenty years. We have three convenient locations: North Meridian, Fishers, and Zionsville. Beginning your health journey with an Annual PT Exam is ideal; you’ll learn areas you can improve and also discuss any concerns with an expert physical therapist. Even elite athletes have movement issues and strength imbalances, so getting a head start on what’s holding you back can be a game-changer. Don’t wait to feel great, call or click today!