Losing weight? Lose the soda pop
Our society’s negative view of excess weight makes it difficult for the topic to be approached in a nonjudgmental fashion. It also makes it difficult for people to be honest with themselves about their weight.
The bottom line is that if you have more pounds than you want, your intake is more than your expenditure.
Our bodies cannot defy the laws of physics, and some basic rules governing weight loss can’t be modified.
It’s important to set appropriate goals. Too often, we set the bar far too high. A 5-percent weight loss is a satisfactory amount and significantly reduces risks to your health.
A 10-percent weight loss is very good, and 15 percent is excellent. Very few weight loss methods result in a sustained loss beyond that.
Weight loss obeys a simple equation. Calories consumed minus calories expended equal caloric gain or caloric loss. Caloric gain will result in weight added, and caloric loss will result in weight loss.
The body has remarkable abilities to alter the metabolic rate up and down to adjust for variables in intake, but only to a point.
It is impossible to go either below a certain expenditure per day, or to raise expenditure past a certain point.
Let’s look at the intake side of the equation in more detail.
Excess intake is very easy, and people are notoriously poor at self-assessment of caloric intake. They misjudge portion sizes and have a hard time remembering every bite of food.
A good tool for realistically assessing intake is to carry a small pad of paper; every time you eat something for a week, write it down.
Caloric content of many foods is easily found on the Internet, and you’ll probably be surprised to find out how much you are eating.
The recommendation to eat between 800-1200 calories per day for weight loss adds up to very little food indeed. It’s easy for most of us to eat that in one meal!
Dining out represents an opportunity to overindulge without being aware of it. Restaurants serve large portions of high-fat meals because they taste good, and people equate portion size with value. Caloric information on most meals eaten out is not available.
It’s just math
Excess calories will be deposited as fat, regardless of whether the calories come from protein, carbohydrate, or fat itself. Every pound of fat represents 3,500 calories of excess ingestion. Therefore, to lose one pound of fat, you must eat 3,500 calories less than you need.
One easy change to make is to look at what you are drinking. I do see a number of people who like to drink sugar sodas or flavored drinks. These folks usually like to drink between two and six sodas a day. If you drink two 12-ounce regular soft drinks a day, you are consuming 300 calories of sugar daily.
These calories are unnecessary and are not good at providing appetite relief, as liquid foods satisfy people less than solid foods. Consumption of sugared drinks, along with the increased size of the drinks, parallels the increase in obesity seen in the U.S.
Plus, it’s very hard to find 12-ounce servings of soda at most soda fountains. Most cup sizes exceed 60 ounces, which represents five regular sodas or 750 calories. It’s not uncommon to see someone drink that on a daily basis!
In the above scenario, if you switched to diet soda or water and changed nothing else about what you eat, you would save 300 calories a day, and lose a pound every 10 days, or about 35 pounds in a year.
Caloric expenditure consists of relatively non-modifiable factors (metabolic rate) and modifiable factors (activity). Metabolic rate usually adds up to about 10 calories per pound.
For a 220-pound man who does little to no activity, it takes 2,200 calories per day to maintain weight. Weight loss can cause metabolic rate to drop, but no adult human yet studied requires less than 1,200 calories per day to maintain body weight.
A calorie deficit is required to lose weight. Initial weight loss is relatively easy. Looking at that 220-pound man, he need only consume 1700 calories at first to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories.
In a week, he will lose one pound and in a month, four pounds. Over time, he will have fewer pounds to maintain, and his metabolic rate will drop.
His metabolic rate isn’t likely to drop below 1,500 calories a day – the 1200-calorie floor given above is for rather small, lean people. He’ll then need to eat about 1,000 calories a day, or about two-thirds of what he was eating when he first started. This is where a lot of folks get fed up with the whole thing.
I’ll discuss more weight issues in my next columns. I will be happy to answer questions in future columns; e-mail me at Nicholas.BrowningMD@gmail.com.
Dr. Nicholas Browning is a Nevada County doctor.
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