How cutting 10 calories can help you lose weight -

Drop 10 calories, lose 1 pound

If you 've been counting calories for a long time, you may want to clear your calculator.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say the common belief that eating 3,500 fewer calories equals losing a pound of fat is, well, just plain wrong.

Their new weight loss model can help you bust through a plateau, and you won't believe just how small of a change you need to make.

To lose weight, the rule has always been that subtracting 500 calories every day from your diet, or 3,500 calories per week, equals minus one pound of weight per week.

Researchers at NIH say all that rule really applies to is a lot of disappointed dieters, because it over-estimates expected weight loss by not considering how a person's metabolism changes as they shed pounds.

So, researchers reworked the math and found a new equation for the average overweight person that is more realistic to how the body behaves.

"The rule is, for every 10 calories you eat less than what you are currently eating, you will weigh a pound less after three years," says NIH Senior Investigator Carson Chow.

With this new mathematical model, researchers found that for every pound you want to lose, if you permanently cut 10 calories for each pound from your diet every day, you'll lose half of your desired weight in about a year and the rest of it in about three years.

Using the "Minus 500 Calorie" model, Nancy and Philip Risch have lost a combined 200 pounds in the past year.

Now, they're only reaching about 1,200 calories each.

The problem is, they've stopped losing weight and, quite frankly, they've run out of ideas on where to find an additional 500 calories to eliminate from their diet.

Scientists say the Risches' bodies have adapted to their diet.

Now that the scale has stopped moving, they have to change the calorie-cutting math and their time frame.

Nancy Risch started her weight loss journey at 285 pounds and now she is 200 pounds.

"I didn't know that 10 calories per day would make that much of a difference," she said.

If she desires to lose another 20 pounds, based on the weight loss model (20 pounds multiplied by 10 calories per pound equals 200 calories) she'll have to cut 200 calories daily and not the 500 calories she expected.

Assuming nothing else changes, she'll be down 10 pounds in a year, and 20 in three years.

For life-long changes, it's best she and everyone else pick a food plan that you can chew on for the long haul.

"You have to be vigilant for the rest of your life and that's what makes it so hard," Chow says.

Remembering not to splurge by four noodles is serious, but it sure beats not having to give up the bowl.

"Cut out 10 calories over the long term? I would go for something like that," Philip Risch says.

Just be ready to go the distance, adding time, and subtracting 10 calories from your weight-loss equation. 

Additional Information:

The following information is from the study -- "Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight."

  • Bodyweight response to a change of energy intake is slow, with half times of about one year.
  • Adults with higher body fat have a larger expected weight loss for the same change of energy intake and to reach their steady-state weight will take longer than it would for those will less starting body fat.
  • If cutting 500 calories daily lead to constant weight loss, you'd be down a pound a week, 52 pounds a year, 520 pounds in 10 years. The rule doesn't apply forever.

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