The Most Effective Way to Lose Weight

06/01/2011 01:01 pm ET | Updated Aug 01, 2011
  • Michael Yaremchuk, M.D. Chief of Craniofacial Surgery at MGH as well as operating his private practice at 170 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 101 Boston, MA

Weight gain can be an insidious process. 100 extra calories a day can add 10 pounds to your weight in a year. So, what if you only gain a pound a year? Well if you were just right at 25 you are 20 pounds overweight at 45!

So what is the most efficient strategy to lose that weight -- diet, exercise or liposuction? Body weight is controlled by the number of calories you eat every day and the number of calories you burn. The average number of calories a person who is not involved in physical labor should be getting is about 2,000 per day. If you take in more calories than you burn, you store them as fat and gain weight. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.

Weight loss requires a concentrated effort.

Restricting calories alone has a much bigger impact on weight loss than exercise alone. Most people overestimate the number of calories they burn with exercise and are unaware of the calories in everyday food -- particularly fast food.

For example, for the average person, one hour of high impact aerobics, vigorous weight training, circuit training or playing basketball, will burn about 500 calories. On the other hand, an order of large fries, a slice of pizza with toppings or a breakfast sandwich can each add 500 calories. A fancy cocktail may add the equivalent of another hour's worth of exercise. The message here is that it takes a lot of exercise to burn off extra calories.

The average number of calories a person who is not involved in physical labor or purposeful labor burns in a day, is about 2,000 calories. To lose one pound of fat, one must accumulate a deficit of 3,500 calories. If the goal is to lose one pound of fat in a week, a calorie deficit of 500 per day is necessary. Since few people are willing or able to exercise with intensity at all, let alone for one hour every day, the predominant role of caloric restriction for weight loss becomes clear. Of course, combining exercise with caloric restriction is even more effective for weight loss than caloric restriction alone. The practical message is that without changing your diet, it is unlikely that exercise alone will result in weight loss in most patients. Mike Boyle, Boston's world famous strength and conditioning coach, says that an effective weight loss program is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise.

Liposuction has no impact on the caloric equation and therefore should not be considered a mechanism for weight loss. Liposuction best serves the patient who has mastered the caloric equation and has achieved a desired weight but is left with focal areas of excess fat. Although one may lose several pounds after a liposuction procedure, unless one changes the eating and exercise habits that led to the unwanted fat, the failure to burn more calories than are taken in will lead to a gradual reaccumulation of fat.

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