Setting the right goals

Again a new year has begun and like every year, the first days are full of good intentions. Beyond "quitting smoking," "losing weight" is at the top of the wish list. Over Christmas, dietary sins were committed and in the new year everything should get better. And the pounds will disappear fast, preferably in a few days.

But that is not how it works and failure is inevitable. As a famous TV chef once said, "Weight gain does not happen from Christmas to New Year, rather from New Year to Christmas!" And that is correct. Anyone who wants to control and maintain weight loss on a long-term basis cannot avoid a permanent change in diet.

Woman's feet on a scale

Set realistic goals

First of all, you have to set realistic goals. Of course, you can lose 10 pounds in one week with a no-calorie diet, but then what? At some point you have to start eating again, and then the body stores every calorie in fear of the next "emergency." Besides, starving is not fun. Much more sensible is to set an achievable goal, which does not restrict the quality of life. The Center for Disease and Control and Prevention recommends 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kg) per week as a healthy measure in weight loss.

When do we switch to fat reserves?

The body loses weight when the energy balance reaches negative; that is, when fewer calories are consumed than are burned. During the first few days of weight loss, the body mainly loses water, which is bound by glucose reserves in the muscles and liver, and released when these reserves are consumed. At this stage, the scale already shows 4 pounds less, although not a single gram of fat has been burned. Only on the second or third day does the body gradually begin to gnaw at its fat reserves. In order to burn one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body fat, 7,000 calories must be saved. So if you want to lose 1 kg (2.2 pounds) in a week, you have to burn 1,000 calories more per day than you consume. This is difficult to achieve without extra exercise. It is therefore advisable to burn at least 500 calories daily through exercise to achieve the desired result.

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