At its simplest, weight loss is simply a matter of balancing calories taken in with activities that use calories. However, it's important to maintain your intake of nutrients while lowering your intake of calories to lose weight safely. To calculate the amount of calories you should eat to lose about 2 lbs. a week you need to know how many calories you are eating now, how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and how many calories you can use up by exercise.
Keep a Diary
To find out how many calories you are eating now, keep a food diary for a week. Write down everything you eat, including portion sizes. Look up each food item to see how many calories it contains and serving sizes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an on-line nutrient database with information on thousands of food items.
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Calculate how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight. A moderately active female needs about 12 calories per pound and a sedentary female needs about 10 calories per pound. A moderately active male needs 15 calories per pound and a sedentary male needs about 13 calories per pound to maintain weight, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
To lose 2 lbs. of body fat a week, you need to eat 7,000 calories less than you would need to maintain your current weight. In other words, if you weigh 200 lbs., you need at least 2,000 calories to maintain that weight. To lose 2 lbs. of body fat a week you need to eat 500 fewer calories a day, which would mean eating 1,500 calories.
However, you might actually be eating 3,000 calories a day now, putting on weight rather than maintaining weight. That means you will be cutting out more than 500 calories a day of your current consumption, to maintain a 1,500 calorie a day diet.
You can reduce calories by eating less and exercising more. To eat less, reduce the amount of grains, starches, sweets and saturated fats in your diet. Increase the amount of vegetables and fruits that you eat, as they are nutrient rich and contain few calories. Make sure that at least 10 to 25 percent of your calories come from lean protein.
To lose weight easily, increase your exercise. You need a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, every day, to help you lose weight faster. Start off slowly, walking for exercise. Increase the intensity of your exercise as you gain endurance and strength. Make sure your exercise routines include cardiovascular exercise, strength and endurance building exercises, stretching for flexibility and exercises that improve your sense of balance.