Quinn on Nutrition: Recalibrating weight-loss assumptions

January 5, 2015

I assume the couple who took my puppy from his crate outside my hotel in Flagstaff Arizona on Christmas Eve morning thought they were doing a good deed. From the note they left, they assumed he had been left out in the cold all night. They were mistaken.

I assumed — after taking him out earlier that morning for a romp and feeding — that he would be safe in the morning sun as I prepared to leave the hotel. I was mistaken. 

We make mistaken assumptions in the world of nutrition as well. One is the rule of thumb — based on calculations done in 1958 — that we will lose one pound of body fat for every 3,500 calories we cut from our diet. Based on what we know now, this formula is too simple for those who need to lose more than just a few pounds, according to an article in Today’s Dietitian by registered dietitian Densie Webb, PhD.

Today, more complex formulas have been developed to factor in how the body adapts to weight loss over time, says Webb. In other words, we may need to adjust our calorie goals as we continue to lose weight.

When I lost my puppy, I was encouraged to learn about online help to recover lost pets. Lost Dogs Arizona on Facebook got me in touch with —a national outreach to locate lost animals. That led to more information from the Arizona Border Collie Rescue organization.

Likewise, new formulas to calculate weight loss goals are now available online. Nutrition experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have developed a Body Weight Simulator to help calculate calorie goals for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Biomedical researchers in Baton Rouge, La., have also developed an online calculator to predict how much weight one can expect to lose in a specific amount of time at certain calorie levels. .

A simpler — yet more accurate — formula than the 3,500-calorie rule is this, according to NIH investigators: Every 10 fewer calories that we eat each day will eventually lead to the loss of one pound of body fat…but it may take more time to get there than was originally estimated in 1958.

Our assumptions about weight loss therefore need adjusting, say experts. When we do it right, weight loss may be slow, even slower than we thought. Current research has confirmed that we need patience and consistency to successfully lose excess weight.

So as we approach this New Year, we can learn from the past and adjust to new information. We can remember that success requires diligence. And I assume that someone will contact me if they find my dear Buddy




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