Step 2: Learn to Set a Healthy Goal

Picture of Learn to Set a Healthy Goal
In order to lose weight, we are going to use a principle that is very simple, but tough to understand for some reason for a lot of people:

To lose weight, burn more calories than you consume.

That's really all you need.  We'll talk more about this concept when we go into calorie counting.  For right now, you need to know what constitutes a healthy goal, short and long term.  Let's go through some figures you need to know.

In order to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index), you will need to know your current weight.  Now might be a good time to buy a scale and put it in the bathroom.  This website will tell you your BMI and what category this places you in.  It will also tell you what the healthy weight range is for your height.  Many people will argue that using the BMI is not always an accurate way to find a healthy weight loss goal because the system is outdated.  However, I feel that if you take the healthy BMI range and put your goal somewhere in the middle, you can readjust when you make that primary goal.
Ex: I am 5'7" and I weigh 240 pounds.  Currently that puts me in the obese category.  My healthy weight range is between 118 and 159 pounds, so I choose to set a goal weight of 140 pounds initially. 

Daily Caloric Intake
Now you need to figure out how many calories to eat each day in order to get to your goal.  This website has a great calculator for this purpose.  If you put in your basic statistics, the calculator tells you exactly how many calories to eat per day during every week of your diet for the first year.  It will even adjust the amount of calories weekly based on your updated weight. 
If you are following my plan, you'll want to put in moderate on the activity level, unless you also have a very active occupation, such as a job that requires you to walk around and stand for most of the day.

There are some things you'll want to keep in mind when you make this goal:
-A healthy amount of weight to lose per week is about 2-5 pounds depending on your starting weight and current physical condition.  If you are planning on losing more per week, I highly recommend consulting a doctor regularly, especially if you currently have any medical conditions.
-A healthy amount of calories to eat per day for most people on a diet is 1200 calories or more.  If you put your goal into the calorie calculator and the calories per day numbers are below 1200 calories, you will want to lower your yearly goal so that you can safely lose less weight within the first year. 

Ex: I am 5'7" and 240 pounds.  My goal is a healthy weight of 140 pounds.  I put in the goal of losing 100 pounds in a year, but notice that this puts me under a healthy amount of calories per day toward the end of my plan.  I can either choose to lower my yearly goal on the calculator or go with the current plan with the intention of eating at least 1200 calories per day toward the end of the diet for a slightly slower result toward the end.  I will be losing around 2 pounds per week.  During the first week of the plan, I will want to eat 1762 calories per day.

If you're losing 100 pounds or more and trying to do it safely, expect to spend at least a year working toward your goal and likely more.
svan staden4 years ago
I read numerous mixed reports on specifically the Atkins diet. If you have a heart problem, the excess amount of protein that you consume is not good for you at all. Even a few heart attacks reported as a result of this. It's probably not a rule of thumb, but something to consider.

I have stumbled across the UN-diet. Well worth investigating! A friend of mine lost a considerable amount of weight using this eating plan :o).
Can you refer me to some of that reading? Website and books are fine, but ultimately I'd like to get to the actual studies they reference.
amilne4 years ago
I read a book by Gary Taubes, where he really argues against the idea of: calories in - calories out = weight gain/loss. The thinking is along the lines of other low-carb diets like Atkins, it's all about blood sugar and insulin, thinking about metabolism at the level of the bloodstream and fat cells instead of the whole body.

I really liked it, and I've been looking for criticism of those ideas since, just to make sure I'm not missing anything. Have you read that stuff? I'm curious to know what you think of it.
lady_j amilne4 years ago
I do enjoy the low carb lifestyle but both studies are correct. If you consume foods that are low in fat and carbs, it is naturally low in calories. Compare the following:

fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuit with butter

roasted boneless, skinless chicken breast, steamed veggies and side salad

i put on and take off weight a few timea a year depending upon how much I have to cram for school and forgo working out or healthy meals give way to speedy comfort foods.
amilne lady_j4 years ago
To respond more directly to your example: if you asked Taubes (or Atkins). They would want you to compare these meals:

six strips of bacon, three eggs, and a protein shake
2 pieces of toast, and a bowl of ceral (with far less total calories)

and they'd argue that it's the second one that is likely to cause you to gain weight.
amilne lady_j4 years ago
That's a common criticism of the low carb explanation for weight loss. In 'Good Calories Bad Calories' Taubes actually goes into great detail talking about how that's not really a complete explanation.

As I remember, he cites a scientific study where they compared high and low carb diets, while keeping the total calories consumed equal, and found that the effectiveness of low carb diets wasn't just from reducing calories. He also gives several examples of populations of people who are undernourished but obese, and suggests that high carb diets are the cause.

The book isn't really fun to read, it's long and dense, but I found it super interesting. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in diet.
miss_ali1984 (author)  lady_j4 years ago
Well done! Great point!
I read the Gary Taubes book. (Title is Good Calories, Bad Calories) and it's excellent. Highly recommended. It's the carbs and your body's insulin response that makes you gain. Exercise is certainly good, though. Your body needs that type of stress to be healthy. Who wants to be a skinny couch potato?
Hallmar4 years ago
We are equal of height and goal weight, Im currently at 170 Lbs.