A Small Calorie Deficit For Big Results


Calorie Deficit: Remove almost 40 lbs a year

Why do we think that weight loss has to be this incredibly hard journey?

In its simplest form it is all about creating a calorie deficit; we want to use more calories than we consume over the course of a day. From the exercise you perform to your normal physiological processes that keep you alive, we burn quite a few calories every day. That being said, it’s incredibly easy to eat more than you burn – willpower is a thing of the past! 🙂 That’s where we run into trouble with our excess calories leading to a battle of the bulge; aka weight gain.

Calorie Deficit: The Fads Can Lead You Astray

yo yoSeverely cutting calories is the common principle behind many of the fad diets out there; severely restricting your caloric intake to lose a large quantity of weight in a short period of time.

That all sounds great at face value but in actuality it is pretty harmful to your physiology – even your mentality!

Most of the science out there indicates that individuals who lose large quantities of weight in a short period of time without correctly educating themselves on healthy practices almost always regain the weight and more (Hensrud et. al. 1994)! We call this weight “yo-yoing.”

Who wants to live their life losing 10 pounds in a week only to regain 15 pounds after quitting their incredibly hard diet? Many people do this continually – wash and repeat.

That sounds like a terrible version of the Twilight Zone, harming your metabolic capabilities, hurting your psyche and forcing you to have two wardrobes conveniently handy:

I think this month is a fat pants month!

So what’s a person to do? Let’s break down how small changes in your diet can lead to big weight loss…if you have the patience.

[Note: of course increasing your physical activity can also help you create a calorie deficit but we are just focusing on nutrition here.]

The Numbers

You’ve probably heard this at least a dozen times: it takes a caloric deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound. Let’s think about that; a deficit of 500 calories a day (with all other factors remaining constant) equals one pound lost per week (500 calories x 7 days = 3500) which can equate to 52 pounds a year ([500 calories x 365 days] / 3500 = 52.1 lbs)…damn!

While that would be fantastic and is great if you can pull it off, cutting 500 calories a day from your diet might be too restrictive as you are just beginning to get your nutrition under control (e.g. cutting that many calories could intensify your cravings…hide the ice cream).

Another option to lose weight sustainably is more gentle; shoot for a realistic caloric deficit of 100-200 per day.

Hypothetically, dropping 100-200 calories from your diet can help you lose 0.8 – 1.7 pounds a month which seems trivial but that equals 10 – 20 pounds a year respectively! The best part is creating a gentle caloric deficit like this is really really simple.

Besides increasing your physical activity, here are two incredibly easy ways (kudos to you if you have already ditched these things) to create a small caloric deficit starting today:

Swap the Snacks

potatoIt’s 10 a.m., time for the mid-morning snack attack but you forgot to bring one. Thank goodness for the office vending machine which has a bag of chips, powdered donuts, and “healthy” chocolate trail mix with your name on it.

If you would simply swap junk out with a piece of fruit you could have easily cut out 150-200 calories!

Get this; one 2oz. (56g) bag of salted potato chips has roughly 307 calories which you could have swapped for something like a large peach which has only 68 calories (175g; not to mention the vitamins, nutrients, fiber…etc.). With that swap you would actually be eating more food while saving yourself 239 calories.

Do that every day for a month and hypothetically you save 7100+ calories which equals to 24.9 pounds worth of calories a year!

[Note: nutritional information via www.nutrition.self.com]

Drop the Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are literally packing the pounds on people; they are so easy to consume and you think nothing of it! Let’s take the example of your typical classic Coca-Cola (12 oz can) which has roughly 140 calories in it.

If you simply stop drinking one soda per day you can hypothetically cut out 4200 a month or 14.6 pounds a year worth of calories (51,000+) – that’s pretty simple!

sodaNot only that, but more and more research is coming to light dictating just how unhealthy soda can be for you. For instance, recent research that is to be published in the June edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that sugary drinks (like soda) are actually correlated with cardiovascular disease.

The more you drink the greater your risk – think about that correlation. Even when healthy, young individuals consumed sugary drinks for just two weeks they had significantly increased risk factors for cardiovascular disease… scary!

The problem is that this sugary stuff can have addictive qualities. For instance, another recent study published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that high sugar content drinks can actually suppress the stress hormone cortisol and other stress responses in the brain!

The lead author of the study, Kevin D. Laugero, PhD, explained the significance of this,

The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar’s detrimental health effects, including obesity.


It’s not all about cutting calories – it’s about living a long, healthy life. Basically, we are just giving you the numbers so everyone who has tried and failed before (or is just beginning), will understand that small changes can allow you to reach your goals. It just takes time!

If you’ve tried and failed in the past, it’s time to stop thinking of weight loss as a sprint.

Instead, start thinking of weight loss as a long, fulfilling journey with a small daily calorie deficit. Have patience with yourself in order to make weight loss work – make the small changes and calorie deficit and give it time!

No more “yo-yoing” and no more “fat pants month”…with the amazing changes these small changes can induce, just think what you could do if you really put your mind to it!


Hensrud, D.D., Weinsier, R.L., Darnell, B.E., and Hunter, G.R. (1994) A prospective study of weight maintenance in obese subjects reduced to normal weight without weight-loss training. Am J Clin Nutr 60:688-694.

Josh Anderson
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