The old-school way to lose five pounds is back

The old-school way to lose five pounds is back
  Photography by Harry Vorsteher, Zefa/Corbis

The number of carbs in that slice of toast, the grams of fat in yogurt and the amount of protein in egg whites—if all of those nutritional values have escaped you, it’s time to get back to basics. If you’re looking to lose five pounds, the best new way is good old-fashioned calorie counting.

“No matter what plan you’re following, fat loss boils down to one simple equation: burning more calories than you con-sume, so long as you maintain or increase your muscle mass,” says Gary Reinl, coauthor of Get Stronger, Feel Younger: The Cardio- and Diet-Free Plan to Firm Up and Lose Fat, one of the latest books instructing readers to keep track of calories again. In other words, you can cut carbs, eat low-glycemic-index foods or ban fat all you want, but you still won’t trim down if you’re eating more than you’re burning.

Let’s go back to square one: calories are a measure of energy in food. Lulu Hunt Peters’ bestseller, Diet and Health, with Key to the Calories, published in 1918, was the first book to outline a method of counting calories as a way to regulate weight. To lose one pound of fat, the calorie-counting method says you have to burn about 3,500 calories. To do that, you could choose to eat 500 fewer calories per day for one week, burn an extra 500 calories per day for a week through exercise or combine the two by eating less and expending more.

While the approach has risen and fallen in popularity, a recent analysis of 80 weight-loss studies, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, revealed that curbing calories—with or without exercise—was the most effective method of keeping weight off for more than four years.

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Our Favourite Snacks

Baby carrots (8) with hummus (2 tbsp), 75 calories Apple (1 medium) with almonds (15), 160 calories
LUNA Berry Almond, 180 calories PERFECT10 Bliss, Lemon Chocolate, 210 calories
Celery sticks with peanut butter (2 tbsp) and raisins, 230 calories CLIF Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, 260 calories

E-mail us your favourite healthy snack!

“Being aware of calorie content is important in understanding portion sizes,” says Maria Thomas, a registered dietitian and nutritional consultant for The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp TV show. “While nuts are good for you, half a cup contains almost the same number of calories as a Big Mac. And knowing that it would take a 40-minute to one-hour run to burn off the calo-ries might make you think twice about eating them.”

But Thomas cautions that losing weight is not quite as simple as calories in/calories out. “Timing is important. If you eat 1,500 calories in two daily meals, you could gain weight, but you could lose weight if you spread those 1,500 calories through-out the day in 3–5 smaller meals. And pay attention to the types of foods you are eating. You can’t eat 1,500 calories of junk food per day and expect to stay healthy and lose weight.”

Get Stronger, Feel Younger authors Reinl and Wayne Wescott advocate a focus on increasing the number of calories you expend, rather than reducing your caloric intake. “Most diet plans cause a loss of muscle mass, and that is exactly what you don’t want. You want to lose fat, not muscle. Having more muscle on your body increases your metabolism [the number of calories your body burns when it is at rest], making it easier to achieve a caloric deficit and lose fat,” says Wescott, who be-lieves strength training with weights is the key. He explains that you not only burn calories during the strength workout itself (about 200 during a 30-minute session and 50 post-session as your muscles replenish themselves) but, after about 10 weeks of proper training, you could increase your muscle mass by about three pounds and your resting metabolic rate by almost seven percent, burning 100 more calories per day.

Calculate the turkey and pie calories you had over the holidays with online tools such as the Dietitians of Canada’s EATracker (—that’ll be enough of a shock to get you back into calorie-counting mode.

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