Lose 1 Pound a Day

I recently completed an extensive health assessment, and I was not surprised to hear that I would do well to lose at least 10 pounds.  As a result, I put myself through a mini boot camp last week to see if I could lose 7 pounds in 7 days.

Is that even possible?

Several weight loss programs promise that you will lose a pound a day if you follow their program and buy their products.  So when I put myself through my own self-imposed boot camp, not only was I losing a few pounds, but I was also able to evaluate the hype surrounding weight loss programs and their promise of … LOSE 1 POUND A DAY.

Each one of us consumes a certain amount of calories every day through food and drink.  If the number of calories consumed equals the number of calories burned, we stay at the exact same weight.  What exactly is the limit to how many calories I can consume daily if I want to stay at the same weight?  How about if I want to lose weight?

The daily calorie burn is different for each person, and the exact figure is calculated based on your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level.  Here is how you calculate your daily calorie burn:

Multiply your body weight by 10.  This figure is called your basic metabolic rate (BMR), and it is the number of calories you would burn if you stayed in bed all day.

For example, my weight at 190 pounds multiplied by 10 equals 1900.  Thus, my BMR is 1900 calories, which is the minimum amount of calories my body needs every day for basic functions such as breathing, keeping my heart beating, regulating my body temperature, etc.  Multiplying your weight by 10 gives you a fairly good estimate of your BMR, but you can find an online BMR Calculator at http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ that will take into account your gender, age, height, and weight … and thus, give you a more accurate BMR.

Is that it?

No, because you are not likely to stay in bed all day, and thus you burn more calories every day than your BMR.

Now, multiply your BMR by your daily activity level, and then add that amount to your BMR.  Here are activity level factors:

  • Sedentary (sitting most of the day) – 20%
  • Lightly active (walking here and there; daily chores) – 35%
  • Moderately active (constantly moving around; daily exercise) – 40%
  • Very active (substantial exercise for a long time) – 50%
  • Extremely active (intense exercise for an extended period of time) – 60%  

For example, if I was sedentary I would multiply my BMR of 1900 by the sedentary factor of 20% to get 380, and then add that amount of 380 to my BMR of 1900 to get 2280.

  • Woo hoo!  When I am sedentary I still burn 2280 calories a day!  1900 + (1900 x 0.20) = 2280.
  • If I am just lightly active one day, I burn 2565 calories.  1900 + (1900 x 0.35) = 2565.
  • When I am moderately active, I burn 2660 calories that day.  1900 + (1900 x 0.40) = 2660.
  • And if I exercise heavily on a given day, I burn 2850 calories.  1900 + (1900 x 0.50) = 2850.
  • Finally, when I really work it, I burn 3040 calories.  1900 + (1900 x 0.60) = 3040

But wait, there’s more!  Your body actually burns calories to digest food, and the number of calories burned is estimated to be 10% of your daily consumption according to your activity level.  Thus, take the sum shown above based on your activity level, and multiply that amount by 10% … and then add that extra to the total.  For example:

  • Sedentary, 2280 + (2280 x .10) = 2508 calories
  • Lightly active, 2565 + (2565 x .10) = 2821.5 calories
  • Moderately active, 2660 + (2660 x .10) = 2926 calories
  • Very active, 2850 + (2850 x .10) = 3135 calories
  • Extremely active, 3040 + (3040 x .10) = 3344 calories

This final figure is called your Total Daily Caloric Expenditure.  It is a measure of how many calories a day you burn based on your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level.

So what would it take to lose 1 pound in one day?

Since a pound of body fat is equal to 3500 calories, theoretically I would have to eat nothing or very little during the day, and also exercise extremely that day to achieve a Total Daily Caloric Expenditure of 3500 calories.  Thus, for me to lose 1 pound a day for 7 days, I would have to eat little or nothing all week, and exercise extremely every day.

Actually, I believe that I lost about 6 pounds during the week.  Granted, some of it was probably the “water weight” that everyone loses at the beginning of a diet, and the scale in my house may not be precise, and/or I may not have replicated exactly the starting and ending weigh-ins (i.e. clothes worn, time of day, etc.), but even if I only lost 3 or 4 pounds, I am pleased.  I can see the difference in the mirror, and I can feel the difference in the way my clothes fit.

So what’s the point?  My point is that I think people can lose weight fairly quickly, and lose it in a safe manner while eating well but without having to starve.  So how did I do it?

I burned a lot of calories exercising every day.  On at least 3 of the days I exercised extremely for over an hour by bicycling up City Creek Canyon here in Salt Lake City, starting at about 4700 feet above sea level at my house and rising to slightly over 6000 feet above sea level at the end of the trail (7 miles up, 7 miles back).   On every other day, my exercise was lighter … perhaps I only walked for an hour.  FYI, a person my size can burn 100 calories per mile walking, or as much as 200 calories per mile running or bicycling swiftly.

Also, I ate 6 small meals every day, about every 2.5 hours to avoid feeling hungry.  At each mini-meal I had a high quality low or non-fat protein source (such as non-fat yogurt, turkey jerky, non-fat cottage cheese, non-fat protein powder in a shake, etc.), some fruit, something whole-grain (wheat crackers, cereal, brown rice, etc.), and veggies.  With each meal I drank at least 16 ounces of water in order to feel full.  I had no cookies or deserts of any kind for the week, although after a long bike ride I may have had something like a 100-calorie Healthy Choice fudge bar (since protein after a good workout helps rebuild muscle).

I consumed no more than about 300 calories at each mini-meal, sometimes less, so I estimate that my daily intake was no more than about 1500 calories.  Like I said, I never really felt hungry during the week, for if you eat something healthy about every 2.5 hours that includes protein you will stay satiated and keep your energy level constant.

So I cannot say that I proved the theory that you can lose 1 pound a day, but I think that you can lose at least half that much … and I know that you can enjoy the process.