In accounting, numbers aren’t just close enough, they’re exact. So when it comes to a person’s weight, just how much do the calories matter? Is calorie restriction the only fool-proof weight loss method?
Well, sort of. Some people might consume 3000 calories a day and lose weight, while others might hit just 2000 and gain a few pounds.
“Rather than thinking about cutting calories, we like to talk about ‘calories-in’ versus ‘calories-out’,” says Dr. Susan Isensee, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Weight Management Program at Dean Clinic.
The principle is simple: If you burn as many calories in your daily activities as you consume through foods and beverages, you’ll neither gain nor lose weight. Small numbers matter — if your intake exceeds your burn by even 50 to 100 calories a day, you’ll gain a small amount of weight. Over the course of days, weeks or months, it shows up on the scale. And not in a pleasant way.
So if you want to lose weight, the number of calories you burn should exceed the number you take in through food—and that’s how calorie-restriction diets get their name.
“Many of these diets encourage daily exercise and calorie counting depending on your gender, height and weight,” says Dr. Isensee.
Dr. Isensee and her team help patients manage their weight using a variety of health and weight management programs, one of which is called the Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD). This medically supervised program initially uses meal replacements consisting of high-protein, low-calorie shakes and bars to replace food for about three to six months. Patients transition back into eating a healthy balanced diet and take part in a long-term maintenance program, working with Dean’s clinical team.
In the VLCD program at Dean Clinic, patients participate in weekly group meetings to talk about nutrition, their relationship with food, healthy habits, and exercise to help prepare them for the transition back to regular food.
“People ask how our VLCD patients can give up food during the initial phase of the program,” says Dr. Isensee. “The first week can be challenging for many patients but then, as their bodies adjust to the program, patients say it does get easier.”
Dr. Isensee says the program isn’t for everyone; but for many, it can be a very successful part of their life-long weight loss journey.
“We recently had a man lose 120 pounds in a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) program,” said Dr. Isensee. “He went from needing 600 units of insulin each day down to 20 units a day. That is incredible, but it is something your doctor needs to monitor, so constant medical supervision is very important in diets such as these.”
The average patient coming into Dean’s Comprehensive Weight Management Program has lost and regained 30+ pounds more than five times in his or her life.
“Patients require a comprehensive approach to treating their obesity from individual nutrition appointments to bariatric surgical care,” says Dr. Isensee. “But if you think about it, calorie management and exercise is the basis for all of these weight loss approaches.
Dr. Isensee recommends talking to your doctor and getting a physical exam if you plan to lose 10-percent or more of your current weight. This is especially important if you have any chronic conditions or are taking any medications regularly because your dosage may change as your weight changes.
Want to calculate your BMI? Want to find out how many calories you burned based on your weight, type of exercise and duration? Dean Clinic offers health calculators and other wellness tools for free at deancare.com/healthtools.
For more information on its Comprehensive Weight Management Program, visit deancare.com/weightmanagement for free informational meetings and webinars.