Weight loss: Obesity, diets, and calories

How to lose weight is one of the most pressing health questions for many people.

People gain weight by consuming more energy than they burn, so consuming fewer calories, or energy, can help. However, other factors play a role, such as genetic factors, metabolism, hormones, the type of food you eat, your body type, and lifestyle.

This article will look at the reasons to lose weight, the most effective methods and medical interventions.

Fast facts on losing weight

Here are some key points about losing weight. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

To lose weight, you must burn off more calories than you consume.

A balanced diet and exercise combined are a healthful and effective way to lose weight.

A sedentary adult aged 31 to 50 years should consume 2,200 to 2,400 calories or less each day.

Crash diets may have short-term results but are unlikely to be successful in the long run.

Sleeping for 7 or 8 hours a day may help with weight loss.

Bariatric surgery should be a last resort.


[Obese man's gut]
Obesity affects more than one third of Americans.

Globally, obesity is considered an epidemic. At least 2.8 million people die each year of complications related to excess weight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that currently affects more than 1 in 3 people in the United States, or 36.5 percent.

The health risks of being overweight include a higher risk of diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Why lose weight?

People lose weight for many different reasons:

Appearance: They want to look fitter, more attractive or healthier, or simply feel more confident in their bodies.

Confidence and body image: People who carry excess weight may feel self-conscious about it.

Overall health: They want to become healthier, live longer, and avoid developing diseases associated with obesity and overweight

For a specific condition or illness: People with sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes may find symptoms improve or disappear after losing weight.

Fitness: People wish to become fitter, and to have more energy and stamina

Sports competitions: Boxers, for example, may wish to lose weight so that they can remain within their weight category.

Fertility: Fertility treatment has been found to be more effective among women with obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who lose weight before treatment.


There are thousands of different diet plans on the market that make amazing weight loss claims.

Some are evidence-based, safe and effective, but others are not. Most health professionals, dietitians, and nutritionists agree that the best results tend to come from combining a healthful, weight-reduction diet with physical activity, especially in the long term.

You can click here to find out about eight of the most popular diets.

Proponents of many diets say they are extremely effective and require no effort at all. Unless they have been proven to be so in scientific studies, it is not possible to know how effective they really are.

[Sandwich and chips]
The number of calories a person needs depends on their age, gender, and level of daily activity.

The number of calories per day you should consume to lose weight depends on several factors, including your sex, how much you want to lose, how quickly you want to lose it and your age.

Below are the daily calorie requirements for men and women, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Daily recommended calorie consumption for males:

Age 19-20

Sedentary: 2,600

Moderately active: 2,800

Active: 3,000

Age 21-30

Sedentary: 2,400

Moderately active: 2,600-2,800

Active: 3,000

Age 31-50

Sedentary: 2,200-2,400

Moderately active: 2,400-2,600

Active: 2,800-3,000

Age 51+

Sedentary: 2,000-2200

Moderately active: 2,200-2,400

Active: 2,400-2,800

Daily recommended calorie consumption for females:

Age 19 to 30 years

Sedentary: 1,800 to 2,000

Moderately active: 2,000 to 2,200

Active: 2,400

Age 31-50 years

Sedentary: 1,800

moderately active: 2,400-2,600

Active: 2,200

Age 51+ years

Sedentary: 1,600

Moderately active: 1,800

Active: 2000 to 2,200

If you want to lose weight, you would have to consume less than the amounts listed above. The less you consume, the faster you lose. However, it is important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet so that you do not become ill, or lose lean tissue (muscle). Ideally, you should check with a dietitian, nutritionist or your doctor.

In some regimes, dieters consume 1,200 calories per day if they are female and 1,500 if they are male. However, do not try to do this yourself without the supervision of a trained expert.

You need to make sure your carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio is right for good health. Recommendations for carbohydrate intake vary, from 20 to 60 percent for losing weight.

Further reading:

Are fats good for you?

What are carbohydrates?

What are proteins?

A poor diet and malnutrition can occur regardless of calories. A meal plan should be balanced in terms of nutrients, too. A poor diet can lead not only to malnutrition, but also a low mood and loss of motivation. This can cause to dieters drop out before reaching their target weight.

When dieters have reached their target body weight, they should gradually increase their daily intake until they reach their “weight maintenance” figure.

Other factors

A 2010 study showed that people who just reduce their daily calorie intake rarely lose much weight.

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