Use a little math to lose a lot of weight

It's a lot easier to eat 350 calories than it is to burn them! Our fitness expert Barb Gormley explains how a bit of time with a calculator can add up to lost pounds.


Q: I’ve haven’t been very good lately with my workouts and eating habits, and I’ve gained about seven pounds. I’m getting stressed with the thought wearing shorts and short sleeves. Is there an easy way to get rid of the weight and keep it off?

A: Congratulations – you’re smart to be tackling this small weight gain right now. Lots of people hang on to their “freshman fifteen,” and then in the following years they add some holiday weight, newlywed weight, baby weight, winter weight and so on. Before they know it, all those pounds have added up (it’s called “creeping obesity” in the science world) and they’re in big trouble.

There’s no way around it – if you want to lose weight you have to make some changes in your eating habits, exercise habits or both. I find that most people who want to lose weight overestimate the impact of exercise and underestimate the impact of their diet.

Did you know that it takes about 60 minutes of exercise (30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training) for a 160-pound person to burn 350 calories, but it can take only a couple of minutes (and no sweat!) to gobble down the same amount?

I’m a huge proponent of exercise, but it takes a lot less sweat and energy to say, “No thanks,” to an extra helping at dinner than it does to work off the same number of calories with exercise. Exercise, of course, is something that should be part of all of our lives. But if you’re looking for a super-simple and effective approach to weight loss, try this: change just one of your high-calorie habits.

To do this, pull out your calculator. Here are a few important numbers (there are others, but I’ll use these as examples):
1. Calories in a pound = 3,500
2. Calories in two medium-size brownies = 350
3. Calories in a three-ounce martini = 190

Using the numbers above, here are three no-brainer ways to lose those seven extra pounds:
1. If you love sweets: Eliminate dessert or sweet snacks (for example, two medium-size brownies) three times a week, and you’ll lose seven pounds in about six weeks.
2. If you love an after-work cocktail: Eliminate three martinis per week, and you’ll lose seven pounds in about 11 weeks.
3. If you’re a high-achiever: Try a combination of the above for faster results.

The beauty of this approach is that it requires no calorie counting, just simple tracking that you can do in your head.  We all lose weight at different rates, but if you to stick to your plan you can be feeling great in your short sleeves and shorts in just a few weeks!

Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at