What do you have to do to lose a pound of flesh? When most of us think of dieting, we think about losing seven to 14 pounds from around our tummies and thighs, if not more.
We see our silhouette rapidly slimming down. We imagine the surprise on everyone's face when we strip off on the beach with a body to rival Kelly Brook's.
Yet what effort is required to shed just one pound of excess body weight? If we take it slowly, losing one pound of fat at a time, maybe we'll stand a much better chance of reaching our weight-loss target.
Just as importantly, we may stand a better chance of keeping the weight from creeping slowly back on.
Many fad diets claim they can help us lose three to six pounds a week. However, medics recommend we don't lose more than one to two pounds over seven days if we want to maintain our health and well being.
To shift a pound of fat we have to eat less and move our body more. We need to burn more calories then we consume through physical activity.
One pound of flesh equals 3,500 calories, so in order to lose one pound of fat we must burn 3,500 more calories than we are consuming each week.
Or we need to reduce the amount of calories that we are eating. By reducing our daily calorie intake by 500 calories a day, we can reach a weight-loss goal of losing one pound during one week.
So, we can add an activity each day that burns 500 calories. Or we can eat 500 less calories a day.
However, a better approach is to split the 500 calories between exercise and food -- for example, eat 250 calories less of food, and burn 250 calories doing exercise.
Some people respond by eating one less meal per day. However, to feel full and energetic throughout the day, many of us require three regular meals and one snack over 24 hours.
Instead, you can cut back on portion sizes to reduce calories. Make all of the three meals equivalent in size and low in fat.
Do not skip meals. This may help you lose weight in the beginning, but it fails in the long run. Skipping meals could make you feel too hungry or light-headed later in the day, and may cause you to over eat at your next meal.
So where do you start in your new exercise routine, and how many calories do various exercises burn up?
Remember, you're aiming to burn 250 extra calories per day -- to lose one pound in weight a week.
This is combined with eating 250 less calories a day. If you aim to lose two pounds a week, you must double your efforts on both counts.
Here is a sample of how many calories various exercises burn off for every hour you spend doing the activity: child care (207), cleaning (207), cutting the grass (325), dancing (266), walking briskly (236), or cycling at a moderate pace (472).
Other popular exercises we might do in order to shift the flab include: jogging (413), aerobics (354), stretching/hatha yoga (236), swimming (472), stairs/treadmill (354), golf (236), horse riding (236), sailing (177), or weight lifting (177).
So, how do you shed 250 calories a day in order to lose one pound a week?
Knowing the calories contained in different foods makes is easier to decide what to eat, and what to avoid.
Here is a selection of everyday foods, and the calories they contain per average serving: bagel (140), digestive biscuit (86), Jaffa Cake (48), naan bread (300), spaghetti (303), crisps (198), and pistachio nuts (152).
Other popular foods, which can be cut back on include: milk chocolate bar (255), cheeseburger (300), slice of pizza (125), can of coke (142) and glass of red wine (80).
So by keeping an eye on the number of calories you consume and increasing your levels of physical activity you can lose a few pounds before your summer holidays next month in a safe and healthy way.