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I have always heard that 3500 calories equalled a pound and that you needed to burn that amount for a pound of weight loss. Now, I am hearing that is no longer true. What's the real story?
by Vic2016

I have always heard that 3500 calories equalled a pound and that you needed to burn that amount for a pound of weight loss. Now, I am hearing that is no longer true. What's the real story?


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Joanne Perez, MS, RDN, LD

The 3,500-calorie rule has been around since the 1950's when a medical researcher measured how much energy a pound of fat tissue represents and found it to be 3,500 kilocalories. From this finding, he deduced that a person would have to burn or not eat that many calories to lose a pound of fat.

Unfortuantely, weight loss is not that easy. Many factors play into it such as gender, exercise, the types of foods you are eating and the fact that as you lose weight, your body adapts to less energy. The 3,500 calorie rule doesn't that any of that into account. But, Kevin Hall, PhD, a senior investigator in the mathematical biology section of the NIH and his colleagues have developed the http://www.niddk.nih.gov/research-funding/at-niddk/labs-branches/LBM/integrative-physiology-section/research-behind-body-weight-planner/Pages/default.aspx Body Weight Simulator - which will provide a calorie level for weight loss and a calorie level for maintenance when factors such as weight, height, activity level, goal weight, length of time to reach goal are entered.

Although, the 3,500 calorie-rule does seem to work in the short term when a small amount of weight loss is the goal, it breaks down over the long-term. This often leads to frustration and either giving up or turning to more drastic, dangerous methods.

The one thing that most researchers can agree on is that sustained weight loss takes time. Your best approach is to work with a RD who can help you come with an individualized plan that is realistic for your lifestyle.


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