Stethoscope Series: tips for healthy and sustainable weight loss

Losing weight can be hard to do. But two medical students have tips for the best way to lose weight that doesn't involve a fad diet.
Daniel Chan and Mei Chen are students at the McMaster University medical school in Kitchener. Medical students, like Chan and Chen, are launching a new speaker series that will tackle health myths and answer questions. (Mei Chen)

Mei Chen and Daniel Chan are medical students at McMaster Medical School in Kitchener. They lead the first talk in a new lecture series by the students called The Stethoscope Series. It is a series of talks that are open to the community and that will tackle health myths. They wrote this column to coincide with their first talk on Monday, Feb. 22. 

More than 50 per cent of Canadian adults are overweight or obese, based on their body mass index or BMI, according to Statistics Canada.

BMI is a measure used to determine body fat, based on your height and weight. If you fall within certain categories, you're determined to be underweight, average weight or overweight. 

Weight is on the minds of many Canadians - over two thirds have tried a diet to lose weight in the past five years, but few of those have been able to keep the weight off.

A quick Google search for "Best diet to lose weight" returns over 40 million hits with different tips and often contradictory diet plans.

The truth is that there is no quick and easy solution.

Generally, 80 per cent of weight loss is in what you eat, and 20 per cent is due to exercise.  

The key to healthy and sustainable weight loss is monitoring what you eat and ensuring that the calories being eaten are less than the calories being expended. Put simply, if we use more calories than we eat, then, we may lose weight.

Here's a simple way to lose weight:

1. Calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

Your TDEE represents the total amount of calories you burn in a 24-hour period, taking into account your height, weight, age, and daily physical activity level. You can calculate your TDEE using an online calculator.  Monitoring your TDEE and caloric intake is more important than cutting any particular types of food for weight loss, which is typically what fad diets promote.  That's why most people who go on diets gain back the weight they lost when they return to their former eating habits. In order to keep the pounds off, a long-term change in behaviour is often required.

2. Calculate your daily calorie allowance, based on how much weight you want to lose.

Each pound of weight loss is the equivalent of 3,500 calories less than your TDEE amount. In order to lose 1-2 pounds a week, a rate considered safe and sustainable, you'll need a total caloric deficit of around. 3,500 to 7,000 per week. That works out to a daily deficit of about 500 to 1000 calories. Keep in mind that women shouldn't eat below 1,200 calories per day and males shouldn't go below 1,800 calories.

3. Make a diet plan

Prepare a diet plan based on the amount of calories calculated in step 2 by using the Canada Food Guide to determine weekly meal plans and ensure you are meeting the recommended daily allowances for each food group and obtaining sufficient nutrients. Keep in mind that one serving is often less food than we think and it's very easy to exceed our daily calorie allowance.