Weight Loss For Dummies: Understand How It Works

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Everyone has to start somewhere. Nobody is born with information in their head. Weight loss dummies can learn how to lose weight too.

By learning more about how fat loss and weight loss work you can lose more and avoid the pitfalls everyone encounters in their weight loss journey.

How do you gain weight?

The human body needs energy to keep working. Walking, exercising, sleeping, eating,… All these activities require energy. You get this energy from food. The amount of energy in food is measured in calories. So basically if a food has a lot of calories it contains a lot of energy.

If you absorb more energy from your food than you use there is an excess amount of calories in your body. In prehistoric times it could be hard to find energy rich foods. That’s likely why the human body evolved to store the excess energy for later use.

Energy from different macronutrients, energy-rich components of food, can get stored in different ways. The most notable way is storing that excess energy as body fat. Fat in your food isn’t the only nutrient that makes you store body fat. Excess carbohydrates and protein can get stored as body fat as well.

Luckily you can get rid of this excess energy. When you absorb less energy from food than you need your body starts using its energy stores.

If weight loss had to be explained to dummies in once sentence it would be something like: exhausting energy stored as fat by expending more energy than is coming in from food.

food can make you gain weight

Calculating your weight goal for dummies

Being overweight is bad mainly because it makes you unhealthier. You age quicker, you become sick more often, you have less energy,… There are ways to find out what a healthy weight is for you. These numbers are not 100% accurate for every individual but it’s a start.

One of the most popular ways is calculating something called your “Body Mass Index” or “BMI“. This is a calculation that uses your height and weight to calculate a number. You can calculate your BMI here.

There are general bmi categories:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = >30

You can find your weight loss goal by playing around with the numbers until the BMI score is in the “normal weight” range.

How many calories do you need to burn to lose weight?

Burning calories means the amount of calories you use. You need to remember that you not only need to use enough calories, you also need to take in less than you use.

The difference between these 2 amounts in energy is either a calorie deficit which means you use more energy than you absorb and lose weight. Or a calorie excess which means that you take in more calories than you use. This difference decides whether you lose weight and how fast.

One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories. One kilogram of body fat about 8000 calories.

That means to burn one pound of body fat you need to have a calorie deficit of about 500 calories for 7 days.

The next question that needs to be explained for weight loss dummies is how you can know how much your calorie difference is.

There are calculations to estimate how many calories you use each day. Once you know that you can find out how many calories there are in the food you eat and take the difference.

calculator to see how many calories to burn a day for weight loss

How many calories do you burn a day?

What many people from dummies to experts often forget is that there are many factors that influence how many calories you burn a day. Even small things can change the exact number.

There are however formulas you can use to get an estimation. You can start off with this number and see how much that guideline helps you lose weight.

Here is how you can calculate how many calories you need per day to maintain weight:


Imperial: (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) + 5

Metric: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5


Imperial: (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) − 161

Metric: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

Again, keep in mind that this is an estimate. In reality, people have different metabolism speeds because of different factors like body composition, hormone levels, genetic factors,…

What is a healthy weight loss rate?

What weight loss dummies often don’t know is that losing weight too fast can reduce the number of calories you burn each day. If you want to keep the weight off the best weight loss rate is not just “as fast as possible”.

In general a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day is considered to be healthy. At this rate you will lose about 1 pound per week.

You most likely won’t lose that exact amount of body fat like clockwork per week. Your weight fluctuates and you don’t only use body fat as an energy source.

Weight loss dummies (and often also more experience weight losers) pay too much attention to individual weight measurements. Experts look at weight trends.

what is a healthy weight loss rate

Does this mean you should only count calories?

The previous explanation points in this weight loss for dummies guide talk a lot about calories. However, that doesn’t mean that the only thing you can do to lose weight is eat less calories.

You can also make your body burn more calories both short and long term or absorb less calories from your food.

One of the most popular ways to make your body use more calories is exercising. By increasing the intensity of your movements and doing these intense movements for longer you use more energy.

Different exercise categories explained

Exercise dummies ofen think that all workouts help you lose weight in the same way. While they all ultimately try to raise the amount of calories you use, they do it in different ways. Knowing this distinction can help you lose more weight.

All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body these exercise categories impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.

Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.

The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. Depending on the situation one or the other can be better.

Weight lifting

Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor of how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning less calories with the same habits.

Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain weight of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same weight of fat.

This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the amount of calories you burn 24/7.

weight lifting for dummies

Cardio and HIIT

Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.

This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.

HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.

HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased calorie-burning effect for a while after you stop the exercise.

Do this for long term weight loss

So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.

For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.

You can also do both. The extra muscle you build will help you get more out of your cardio workout.


Weight loss dummies often forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.

If you really don’t like doing only weight lifting, chances are you won’t stick to it. In that case, you might want to choose a cardio workout.

The next step for weight loss dummies

Now you have a high-level overview of weight loss it’s time to start taking specific action.

When you start out you won’t always know what the healthier food choices are. What the best workouts are. Or what habits make you burn more calories.

The key is to keep learning and adapting your lifestyle until you hit your weight loss goal.

One thing you can do to shorten the amount of time and effort it takes to lose weight is following expert advice. You can schedule a call with me here to get you to your weight loss goals.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.