Why Weight Loss Is More Than Just the Pounds

August 5, 2021
Why Weight Loss Is More Than Just the Pounds

In this article:

  • Losing 5 to 10% of body weight can improve heart health, sleep, joint pain, and liver health.
  • Weight loss can improve energy, mood, and more.
  • How do you know how many calories a day you need to lose weight?
  • Tracking non-scale victories (NSV) can help with weight loss.

Millions of Americans want to lose weight. If you are one of them, you know that it is hard. You might delay taking the first steps to losing weight because you dread the diet. Or you may not want to find out your starting weight. Or you might worry that the scale will not show your progress.

But weight loss does not need to be about deprivation. It does not need to be solely about dropping pounds. It is about health. It is about how you feel. And you do not need to feel deprived to lose weight. Weight loss is more than just the pounds. Here is why.

What Small Amounts of Weight Loss Can Do

How much “extra weight” are you carrying around? Is it 10, 40, or 100 lb.? The amount of extra pounds you have can seem like a lot to lose. But, you do not need to lose it all to see health benefits. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that losing 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve these factors, which are linked to heart health.

The CDC also says that a small amount of weight loss can lower pain from arthritis. Harvard Health Publishing says that fatty liver disease can decrease with weight loss. A study in Sleep found that losing 11 to 23 lb. was linked to less sleep apnea.

Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) has a goal of 5% weight loss in a year. In a study in NEJM, people with prediabetes who lost at least 5% of their body weight with healthy lifestyle changes had a 58% lower risk of developing diabetes in the next 3 years.

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More Reasons Why Maintaining a Healthy Weight Is Important

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tips for getting started with weight loss. Saying your reasons for wanting to lose weight can increase motivation.

So, why else might you want to drop pounds, besides improving physical health? 

  • Live longer. A study in Nature: International Journal of Obesity looked at life expectancy and weight. Overweight or obese people lose 3 to 10 years of life, on average.
  • Do more. Do you want to chase toddlers around? Do you want to get on the floor with the grandkids? Have you been wanting to surf or rock climb? Being active can be easier when you lose weight.
  • Be more comfortable. It feels good when clothes are not too tight. Airplanes are more fun when you fit into the seat. The world may be easier to navigate when you lose weight.
  • Be happier. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition has a meta-analysis of studies on depression and obesity. The analysis found that people who are obese are 32% more likely to have depression.

How Many Calories a Day to Lose Weight

Weight loss is about calorie balance. How many calories a day does it take to lose weight? It depends on a few things.

  • How much you weigh now.
  • How active you are.
  • Your age and gender.
  • How fast you want to lose weight.

Losing 1 lb. a week is a common goal. For that, you would need to take in 500 calories a day less than you use. Lark DPP may set your goal at ½ lb. a week. That means an average daily deficit of 250 calories.

Dropping calories too low can lead to rapid weight loss. But it can be unhealthy. Plus, it can prevent you from forming sustaining habits. This means you can regain weight after stopping a very low-calorie diet. 

Experts recommend losing no more than 2 lb. a week. That means creating an average deficit of 1,000 calories a day. The CDC says that people who lose weight gradually have a better chance of keeping it off.

A calorie counter can tell you how many calories a day you should have to lose weight. Lark DPP gives an estimate. As you track your meals, Lark gives feedback. Lark recognizes that it is not healthy to obsess over calories. That is why calorie counting is only part of a weight loss plan.

Mayo Clinic has a calculator that can estimate the number of calories you need to maintain weight. Then you can subtract calories to find out your goal calorie intake for weight loss.

  • Subtract 250 calories a day to lose ½ lb a week.
  • Subtract 500 calories a day to lose 1 lb a week.
  • Subtract 1,000 calories a day to lose 2 lb a week.

These are 20 ways to cut 100 to 200 calories.

  1. Walk an extra mile.
  2. Order small instead of medium fries.
  3. Choose water instead of a sugar-sweetened beverage such as a soft drink.
  4. Have mustard instead of mayo or special sauce.
  5. Get your burrito “naked” in a bowl instead of in a tortilla.
  6. Eat 1 cup of pasta instead of 2 cups.
  7. Use ½ cup of tomato sauce instead of ½ cup Alfredo sauce.
  8. Have two slices of thin-crust instead of regular or thick-crust pizza.
  9. Make a breakfast sandwich on an English muffin instead of a bagel.
  10. Have a cup of Cheerios instead of a half-cup of granola.
  11. Order chicken noodle soup instead of creamy chicken soup.
  12. Use 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette instead of 3 tablespoons of creamy dressing such as ranch or Thousand Island.
  13. Add chicken breast instead of bacon and cheese to a salad.
  14. Have 3 cups of air-popped popcorn instead of a handful of crackers.
  15. Crunch a large apple instead of munching a half-cup of raisins.
  16. Serve steamed vegetables instead of rice or pasta as a side dish.
  17. Top a baked potato with non-fat Greek yogurt and broccoli instead of sour cream and bacon.
  18. Make meatloaf with lean ground turkey and oats instead of ground beef and bread or cracker crumbs.
  19. Dip vegetables instead of chips.
  20. Try a half-cup of ice cream with berries instead of a full cup of ice cream.

Non-Scale Victories

Non-scale victories, or NSVs, are wins in weight loss besides losing pounds. These are examples of NSVs.

  • Your clothes are looser.
  • You are doing more at the gym.
  • You can walk faster or longer.
  • You do not crave fast food anymore.
  • You hit nutrition goals such as for increasing whole grains or vegetables or reducing added sugars.
  • You look different from your photo ID that was taken when you were heavier.
  • Your cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar is lower.
  • You have more energy.
  • Someone else notices your weight loss.

These are some reasons why you might want to think about NSVs along with weight loss.

  • Increase motivation. Seeing a lower number on the scale is one source of motivation, but you may need more motivation to stay on track. Recognizing NSVs can keep you motivated to make healthy decisions each day, even when weight fluctuates up.
  • Overcome plateaus. There will be times when weight loss slows or stops. During these periods, it can help to focus on NSV instead of pounds lost. Otherwise, it is easy to get discouraged or give up.
  • Explain lack of weight loss. Body fat can drop without weight loss. Research in International Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that body composition can improve without weight loss. Men in the study who exercised gained muscle, lost fat, and improved health.

There are many reasons to lose extra pounds. And, losing weight has many effects. Plus, the journey itself is life-changing. Weight loss is more than just a number on the scale. 

Are you overweight? Has your doctor recommended that you lose weight? Losing weight can be about more than pounds. It can be a ticket to better health. It can lower risk for diabetes. And it can let you do more of the things you love.

You can lose weight without sacrifice. A few small changes can put you on the right path. As the pounds go down on the scale, you may notice more benefits. Weight loss can increase energy, boost confidence, and improve mood, for example.

The Lark DPP and a connected scale may be available at no cost to you. You can check if your health insurer covers the program. Just click here for a short survey. You could be minutes away from starting your weight loss and health journey with Lark!

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Written by Natalie Stein on August 5, 2021
Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health
10 Habits to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Successfully
10 Habits to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Successfully