Say what? 3500 Calories = 1 Pound

ssi-pictures-chris-003Weight (loss, maintenance or gain), in its simplest form, is a calories game. It is a mathematical equation. The balance between calories in (what we eat) vs calories out (what we burn through daily activities and exercise) affects the number on the scale. In theory, 3,500 calories is equivalent to one pound.

I know…it sounds shocking. To lose 1 pound, we must create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories!

There are 3 ways this can be achieved:

  • Cut these calories from our dietary intake.
  • Burn this amount through exercise.
  •  The MOST ideal way…both reduce caloric intake and increase physical activity.

The effort to change our weight is NOT a sprint…it’s a long distance race. It is NOT recommended to cut more than 500 calories/day. One –two pounds of weight loss/week is considered a safe rate.

The chart below illustrates what to expect in terms of weight loss for number of calories reduced. It is often most helpful to make changes gradually so they will become long-term habits. Although for some, losing 10 lbs in one year may seem painfully slow, it requires the least amount effort. Keeping expectations realistic helps us from getting burnt out and discouraged.

If you are not sure how to manage your calorie balance or need added accountability, you may consider utilizing the help of professionals, such as, a Physical Therapist and/or Registered Dietitian. In the meantime, a good place to start, is tracking your intake and activity. Before we can get to where we would like to be, we need to know where we are.


Approach # of calories cut/day # of calories cut/week # of pounds lost/week # of pounds lost/year
Aggressive 500 3,500 1 ~ 50
Moderate 250 1,750 0.5 ~ 25
Fair 100 700 0.2 ~ 10