When I blog about topics related to weight or weight loss, I’m not trying to get you to focus on losing weight. However, sometimes weight is necessary to talk about, such as when disregulated eaters become frustrated that they’re eating more “normally” yet aren’t losing weight. The answer, as you might expect, is complicated.

We’ve been told repeatedly that there are 3,500 calories in a pound, so we think that if we cut back by that many, we should lose a pound, right? An article, “Still not getting it?” (Nutrition Action Healthletter, 6/12), explains why we’re wrong. When we decrease calorie consumption, our resting metabolism slows down to conserve and burn fewer calories. It’s vital to take this information into account if you’re concerned with weight loss. Of course, it’s smarter to not to think about it and work solely on eating “normally.”

Most of us have heard this metabolic explanation before but, according to the article, here’s what else is going on. As you lose weight, your body needs fewer and fewer calories to move a lighter body. That’s why energy expenditure charts show that heavier people burn more calories than leaner people. The body works harder to move a heftier load. So you have a metabolism that registers starvation and, therefore, slows down, coupled with less caloric expenditure due to the weight you’ve lost.

The article stresses that we need to dramatically change our expectations about weight loss: “We have a new weight-loss rule of thumb, which is 10 calories per day per pound of weight change. About half of this weight change will occur after one year and about 95% will occur after three years.” Another point the article makes is that for some people exercise decreases appetite and for others it increases it. It seems that our individual metabolisms are entirely unique. One size truly does not fit all!

My point in writing about weight-loss expectations is to help you become more realistic. Many of you do quite well at learning to eat more “normally,” then derail yourselves by obsessing about not losing weight which all too easily can disregulate your eating. So here’s my advice. Become more active because it’s healthy for your body—joints, longevity, heart, etc.—and mind. Exercise as an adjunct to practicing the rules of “normal” eating while becoming more emotionally healthy and learning the skills we all need to negotiate life effectively. That’s all you have to do, really. Weight loss is an awfully complicated subject. Eating is a good deal easier because you have predictable guidelines to follow—such as the rules of “normal” eating.