Perhaps you have noticed that there are a wide variety of suggested methods to lose weight. 

Weight loss is a multibillion dollar industry.

You can spend a fortune on books, gadgets, food plans and exercise equipment and on and on. 

And, interestingly, it turns out that every claim by every salesperson happens to be the best and only way to “guarantee” weight loss.

I use the term “guarantee” because they do, but don’t think you will necessarily get your money back if it doesn’t work.

I can assure you from personal experience that under some circumstances, they all work and under other circumstances, none of them do. 

Actually, I strongly recommend that you do not even try to lose weight. 

Unless you have the correct mental attitude about a weight loss program, decide to finally do something, once and for all and then, any of them will probably help. 

But, you still have to help yourself for complete success.

Let me cut through all the “red tape” and give you the bottom line. Regardless of the program you try, success will only be reached by remembering four simple words. You can make signs and hang them all over your house.

The secret is “calories-in/calories-out.” That’s it.

No more and no less. And, I’ll bet you already knew that little secret. At least you knew it in your heart, if not in your brain.

Now, some explanation is in order. 

Using our political system as an illustration, Congress passes legislation (some day), the President signs it (some day), and it becomes law. Then the bureaucrats take over and write the enabling regulations, and what started out as several pages (sometimes thousands) becomes thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of regulations that have to be followed.

So, you have calories-in/calories-out as the law and a multitude of regulations to help you. Except that many of the regulations appear to be exact opposites of each other and you, poor dieter, are left with a confusing mess.

The calories-in part seems straightforward. If I tell you not to eat carbohydrates, i.e., bread, cake, sugar etc., and someone else says “well, some carbohydrates are good to eat,” can we both be right?

Fat is bad, unless it is good. Proteins are good, unless they are bad.

Eat breakfast for sure unless it is not really necessary. Eat several small meals a day instead of two or three big ones — seems logical. And, it goes on and on.

Calories-out is just as confusing. The only way I know to get calories out is to use them. That is to “burn” them up with physical activity.

OK, what kind of exercise is the best? Aerobic exercise, like walking, running, bicycling, swimming, etc., uses calories and is good for your heart.

Weight training will build muscles but may increase your weight as your muscles increase in size.

You need to use the calories in part to reduce your fat while you are increasing your muscles.

If you just diet, without exercise, and you lose muscle tissue, you will become weak and people might start kicking sand on you at the beach.

So, please remember that for every bit of “expert” advice you get there are other “experts” who will say the opposite. Also remember that they may both be right — or both wrong.

Just stop eating so much and start exercising and with your mind right and your eye on the goal, it may be “miracle time” for you.

So it was for me. Good luck.

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at

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