Tag Archives: Weight loss

What’s in a Replacement?

I have been very conscious of the source and quality of the food that I prepare for Diane and I, especially over the last year, having switched to a Low-Carb way-of-eating.  I find the health benefits of this approach far outweigh the cost of better quality foods and the breaking of old eating habits. I have become a fat-burning athlete that doesn’t need continuous high-carb supplements to perform. I’m not hungry all the time, and I get to eat all those great-tasting foods like eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks and green vegetables. It is a  great transition from hunger cravings at 10 am, crashing in the afternoon and always wanting more to eating when I am hungry, controlling my weight without extreme effort, and better overall attitude and motivation.

One of the key ideas of this low-carb approach is that you restrict all carbs (sugars, grains, starches) and focus on getting enough quality protein to support your lean-body mass (LBM). Once you have enough protein, you then eat good fats to satisfy your hunger and provide the remaining calories.   Notice that the only limitation is on the amount of carbs in my diet (<30g / day). Everything else is not restricted (including total calories). For me (LBM ~60 Kg) I should get at least 120g of protein in my diet per day to support my bodies needs, going over is ok, but less than 120g is bad. Eating less proteins  means that my body must take protein from existing tissues to provide the needed amount (i.e. lose muscle).  The amount of fat can vary also… if you don’t eat enough fat to provide enough calories to support your daily calorie expenditure, you will lose weight as you get the required calories from body fat. If you eat more, you will get the calories from your diet and maintain your weight.  See Volek and Phinney “The Art and Science of Low-Carb Performance” and others.  From Volek and Phinney:

How Much Fat
As you adjust your body weight and training intensity, your consumption of carbohydrates and protein will remain fairly stable despite changes in goals and activity levels, whereas how much fat you consume will
be dictated by your energy demands, body weight and composition goals, and satiety.
If you want to lose weight, the total amount of fat consumed will be reduced. If weight loss is not a goal, your dietary fat
needs to be maintained at a level that matches your energy expenditure, thus holding your body weight stable.
The only thing that stands between you and full access to your body fat stores is a brief period of adaptation to a low carbohydrate
diet. We hope it is apparent that a low carbohydrate diet that allows you to optimally access your fat stores and increases mitochondrial fat
oxidation is rational ( AND optimal )
Think about it – if about 20% of your daily energy comes from protein and 5% from carbs, where’s the other 75% of your energy going to come from? The answer, of course, is ‘fat’. ( AND ) Yes, when you are losing weight (i.e., shrinking body fat stores), some of what you burn does not need to be supplied by your diet.

There are plenty of great protein sources out there:   grassfed meats such as beef, pork, chicken, bison, etc.; eggs (nature’s perfect food); and the occasional snack of nuts (almonds, pistachios).  But how do you get  quick and easy protein into your diet?  One way is a protein shake sometimes referred to as meal-replacment shakes.  There are several products available that make protein shakes— but be careful. The ingredients list on these products doesn’t fit the “real food, healthy food and no diets or quick fixes”  requirement as noted in Dani Stout’s blog “Ancestral-nutrition.com.”  Dani Strong has evaluated several of the more popular protein products. She describes Herbalife as:

the diet recommended by Herbalife is not only unhealthy, but also promotes disease. I mean really, I can’t even count the ingredients in the junk above. Among them are hydrogenated soy, canola and cottonseed oils, margarine, autolyzed yeast extract (also known as MSG), artificial flavors, wheat protein and corn syrup.

( See more at: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/herbalife-is-a-scam/#sthash.CamnAJsI.dpuf)

Looking at the ingredients in Isagenix, Dani Stout notes:

Below are common ingredients found in Isagenix products:

  • rancid vegetable oils
  • gluten
  • soy
  • agave syrup
  • isolated fructose additives
  • fractionated palm kernel oil corn
  • synthetic vitamins and minerals that are not bioavailable

( See more at: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/an-unbiased-review-of-isagenix/#sthash.ZviZT9cg.dpuf)

Heard enough? Maybe not, another popular meal replacement product is from Advocare, Dani Stout notes that there is not much difference between Advocare and the other two. Advocare products contain soy, fructose, sugar, corn syrup, beet syrup, sucralose, inositol, palm kernel oil, vannillin, maltodextrin and the catchall “natural and artificial flavor.”  What is that?! Per Dani Stout:

According to the FDA,

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.

This means that MSG, GMOs and a ton of other sketchy ingredients can be listed as “natural and artificial” flavors.

( See more at: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/an-unbiased-review-of-advocare/#sthash.2PlARRDj.dpuf)

After reading these reviews, I think you’ll choose better. But what is better?

I find for a simple high-protein snack a hard-boiled egg does nicely — easy to bring with you, keeps well and is individually wrapped. Has 6g of protein, 5g of fat and very low carb (.6g) per large egg.  Hammer Nutrition’s Whey powder is also good and free of bad ingredients. There are other whey powders both flavored and unflavored that are good. Look at the ingredients list.

Another good choice is to make your own protein shake. This recipe is easy to make, no artificial anything, no GMO, no processed sugars and less carbs than the commercial products (From Dani Stout, with my changes):

2 Egg yolks (farm raised, antibiotic free) (we raise our own!)

1 Cup whole milk

1 scoop whey isolate powder (such as Hammer Nutrition’s Whey)

2 Tbs Great Lakes Gelatin

Nutrition Facts: Makes 2  ~1/2 cup servings, per serving: 192 calories, 8.7g Fat, 21.1g Protein, 7g Carb.

I will often  make a protein coffee in the morning — 8oz coffee, 1 TBS MCT Oil, 1 Scoop of Hammer Whey, 2 TBS Great Lakes Beef Gelating and a TBS of heavy whipping cream. Mix it all together and you have 244 calories, 20.5g fat, 1.0g Carbs, and 23g protein.  Kind of like a tasty and healthy latte with a kick (but no sugar)! Satisfying and easy to do when you want something quickly.

Here’s to your health!


Build Lean Body Mass!

More reasons to focus on building lean body mass, not losing weight and fat per se.  The health benefits of maintaining and improving your muscle mass are many… watch this video and see what I mean:

 The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease — Jamie Scott

Art by jacques gamelin


Turn It Upside Down!

The USDA “Food Pyramid” has been around for 21 years, based on the dietary recommendations of the late 1950’s and official recommendations from the USDA in 1977. But data shows that  the population of the world is the most obese that it has ever been.  Seems that the low fat diet plan is not working (see the chart below), doesn’t it?  Have you ever wondered why our grandparents ate all the bad stuff but weren’t obese?  I did.  As it turns out, there is a lot of new research that says they were right and that the low-fat, low cholesterol, and no saturated fat diet is actually causing the obesity epidemic along with several other modern  problems.DSCF3700

My grandmother was a great cook, not a five-star restaurant chef, but she made foods that we all enjoyed and were better than you can find in any restaurant these days. Why?  Because she used what she had, all natural foods including fish and game meats that my grandfather hunted, cooked in butter and lard.  Lard? Yep. She made the best fried (in-lard)  fish with corn-meal batter that I have ever had. Hands down! When her freezer got too full of fish, she would have a fish-fry and invite all the family and friends.

One of my favorite memories of her is the Thanksgiving dinners, where she would make each person’s favorite dish. All at the same time and all excellent. Sometimes for 11+ family members who came for the dinner. You would have thought that our family would be all overweight and in bad health from all that tasty, high-fat food.   But that was not the case.  My best description of my family’s diet philosophy was “everything is ok, just in moderation.”  It was high in everything, low in nothing and all made from scratch. We hadn’t yet heard of the food pyramid. As it turns out, there is now a lot of good scientific research to say that the food pyramid is upside down.  In this and later blog posts, I’ll explain.

Dr. Tim Noakes (source: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a follower of Dr. Tim Noake’s (University of Cape Town professor of exercise and sports physiology) books and writings for a couple of years now. Dr. Noakes is the author of several books that challenge the general notions and commercialized hype that rules the sports world. See the “Lore of Running” and “Waterlogged” which I have discussed before.  His research into human performance and physiology is very well respected.  He has debunked several widely-accepted ideas including the idea that you must drink to excess (promoted by the sports-drink industry) to be able to perform well in endurance events.

His latest research push is into the impact and efficacy of the low-fat dietary recommendations that were introduced in 1977 which promoted the following (from www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines):  Increase carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of calories while decreasing dietary fat intake to no more than 30 percent of calories, with a reduction in intake of saturated fat, and recommended approximately equivalent distributions among saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats to meet the 30 percent target. They also recommended to decrease cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day, sugar intake to 15 percent of calories, and to decrease salt intake to 3 g per day.

The USDA’s original food pyramid from 1992.

In 1992 the USDA published the now famous “Food Pyramid” seen to the left.   These recommendations have been adopted around the world and the words “low-fat” are on everything in the grocery store from cookies to yogurt to salad dressings.  The result was the demonizing of several common foods including butter, lard, eggs,  and full-fat dairy products. The push was towards grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.  Butter and lard were replaced with margarine (read: trans-fat), vegetable oils and polyunsaturated fats. Eggs and bacon were out.  Lean turkey was in. Much of our food supply became wheat and corn-based because grains were subsidized by the USDA and therefore cheap and plentiful.  Even the livestock are fed corn. Every product on the store shelf became labeled as low-fat and grain-based. Try to buy a non-low fat yogurt in your grocery store, there are one or two containers among the 100’s of low fat yogurts (which all have added sugar, by the way). Most low-fat products have added sugar to make them palatable, often in the form of the very cheap but very bad High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Dr. Noakes became interested in the low fat vs low-carbohydrate diet issue  when his own weight and pre-diabetic condition  became a problem. Although he has run more than 70 marathons, as he aged he was unable to control his weight.  In this article he explains his justification  for moving to a Low-Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF) diet.  He is carbohydrate-resistant which makes him unable to tolerate high carbohydrate diet.  It is ironice that LCHF was the recommended method of losing weight (called “Banting” after William Banting) from the 1860’s to 1959, when it was replaced by the Low-Fat High Carbohydrate (LFHC), so called “Heart Healthy” diet (due to Ancel Keys’  flawed analysis that led to the claim that cholesterol causes heart disease).

Obesity vs Low-Fat Guidelines.

So how have the low-fat, low cholesterol, high carbohydrate recommendations worked out? A very compelling article summarizes the correlation and reasons why the “Low Fat War” was a mistake.  The correlation is uncanny, but that is not proof. Recent scientific studies have shown that the Low-Fat guidelines are indeed wrong.  In addition, many health problems that are epidemic these days are being attributed to the HCLF lifestyle.

I have never had a big problem with weight, but have always been annoyed that my weight would fluctuate 10 lbs (a lot on my small frame) when I stepped back from intensive training.  The other issue is that no matter how many miles I would ride or run, I never seemed to lose that last bit of fat around my middle. In mid-September I decided to try reducing carbs in my diet and to keep track of the results. Studies have shown that weight can be easily maintained on 100-150 g/day and reduced on 50-100 g/day without restricting calories drastically. Going less than 50 g/day will make losing weight easy. Check out authoritynutrition.com‘s articles for good advice on this subject.  In the US, many individuals get 40% of their calories from sugar, and eat more than 600 g/day of carbs.  No wonder we are an obese society. Studies have shown low-carb diets are better at reducing fat than low-fat diets.

In one study, 53 overweight/obese women were randomized to a low-carb group or a calorie restricted low-fat group, for 6 months. (http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/88/4/1617.long)

Initially I just lowered the overall carb total, then after a couple of weeks I went to less than 150g/day.  Initially, I was craving carbs, but then when I realized that I was having more motivation, less 10:00 AM sugar lows and cravings for cinnamon raisin bread I decided to get down to under 100 g/day of carbs.  I have eliminated almost all breads, potatoes, pastas and other grain-based foods. Added sugar, honey and other forms of sugar are totally out.   After a couple of weeks, the carb cravings went away and I actually was less hungry. Although this is not a scientific result, I have lost 5-6 lbs (~4% of starting weight) while eating more meats, eggs, cheese and generally higher fat foods. This is while at the same time not riding or running significantly since the end of September (my usual fall hiatus from training).  In past years my weight would have been 7 to 8 lbs. higher during this time of year. So this year I am essentially 11-14 lbs lighter than last year when I took time off.  I think that is very significant!

In future posts, I will talk about what my research into the literature on the LCHF lifestyle has found including the health benefits. I  will cover sugar,  grains, eating fat to lose fat and why a “calorie is not a calorie” among other topics. I think you will find it interesting and eye-opening. It has been for me.

Stay tuned….

…9 and 10 complete the weight loss list!

Have you ever noticed that when we write things down they somehow become more real? The transcription of a thought or idea to paper can transform a mere intention to a commitment. The written word is enduring. We can come back to it and stare at it. It can be a constant reminder.  This is exactly what I found when I started my 2 week food log. Recording every little thing I ate or drank, everyday achieved two things. First, it laid out my intake in black and white – there was no escaping the reality of my diet “quality English: A Snickers candy bar, broken in half.and quantity”.  Secondly, it made me think twice ( Ask Why?) about eating something because I knew I had to record it. I could look at the record for a day, see that I had made good choices for breakfast and lunch. Did I really want my next entry to be “Snickers bar”?  (What if someone walked by and read my log? Yikes!) Tip #9 – Monitor Intake,  is a highly effective and proven strategy for helping you maintain the healthy lifestyle and eating habits you’ve adopted.  Yes, it can be tedious, so focus on the benefit – and no excuses! If you’re not the pencil & paper type, you can always download your favorite food log app ensuring quick and easy logging wherever you and your SmartPhone go.

Completing our list, coming in at the tenth spot, is Be Real. Start Now.  It’s great that you’ve decided to abandon you current routine of skipping breakfast, super-sizing your fast food lunch and chugging a litre soda at dinner. But don’t think you can just flip a switch and replace those meals with some green puree from the blender! BE REAL! Everybody could do something like that for a week, perhaps a month, which can easily result in weight loss. But the question is, can you sustain that change? You don’t just want to lose weight, you want to make permanent lifestyle changes that will carry you well into the future.  A plan that constantly denies you of certain foods typically results in a plan you can’t adhere to!  Don’t be a saboteur!  And  Start Now.  No time like the present. Don’t wait until after the wedding feast. Don’t start after you get back from vacation, or once Thanksgiving is over. Start now, with realistic changes and you’ll find managing your diet and exercise throughout the calendar year will be surprisingly doable!

Did you miss the other tips in this weight loss series? Jump to them now using the links, and let us know what tips you would add to the list!

Find tip #8-Be Optimistic! and #7-Know Thy Friend in Lose weight with Tips 7 & 8,  #6-Turn Off the TV and #5-Ask Why? in Tips 5 and 6 on the weight loss list, and tip #4-Eat Breakfast! #3-Check the Scale, #2-Portion Control, and #1-Exercise, in Weight Loss Tips – can you name all 10?

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Lose weight with tips 7 and 8!

Remember when you were a kid, and your mother gave you a hard time about one of your friends? “I don’t want you hanging out with him. He’s a bad influence!” she’d say. Or what about all those “dull programs” your dad wanted you to be part of because the “smart, good kids” belong to those. We’d be annoyed because “our friend wasn’t like that”, and our parents were simply judging the book by its cover. On the other hand, the parental view was simply about promoting positive social  associations, to best of their ability. And this brings us to weight loss Tip #7 – Know Thy Friend.  In a 2007 report on a study conducted by Cristakis and Fowler which followed 12,000 people over a 30 year period, they concluded that obesity spreads through social ties. That is, overweight people tend to have overweight friends. The report attributes this to the person’s perception of the acceptability of obesity. So the thought process works like this – “if my best friend is obese and my sister is overweight, but I love each of them… maybe it’s not so bad if I gain weight or if I’m obese too.”  If your overweight friends are inactive, eat out a lot or  eat too much, then it is more likely you’ll do the same. At least when you are with them. So what can you do? Stick by your friends, but encourage some new behaviors. Invite your friend to join a gym with you. Become workout buddies. Introduce more walking or biking when you get together. Walk to the movie theater or bike to a park for some Ultimate Frisbee!

Whether you’re talking about adding more activity into your daily routine or modifying your diet – Change is hard. Tip #8 – Be Optimistic! reminds us that maintaining a positive, can-do, attitude will make you successful.  Set smaller, realistic goals for yourself so you can easily see your progress and feel the success. When you maintain control and a fighting spirit, eliminating negative behaviors and losing weight will be your new reality!

Only two more tips to go. Don’t jeopardize the healthy, active life you want to live! Be sure to review tip #6-Turn Off the TV and #5-Ask Why? in Tips 5 and 6 on the weight loss list, and tip #4-Eat Breakfast! #3-Check the Scale, #2-Portion Control, and #1-Exercise, in Weight Loss Tips – can you name all 10?

Until next Friday, … keep your body in motion!

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Sports Drinks — Who Needs Them?

I’ve been seeing a lot of commentary on the effectiveness of the mass-market sports drinks that make claims of improved performance and stamina. But do they really work?  One researcher, Tim Noakes interviewed by the BBC recently says for the average person just trying to lose weight and gain fitness, “you’ll lose more weight and go faster if you just drink water.”  Why?   Many of these drinks have the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar or more  in each 24 oz.  bottle (which is the same amount of  sugar that is in a can of sweetened soda).  I ask, in 30 minutes of  exercise do you burn up the 148 calories from 8 teaspoons of sugar? And isn’t the point of  doing the exercise to burn carbohydrates from your fat stores anyway, so that you can lose weight?

A 32 ounce Gatorade has  4 servings of 50 calories each. So if you drink that bottle  while you are doing your run, you have just had 200 calories, 10% of your 2000 calorie daily intake.  In one drink!  And I bet none of us take 200 calories out of the rest of  our daily intake to offset the calories we drink while exercising.
Notice the source of the carbs:  sucrose syrup (table sugar dissolved in water) and  glucose-fructose syrup. Sugar cane and sugar beet seem to be the typical substitutes for high-fructose corn syrup which has fast disappeared from labels following bad press.  A Princeton University study  linked high-fructose corn syrup to obesity and related chronic diseases.  The Mayo Clinic is not as convinced, but does say that women should not have more than 100 calories (6 tsp)   and men should not have more than 150 calories (9 tsp) from refined sugars in a day.  That is hard to do in today’s environment of processed foods, sugary drinks, and large portions.

The Mayo Clinic report also states:

“Some research studies have linked consumption of large amounts of any type of added sugar — not just high-fructose corn syrup — to such health problems as weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition, and increased triglyceride levels, which can boost your heart attack risk.”

Clearly, we should be careful when adding sugary carb replacement drinks to our diets for health reasons, but do they really improve our performance?

The Oxford University study referenced in the BBC article looked at 40 years of studies of the effectiveness of sports drinks for the average athlete or person just trying to stay fit. The result: they could find no benefit for the typical non-elite  athlete.   I tend to agree, since the typical runner or cyclist  is focused on fitness, not competition, and does not train for more than an hour a day nor at maximum intensity for long periods.  For short exercise durations  (<30 minutes to an hour) no supplemental carbs should be needed, your body should have plenty of those stored in fat.  Let’s burn that.  Drink water instead. For longer exercise durations, if you are going to use carb replacement drinks, look for ones with healthier sugars such as maltodextrin, xylitol and stevia.   These sugars are processed more slowly by the body, absorbed at a more constant rate, and don’t overstress your liver and insulin levels.

Next topic: how much you should drink.

Tips 5 and 6 on the weight loss list

Last week in Weight Loss Tips – can you name all 10?, we covered #1-Exercise, #2-Portion Control, #3-Check the Scale and my favorite, #4-Eat Breakfast!

This brings us to Tip #5.  Imagine for a moment that fueling your body is like a manufacturing process. Successful businesses understand the value and benefit of lean, optimized processes. They strive to eliminate the “muda” or waste because it simply drives their costs up. Lean thinkers have learned to look at processes and ask “why”?  Why is so much scrap produced in step 5? Why is material sitting in the queue for 5 hours? Why does it take 5 days to transport parts? Why this? Why that? Why??

And by now you have surely guessed that Tip #5 is… Ask Why?  Why am I eating right now? Is it because I’m bored? Am I eating because I’m stressed or frustrated? Am I depressed? If your answer frequently matches one of these, then congratulations! You’ve identified waste (emotional eating) in your process that has been wreaking havoc on your weight management plan!  We need to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. And find other forms of relief, preferably legal ones,  for stress, boredom and sadness that don’t include food. Becoming mindful, lean thinkers when it comes to eating can quickly translate into a leaner you!

Tip #6 – Turn Off the TV, is closely related to 5.  Unless your doing sit-ups or jumping jacks during Modern Family, typical TV time is sedentary time, where minimal calories are being burned. And compounding the problem,  TV time is snacking time.  Being glued to the tube results in mindless consumption of food. Mindless because your fixation on the program causes you to lose track of why you’re eating and how much you have eaten. Even if you started eating because you were hungry, you’ll continue eating simply due to distraction. According to the  National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) people who have successfully managed their weight watched, on average, less than 10 hours of TV a week.

Now you’re armed with 6 out of 10 tips to help you manage your weight. Check back  next Friday, when we explore 7 & 8!

Until then, … keep your body in motion!

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Weight Loss Tips – can you name all 10?

Most of us can guess that Exercise will be on the list along with Portion Control, but the tried-n-true tips occupying positions 3-10 are a lot less obvious. At least they were to me when I was first learning about this as part of my GFI Certification.  So let’s start with two tips that border on “counter-intuitive.”

3. Check the Scale.  How many of you have been told to throw away that bathroom scale!  If all I did was gauge my weight by the fit of my clothes, a few additional pounds could easily take up residence around my hips and my forgiving jeans, the ones that start out snug in the morning and go expand-o on me during the day, would never know the difference. And what about the 2% of the population (yes I made that figure up so don’t try to verify it) that only wear dresses? They would never feel the tightening waistband! So it makes sense to weigh yourself. Based on studies conducted by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) weighing yourself once a week has a positive contribution to weight control.  A weekly, not daily, check enables a person to keep tabs on small weight increases without becoming obsessive over the numbers, and affording them a timely opportunity to take some corrective action if warranted.

4. EAT Breakfast.  Eat to lose weight! Talk about music to my ears! Eating breakfast has NEVER been an issue for me. I ALWAYS want to eat breakfast. I always have the time and appetite for breakfast. (Those who know me well can confirm that my favorite meal to eat out is breakfast!) And of course, this is a good thing since NWCR studies have also shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than non-breakfast eaters. What’s more, there also appears to be a link between eating breakfast and having a lower incidence of chronic disease.  Why is this the case? Eating (a healthy) breakfast typically curbs your hunger later in the day. If you can avoid the “I’m starving!” come noon time, you’ll likely eat less at lunch. The other downside to skipping breakfast is that it increases your insulin response, which increases fat storage… ending in weight gain.  Other advantages to eating breakfast include more energy – energy that will get your mind and body active, and making the choice to eat breakfast has been linked to making healthier food choices throughout the day, with more nutritious and lower fat foods being top choices.

So there you have it. Four of the ten “tried-n-true” tips for weight management. Tune in the next 3 Fridays to see the complete tips list unfold!

Until then, … keep your body in motion!

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Exercise myth #1 listed is especially important! You can’t spot burn fat people! And of course there’s #10… relationship between exercise and diet.

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I hate math, but this formula is easy!

I’ve never been into counting calories. I like to think that’s because my weight hasn’t varied too much through the years, but it’s more likely related to my math phobia.  This is quite the stark contrast to my friend, who can rattle off the calorie count of my last meal within 20 seconds of me describing it. But the real question is should you count calories? I’ve been hearing more and more about not counting calories, but instead, “eating clean”, making smarter food choices, and increasing physical activity. All of those recommendations make sense and I support them, but can you actually ignore the calorie component? I don’t think so, at least not completely. Luckily for me, the formula for weight management is VERY simple: calories in – calories out! Which means consuming more calories (of even smart, clean foods and drinks) than your body expends each day, can result in weight gain.

Knowing where you fall in the “calories in – calories out” equation can help you make the right modifications to your current eating and exercise routines. Let’s have a look at this using my personal data to first establish what my actual daily energy needs are, and not what my stomach says, in order to maintain my current weight. I‘ll use the Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation which takes age, gender, weight, height and level of activity into consideration.

Energy Needs = Resting Metabolic Rate (breathing, circulation…) x Activity Level.  Now here comes the math… RMR = 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 4.92 x age – 161.  (Men: replace the -161 with +5). My stats (116 lbs., 5’1”, and 51 yrs) yield an RMR of 1083. Multiply that by the appropriate activity level (Little = 1.2, Light = 1.375, Moderate = 1.55, Very Active = 1.725, Extra Active = 1.9). If I rate my activity as Moderate, then my daily caloric intake should be around 1600 calories.  That number alone may surprise you, so it’s worth the calculation. The next step is to keep track of what you eat and drink for 1-2 weeks, then figure out the caloric value associated with it by going to www.MyPyramid.gov or any another reliable nutrition site.

According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, if you’re looking to avoid gaining weight as you age, you need to decrease daily intake by 50-100 calories, largely due to limited or more restrictive activity. If you’re looking to lose weight, creating a 500 calorie per day deficit via diet and/or exercise will do the trick.

Moral of the story – too many calories, even from good foods, is bad when you’re consuming more than your body expends. So don’t obsess over calorie counting, instead, understand what your intake should be, gauge each meal accordingly and maintain that active lifestyle!

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