The Mathematics of Calorie Control

All diet books and food plans consist of lists of rules for weight control in addition to regulations concerning “foods to consume” and “foods to avoid”. What, then, is the secret of success? The answer is simple. Reduction in intake of calories contributes to reduction in weight. If you look at all diets and weight loss plans minutely, the underlying common factor is the aspect of calorie control.

How many calories to consume?
Calorie needs are very individual; they depend on your weight, age, sex, activity level, metabolic rate and lifestyle habits. On an average, women require around 2000 calories a day, and men 2500 a day.

What about athletes?
An athlete would need more calories. Depending on the sport and goals, he would need to workout his calorie expenditure and add that to his daily caloric needs.

What do you do if you need to lose weight?
To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. Weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is ideal. To lose 1 pound a week you need to cut back on 500 calories a day. That is a total of 3500 calories a week. The best way to achieve this is by reducing your calorie intake and increasing calorie expenditure through exercise.

If you do without your 250-calorie chocolate bar and burn 250-calories by running 3 miles, you will create a calorie deficit of 500 calories. Do this everyday and you will have a deficit of 3500 calories in one week.

How many calories should you consume to lose weight?
To lose weight, the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends a minimum consumption of 1200 to 1500 calories per day for women and 1800 to 2000 calories per day for men.

Caution: If your calorie consumption is less than 1000 a day, your body is in danger of not receiving an adequate supply of nutrients. The body then enters a state of semi starvation, lowering the metabolic rate and depleting the body of its energy stores.

Can you skip meals and consume most of the calories during dinner time?
That’s not a wise decision. You are physically active during the day, so the body requires more calories during the day than at night. Redistribute your calorie intake throughout the day so that your body is constantly fuelled and your metabolism is raised.

When counting calories, is it necessary to consider the nutritional value of foods?
When you plan your meals, look at the caloric content and body’s nutritional requirement simultaneously. You can’t base a diet or food plan solely on calorie counting. The danger in this is that you might not end up following a “well-balanced” eating plan. The body needs nutrients from various food groups. The food you consume should include calories from proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Does that mean giving up indulgences?
No human being should have to live without indulgences and those freshly baked goodies, forever. If you indulge during lunch, cut back on dinner. Balance your calorie intake. This way, even though you give in to those occasional cravings you are still eating smart.

What food group does alcohol come under? What is the average calorie content of alcohol?
Alcohol is neither a fat, nor a carbohydrate, nor a protein. But it is a source of empty calories comprising some attributes of fats and carbohydrates. One gram of alcohol is approximately 7 calories, which the body utilizes as an energy source.

10-simple strategies to control weight
Choose foods that are healthy and yet low in calories when you plan your meals.
Here is a list of 10-smart strategies to follow if you are watching you weight.

1. Planning
• Set a goal. Commit time and effort to achieving the goal.
• Plan to limit food intake.
• Eat meals and snacks and scheduled times.

2. Shopping
• Shop after eating.
• Shop from a list.
• Avoid packaged foods with added colours or preservatives.

3. Holidays and parties
• Cut back on alcohol.
• Eat a snack before parties.
• Do not get discouraged by an occasional set back.

4. Eating behavior
• Put the fork down when you are chewing food.
• Eat slowly.
• Pause in the middle of a meal to check if you are still hungry.
• Do not read or watch television while eating.

5. Meal times
• Leave the table immediately after eating.
• Keep serving dishes off the table.
• Use smaller plates, dishes and utensils.

6. Monitoring
• Use a diet and exercise diary to identify progress or shortcomings.
• Make changes that you can handle.

7. Exercise
• Plan your workout sessions.
• Increase exercise intensity, duration or frequency, gradually.
• Vary exercise routines to avoid boredom.

8. Be active
• Increase routine activity. For example, use stairs instead of the elevator.

9. Positive thinking
• Think about progress, not short comings.
• Feel good about getting into healthy habits.
• Counter negative thoughts with positive statements.

10. Reward
• Give yourself a well-deserved treat – buy an outfit, go for a haircut.

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