One of the reasons many people have trouble losing weight is that they don’t understand the relationship between food, exercise and calories. Generally, people underestimate how many calories are in food and overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise. This may be a recipe for weight gain.
First, let’s talk about calories. A calorie is simply a way to measure energy. In the technical definition, it’s the energy required to raise the temperature of a gram of water by one degree centigrade. However, as we all know, there’s a lot more to it.
Perhaps the most important thing to do when trying to lose weight is develop a thorough understanding of how many calories are coming in, and how many are going out. This may require a bit of research, but it will provide many benefits in the long run, such as when you’re deciding whether to eat that cookie or go on an extra-long walk.
On a practical level, there are about 3,500 calories in a pound. So in order to lose a pound, you need to expend 3,500 more calories than you consume. This can be spread out over a week, a month or even longer. You balance this ledger by making decisions on both sides. More exercise and less food.
There are extreme ways to go about this, but I don’t recommend them. It’s generally accepted that men need between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day; while women require between 1,500 and 2,000. It’s really not a good idea to go too far below these levels, both to maintain health and to achieve weight goals. If the body thinks there’s a famine, the metabolism will slow down to compensate.
Determining how many calories you actually burn in a normal day will also require a little diligence. You can find numerous calculators on the Internet that will help you determine this total. Just as an example. A 50 year old man, who is 5’ 10” and 165 pounds, burns around 1,650 calories a day, without any exercise. A 50 year old woman who is 5’ 6” and 135 pounds burns around 1,400.
Remember, the weight loss game rewards honesty. The more truthful you are when calculating how many calories you take in and expend, the better chance you have of achieving your goals.
This health and wellness tip was provided by Dr. Ray Plodkowski, a nutrition and metabolic specialist at Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management.