Calories count when trying to lose weight

Are you one of the many trying to lose weight?  Many adults in the United States feel they have a few pounds to shed.  Multiple teens also think this way.  Losing weight may help you to feel better.  Joint problems, diabetes, and heart disease may be helped by losing even 10- 15 lbs.

One pound of body fat represents about 3,500 calories.  If you want to lose one pound per week, you need to create a 500 calorie deficit per day by eating less or exercising more or the best bet is to combine a reduction in food AND an increase in exercise.  Food energy is measured in calories.  Calories come from •carbohydrates (4 calories/gram), •protein (4 calories/gram), •fat (9 calories/gram) and •alcohol (7 calories/gram).

One quick way to determine how many calories you need is to multiply your weight by 10.  If you are not too overweight this formula will work for you.  My suggestion is to try the www.mypyramid.gov website and get your personalized plan. This website will also give you a very balanced diet plan to follow each day, with extra calories to enjoy.

Reading the Nutrition Facts label to check on the calories is always educational.  I looked at a container of Nacho Cheese Sauce yesterday to only discover that the small container I thought would be one serving was four, so instead of 7 grams of fat per container there are 28 with 360 calories!  This does not include the chips you would use for dipping.  We all tend to underestimate our portion size so we plan to eat one portion and then eat four or five.

To help with weight loss you may find it very helpful to write down in a log book what you eat and drink for several days.  This will certainly make you aware of how many calories you are taking in.  There are several websites such as Spark People, that you can log your food, drink and activity.  You can then see in print how you did for the day or days.

Normal body functions such as heart beating, sweating, digesting foods and breathing use up your calories each day.  To help use more calories get regular exercise and be as active as you can.  Most people feel better when they get regular exercise and activity.   Lack of exercise is the major contributor to weight gain.  The recommendation for all Americans is a minimum of 150 minutes each week or about 30 minutes 5 days a week.  For weight loss the recommendation doubles to 300 minutes each week or about an hour each day!

If you are not currently exercising, contact your doctor or health care team to determine if it is okay for you to begin a sensible exercise program.

How far will you have to go to burn off your favorite foods? Check out the examples below.

·         1 handful of potato chips is 90 calories and requires 19 minutes of walking at 3.5 miles an hour to use.

·         5 handfuls of potato chips is 450 calories for 96 minutes of walking at 3.5 miles per hour to use up.  This is based on what a 154 lb man would burn so it may take you more or less depending on your weight.

The best diet is one that you can maintain for life.  Both low fat and low carbohydrate diets have been shown to be effective in weight loss.  Over time you need to learn new habits and maintain them to maintain your weight loss.  Exercise has to be a key in the new program as well.

Tips to help you lose weight include:

· Decide what you can do to become more active, set a goal and stick with it.

· Keep a food journal.  Track what you eat and drink for a few days and be honest.  Just because you did not record a food does not mean you did not eat it.

· Pay attention to what you eat by looking at every bite.  Turn off the television or computer when you eat.

· Reduce or stop second portions. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly so you are enjoying what you eat instead of inhaling it.

· Fill half your plate with vegetables, and use the lunch sized plates even for dinner.   That is the plate we should use for good nutrition. 

·  Don’t skip meals. When we get hungry we often open the cupboards to eat whatever is convenient.

You can accomplish your goals. You did not put weight on overnight so don’t expect it to come off overnight!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Health Update appears in the Daily Press and features local health professionals. Linda Klope is a registered dietician and certified diabetic educator with OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group.