Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Weight Loss Guide: It's About Calorie Intake, Right? Sorta

It's simple: burn more calories than you consume.  This is a tried and true formula, yes?

Yes, but.....

Many times those calorie estimates are inaccurate.  You could also miscalculate the serving size you consume (I only had one handful of M&M's, okay three).   Basically calories in vs calories out is akin to being good on paper but bad in bed.
courtesy: mass.gov
The Mayo Clinic has an OUTSTANDING website that tackles all sorts of health issues, including the calorie conundrum.  Read this excerpt from their Nutrition Wise blog in a post titled "Calories Reconsidered: Old Assumptions Questioned":

Calories and weight loss
The traditional calorie calculation goes like this: 1 pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories. So if you decrease your intake — or burn — 500 calories a day, you should lose 1 pound a week (500 x 7 = 3,500). 

Although this equation works mathematically, researchers are noticing that it doesn't seem to work as well in the messier real world. (see: good on paper, bad in bed)

Nutrition experts agree that many factors — in addition to calories — affect the rate of weight loss. These include your genetics, your metabolic rate, what your body is losing (fat, muscle or water), how your body adjusts to fewer calories and more exercise, and even how much sleep you get. All these factors can alter the prediction of weight loss. And that makes it difficult to predict how fast you or anyone else will lose weight.
Calories in food
Also being questioned is the century-old Atwater method for calculating the number of calories found in foods according to their carbohydrate protein and fat contents. It's long been thought that if you know the grams of carbohydrate, protein  and fat in a food you can get a fairly good estimate of the total calories in that food. So, for example, 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories and 1 gram of fat has 9 calories — knowing how many grams of each are in the food, you can estimate the total calories. 

However, food and nutrition experts are having to rethink this assumption. It appears that the Atwater method overestimates the number of calories in a food or mixed diet by as much as 25 percent compared to more precise measurements that mimic what a person may actually digest, absorb and metabolize. If that's the case — and that hasn't been proven yet — it may mean that food labels and tables listing calorie content of foods might be off. 

All of this news shouldn't leave you frustrated or running to fridge for ice cream saying "Screw it! I can't win!"

Not true.  You can.  

It's not about the HCG diet, the Atkins diet, the grapefruit diet or some other wacky weight loss regime.  It's about eating smart.  Focus on food that is high in nutrients and colorful.  Think about it: red bell pepper, green spinach, yellow banana, pink salmon, orange sweet potatoes, even white cauliflower.  You get the idea. 

courtesy: visual.ly
I am biased because I experience a ton of success and enjoyment from eating this way.  I love the Mediterranean "diet" or, better stated, "approach to eating".   It's not a diet.  There is no deprivation.  It's time and again touted as being the healthiest way to eat, most recently helping to fight dementia.

Here is one of my favorite, easy Mediterranean diet recipes, a wonderful halibut dish. 

Weight loss and maintenance is a journey.  One that has wrong turns, switchbacks and downhill sprints.  

Crap, just last night I mowed down a basket of french fries.  I was miserable because I had some awful dental work done, my mouth was sore and I was on drugs which made my stomach wonky.  I needed soft, substantial food.  I still feel those fries in my belly but they were damn good.  Today I'll be focusing on veggies and fruits for my daily intake.  

It's not about perfection.  It's about finding that balance that works for you. 
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