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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Calorie management

Learning to manage calories can seem complicated, but if you are keeping a food and exercise journal (I recommend myfitnesspal.com) it really does all of the work for you.

Calorie management is key in weight loss and weight management. It is important to pay attention to calories spent, as well as the ones you have consumed. It is also important to listen to your body and pay attention to signs of under or over eating.

Here is an example of what can happen when you don't manage your calories properly. Insert your own experiences in place of my hypothetical example if it helps you better relate.....
Let's say you typically sit at a desk all day, exercise regularly, and have a set realistic calorie allowance (we will use 1300 calories in this example) and are progressing along great through the work week. The weekend comes along and you are vigorously cleaning the house, shoveling the drive way, working in the yard, going on a four hour hike, getting in extra exercise, or any other activity you can think of that you may take part in and keeps you on your feet all day. Lets just say, in this example, that you're active weekend went on for 2 full days. And that you don't account for any of your busyness, but that you stick to your same calorie allowance. And let's say that your regular exercise routine has you burning around 450 calories each day, assuming you're getting in around 45 minutes daily. And let's say that these two active weekend days, you're active for about 10 hours, burning around 1000 calories each of these days. Saturday night you are hungrier than usual. By Sunday afternoon, you are starving and can't understand why because you have been eating as much as you always do. You try to ignore the hunger and stick to the program. Sunday dinner rolls around and you're too exhausted to cook so you order a pizza and choke down 4 slices, some garlic bread, and a bowl of ice cream because you can't fight off the hunger anymore. You step on the scales Monday morning and feel very discouraged. Can any of you relate to this? I'm sure you can see where I'm headed.

Here is what needed to happen.... Your regular routine already has your calorie deficit where it needs to be for you to lose weight successfully without feeling unsatisfied. Then suddenly you are adding an additional 550 calories to that deficit, for 2 days in a row. Those are calories you needed to add to your intake in order to stay on track. If you know you will be increasing your activity level significantly, you have to make adjustments. Just as you would need to take into account when your activity level is lower. It's easy to get trapped into thinking about the possible extra pound that you could work off with the increased calorie deficit, but most of the time those attempts will backfire on you. I speak from experience on this. I will add that if this were an example of the way that I would function in this hypothetical situation, I would most likely be skipping meals in addition to the increased level of activity. When I get focused on a project, I stop for nothing. So I can tell you what I would be doing. I would be binge eating by the first night! Then I would repeat that on the second night. These are major NO NO'S!

Can you relate to this type of situation? Do you make these same mistakes and wonder why you keep hitting road blocks? There is a "diet" (I hate that word) called the "zig zag". When I say "diet", I mean a "way of life". An example of the zig zag is that you would eat X number of calories for 4 days (we will say 1400 calories), then the other 3 days you would eat XX number of calories (we will say 1700). Ideally you would work the increased calories into your more active days, but the purpose for this "way of life" is to prevent the plateau. Your body doesn't get to go into starvation mode, because you are tricking it. This is also taking care of the added caloric need during your more active days. Don't be afraid to add some calories to you active days. Be afraid NOT to. You are far more likely to binge eat with extreme calorie cutting then you are with the more moderate approach. We are humans and we all set ourselves up to fail. We think we are doing a good thing, but it always backfires when we jump in with both feet. It's all about lifestyle changes. Not about "dieting". As long as you are focusing on your body's needs, and not your own desires, you're heading in the healthy direction. And that's why we do what we do. To be healthy. Being thinner is a perk of being healthy. Being thin should never be the only focus. It's all about fitness.

Go to myfitnesspal.com and set up an account. Connect with friends and be diligent about logging everything daily. I wish you all success in being healthy and having the best quality of life.



"I run to add life to my days, not days to my life". I love that quote, but have no clue who said it. We should all try to live by it!

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