Sunday, February 20, 2011

Healthy Habits: Do You Know How Many Calories Your Body Needs?

Pretty much everyone is aware by now that the only way to lose weight is to "take in less calories than you put out". Or said another way, "expend more calories than you eat". Or said another way "intake < output".  

There are two ways to lose weight: 
1. Eat less than you burn (change what you eat or how you eat to consume less calories) 
2. Burn more calories than you eat (become more active)

So how do you know how many calories your body needs to maintain or to lose weight? Your body uses about 10 calories per pound just to function each day (sedentary lifestyle). If you weigh 180lbs then your body uses 1800 calories a day. In order to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than your body burns, forcing it to draw from fat stores to make up the difference. 

An aggressive but solid weight loss plan would be to take in 7 calories per lb. The same person weighing 180 lbs will then need 1260 calories per day, or 540 calories less than the body needs to function.

3500 calories = one pound. That means that if you eat 3500 less calories in the week you will lose a little over one pound a week. The 180 lb person cutting back 540 calories a day will lose one pound a week. 540 (calories cut back ea day) X 7 (days in wk) = 3780 (calories cut back in one week) which equates to 1.08 lbs lost per week. 

Note: It's not healthy to drop below 1000 calories a day for more than a couple of days. If 7 calories per pound equals less than 1000 calories for you, it is better to eat at least 1000 calories and increase your exercise to burn more calories.

The second way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat. Everything you do burns calories. If you keep your caloric intake the same while increasing your activity to burn 500 more calories a day, you will lose one pound a week. If you burn an extra 1000 calories a day you will lose 2 pounds a week from exercise alone.

Note: If you increase the amount of food you are eating it will offset that exercise and you won't lose weight. This alone is a great reason to keep a food journal. It is motivating at the end of the day to see your caloric intake and your calories burned.

What if you cut back by 500 calories a day and also burn 500 calories a day in extra activities? You will lose 2 pounds a week. However, if you stick to this religiously you may find that you have lost 10 lbs at the end of the month instead of just the 8 you expected. Regular exercise increases your metabolism and keeps your body burning calories at a higher rate for hours after you stop exercising.

There is a reason everyone in the fitness and weight loss industry keeps harping on keeping a food journal and recording EVERY SINGLE bite you put in your mouth. That is truly the only way to know exactly how many calories you are eating. If you also track your exercise you can know if you are burning more calories than you are eating.

There are several free websites that provide an excellent way to track both your food intake as well as calories burned through exercise. Each has different features. Try them out and see which you prefer.   (will even give you calories for your favorite restaurant food)   (also tracks restaurant food)    (has nice charts that can be motivating)   (if you are a Bob Harper fan)

There are several APP's available for use on your smart phone as well.

You can also get the calorie count for food and exercise from websites or books and keep track  of it in a paper journal if you prefer.

It has been proven time and time again that individuals who keep a food journal (paper or online) repeatedly lose more weight and lose it faster than those who don't track their food intake. I don't like to admit this, but I have proven to myself that it is true. I don't like to admit it because I consider myself a fairly intelligent person who is knowledgeable about health and nutrition. I like to think that I can 'do it' without having to write every little thing down.

But I'm here to tell you that I did track every little thing I ate on an online program when I was losing 10-12 lbs a month. Every 7 calorie strawberry that went into my mouth was accounted for. I have tried to do it lately (working on the last lbs to lose) 'in my head'. IT'S NOT WORKING!

There is something about having to look at it on paper that makes you stop and think, "I don't want to write this down, so I won't eat it". Or, in figuring out how many calories to write down, you think "Wow, that's a lot of calories for that little thing...not worth it!" Something about having to face (written down in front of you) every bite of cookie or biscuit or peanut butter treat that holds you accountable to yourself.

Again, let me say that I hate that this is a fact of human nature...I want to be better than that! But I know from experience that I can maintain my weight with no problem but when I want to lose I must keep a food journal.

Have you tried keeping a food journal? If not, why not? If so, what is your experience? Would you willing to do it if you felt it would 'guarantee' weight loss?

Which online tracking tool is your favorite and why?


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Healthy Habits: Supplements? What to take?

Questions about what supplements I take have come up multiple times recently in several off line conversations, so I thought I'd post what supplements I take on a daily basis as well as one of my favorite "drinkable meals". I can take this with me and drink it on the run (instead of getting fast food), or set it on my desk while I'm working through lunch. 

Let's start with the list of daily supplements:

Multi Vitamin - A multi vitamin is a good idea for everyone. Ideally we would be getting all the vitamins we need from the food we eat. But realistically, we are likely short on something every day.

Vit C - Boosts immune system, anti-aging and cell regenerating properties.

Vit D - Increases bone strength and proven to help prevent against disease. Important for women, especially over age 40 to help prevent bone thinning which leads to osteoporosis.

Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc - Essential nutrients that affect so many areas of the body including muscles (calcium helps with contraction, magnesium helps muscles to relax and avoid cramping), regulating heartbeat, vision, healthy bones, nerve impulses, fight off infection and build healthy bones. NOTE: Don't take calc/mag/zinc with iron supplements. Check with your Dr if you are taking iron.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin - Helps with joint function, strength and mobility (low back, knees, fingers, shoulders). 

The list above I take each day. If there is one pill in the dose I take it in the morning. If the dose includes more than one pill I divide them and take half in the morning and half in the evening. 

The next group of supplements I put into a green drink each day which is jam packed with nutrition, low in calories and serves as a meal. Following is the recipe for my green drink. Let me just say, if you don't have the green drink, just put the Benefiber into a cup of water or skim milk.

Fiber is SO important in your diet and most people do not get enough natural fiber in the foods they eat. Fiber is basically carbohydrates that cannot be absorbed by the body. So when you eat fiber, it works it's way through your body, scraping the waste away with it as it exits out the other end. Fiber helps rid your body of toxins which helps with weight loss. It also helps regulate and prevent many diseases.

In my next post we will address what foods are high in fiber, and how to choose and purchase high fiber foods. For now, I will just say that in addition to getting fiber in foods, it is extremely helpful to have a teaspoon of fiber each day. I like Benefiber because unlike some other brands that make this claim, Benefiber has NO taste. I mean you can stir it into a glass of cold water and drink it and you will NOT know it is there. No clumping, no thickening, no flavor...none!! I don't want to taste fiber when I'm drinking it.

This green drink is sweet because of the choice of fruit. It's definitely NOT the green drink your Mother used to make :).  It's also very high in anti-oxidents. It tastes best when drinking it on an empty stomach so you can truly appreciate the great flavors,

Put water and supplements in blender first. Then add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.

20 OZ Water (I always have cold water in the fridge, I want my drink to be cold)
1 Tblsp Flax Seed (Omega 3's, Protein, Fiber-great cancer prevention)
1/2 Tblsp Hemp Seed (Omega 3's, Protein, Amino Acids)
1/4 Cup Protein Powder (I prefer a Whey Protein)
1 tsp Benefiber

1 C Fresh Kale (Pack it into a cup)
4 C Fresh Spinach (packed into cup) (may substitute 1 cup frozen spinach)
1/2 C Blueberries (may substitute other dark berries)(may try w/red berries-will change flavor)
1/2 Banana
1/2 C Pineapple (I freeze fresh. It you have to use canned make sure it has no added sugar)

I keep baggie's of Blueberries, Banana and Pineapple (measured together in the baggie) in the freezer ready to go.

By adding them in last, everything else is blended when they work their way to the bottom of the blender. Blend until everything is absolutely chunks!

You will end up with about 40 oz of drink. The entire drink is 338 calories and super nutritious!