Calories In Calories Out

When it comes to caloric needs and weight management there are more misperceptions, misconceptions, and false information than otherwise. Some of the predominant reasons for this include our cultural tendency to want a quick and easy solution, the disconnect between what our body needs and our mind/emotion dictates, and getting derailed by the pleasure-filled, enticing act that is feeding (hard to curtail for many).  Barring a serious endocrine issue, our body requires daily calories/fuel based on our age, sex, height, current weight, and activity level. As stated many times, our magnificent machinery is designed to run within an overall weight range that optimizes health and physical ability, while correspondingly decreasing the incidence of lifestyle-related diseases.

Being overweight simply means that one carries more total weight than is recommended for one’s sex, age, and height. The discussion of weight does not distinguish between the types of tissues in the body such as bones, organs, muscles, and adipose tissue, which is also known as body fat.  Adipose tissue is necessary, but in excess contributes to a number of diseases including heart disease and cancer—our number one and two causes of death in the U.S. We can easily calculate our body mass index (BMI), which tells us if we carry more weight than our body requires. If you copy the URL into your browser or click on the link, you can simply input your information and find out where you land in terms of total body mass for your sex, age, and heigtht. Keep in mind that this addresses your total weight and not the distinction between body fat and fat free body mass (everything else). The rare person, often an athlete, has a high level of muscle mass, low body fat and calculates high for BMI—definitely not the overwhelming majority of us.  

Understanding our machinery’s caloric requirements is the first step towards adjusting our feeding and movement patterns to optimize health. We can calculate our caloric needs using the basal metabolic weight (BMR) calculator provided here—just plug in the numbers on the left and you will see the estimated amount of calories needed to run your body at rest. (copy into your browser or click). On the right-hand side of the screen you will see your BMR in calories per day and then below that you choose which activity level best applies to you and that will give you the total calories that you need per day at your current weight and activity level. Current is the operative word here, as you then can decide to gradually increase your movement and slightly decrease your caloric intake to create a deficit in the “calories in and calories out” arena. This simple math approach can allow you to gently adjust your behaviors; for example, if you walk an extra 15 minutes a day and cut out approximately 200 calories daily, you can create a deficit that results in an estimated weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week.   

Sadly, in the U.S. 71.6% of the population is overweight and that includes those who fall into the obesity category. Why does this matter—because we matter! As humans we have a way of complicating and derailing some of our primary, science based, health-enhancing principles such as loving, moving, and adequate feeding. Our days are numbered, and each day is a blessing—let’s do what we can do to carry a healthy body to the finish line.