Weight Control Secret: Energy Balance
Learn how to balance calories in with calories out
What do you think of when you hear the term 'energy balance' -- maybe a
skateboard stunt or a yoga pose? What it really means, at least in the health
care community, is the art of consuming just the right number of calories to
manage your weight.
You're probably familiar with the balancing act of juggling career, family,
friends, community, and personal needs. In weight control, the "balancing
act" means taking in only as much food and drink as you need to fuel your
body's basic functions, the activities of daily living, and exercise.
The number of calories needed for energy balance is highly individual, and
it changes from day to day depending on your activity level. Weighing in once
weekly (or even more often) is the easiest method to determine whether you're
in energy balance. If you take in more calories than you burn, they will likely
show up as weight gained, while creating a calorie deficit sends the needle on
the scale counterclockwise.
Beyond Counting Calories
Counting calories can be labor-intensive, and can take all the fun out of
eating. So instead of fixating on calories, think food, glorious food! Choosing
foods that are high in fiber, fluid, and nutrients that fill you up on fewer
calories is the secret to painless calorie cutting.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and small portions
of lean meats and nuts are the kind of foods you should be enjoying each day.
Unprocessed foods (those in their natural form) are the healthiest options at
the grocery store.
If you enjoy eating refined, processed foods, do so in moderation to better
control your calorie intake.
Calories and Exercise
A healthy dose of regular physical activity will boost your metabolism in
two ways. Every time you move, you burn calories. Exercise also builds muscle,
and the more muscle you have, the more calories you need simply to maintain
your basal metabolism (the number of calories required for digestion,
breathing, blood circulation, and other body processes while you're at
Of course, energy balance is not the only benefit of regular exercise. That
list includes weight loss, stronger muscles and bones, lower blood pressure and
cholesterol levels, and a healthier heart - not to mention disease prevention
and a longer life.
Exercise is a critical part of weight control and good health, but the truth
is that, at least for some people, it can also send your appetite into
overdrive. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that exercising gives you
license to scarf down cheeseburgers and donuts. The trick is to ease your
hunger with satisfying foods that taste good and are low in calories.
It's also a good idea to fuel up before your workout. Go for healthy,
balanced snacks that include lean protein, complex carbs, fiber, and/or small
amounts of fat (try whole-grain cereal with berries and low-fat milk; half a
whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and banana slices; a smoothie made with
low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, and orange juice; or brown rice and steamed
veggies sprinkled with a little cheese).