When addressing weight issues, it is often easier to attribute negative results to insufficient exercise than to acknowledge the link to specific eating habits. This is not a result of overt denial so much as inattention and lack of awareness of exactly how many calories are being consumed. While physical activity is an important aspect of wellness, it is not the most important consideration when it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Outcomes of exercise programs, such as increased muscle mass, stamina, and calorie usage, do enhance weight-management efforts. However, the caloric cycle is actually the most important topic when the issue is weight.
Unless you are an elite athlete, the majority of your calorie burn comes from your body doing the things it does naturally to keep you alive. These are things like breathing, pumping blood, maintaining body temperature, and cell regeneration, to name a few. Understanding calorie intake and burn rates, and the impact those factors have on weight is the best way to battle obesity.
The good news is, it is really not as complicated as it sounds. Calorie needs are estimated based on age, lifestyle, and sex, and can be determined using the FDA Calories Chart, or by talking to your doctor if you need specialized nutritional guidance.
Calories in versus calories out are to weight management what the Punnett Square is to biology. It covers the most fundamentally basic concept and not much else. Understanding how food selection plays into not just the number of calories you consume, but also the way your body processes those calories is the next step.
The USDA has worked to simplify this through their MyPlate program, which provides a visual template to help guide you to healthier choices each time you eat or drink something. Most food labeling is based on a 2,000-calorie diet, so depending on your individual needs, the percentages on the label may be inaccurate.
Convenience foods have become the standard fare in today’s busy society. Even those who cook at home often opt for pre-packaged meals, and processed foods over fresh foods. A misconception exists that meal prep for fresh from-scratch foods has to be difficult and time-consuming. In reality, you can make a wholesome meal from scratch in less time than it takes to order and receive takeout, and for a much lower price tag. Cooking at home also allows you to control your ingredients, limiting or excluding added sugars, salts, and fats, and replacing them with healthier herbs and spices, oils, and in-season fruits and vegetables that will provide great flavor to your dishes.
Part of cooking healthy meals from home is about working with the right tools. For example, if you don’t have a good knife set, preparing whole foods can be downright difficult. Also, a well-functioning smartphone can make it easy to look up healthy recipes and video tutorials while you cook (a pop socket can ensure a comfortable one-handed grip).
Understanding the mechanics of what you need to eat to maintain a healthy weight is critical, but there are other less obvious things to consider as well. For instance, food cravings are impacted by stress and sleep deprivation and increase the draw toward convenience foods in general just to simplify life. Making sure you include regular exercise and get adequate sleep will help with both stress and weight management.
However, since stressors can never be completely avoided, employing specific stress management techniques in your daily routine are also important. ZenBusiness recommends that busy professionals use their vacation time, take regular breaks, and establish boundaries after work. Taking the time to take care of yourself in healthy and positive ways will produce benefits across the board.
Understanding how calorie intake impacts weight is the critical first step to shedding those unwanted pounds. Once you know what your intake should be, you can take it to the next level, and focus on nutrition and meal prep as lifestyle changes. Doing so will help increase your likelihood of keeping the weight off, regardless of whether you are actively trying to lose weight or just need to maintain your current healthy weight. Giving sufficient consideration to the lifestyle factors that impact when, what, and why you eat are also important for long-term success when it comes to weight management.
Written by Kristen Louis