Wait: let’s talk about your weight

published on July 23rd, 2012 by Adam Hawks

Who among us has not tried, or is not trying, to control their weight?  I’ve heard it said there are two kinds of people with respect to the epic struggle that is weight management: those who worry about their weight and those who lie about worrying about their weight.  I don’t know if that is exactly true, but I have to say the majority of patients I see in the office are concerned about their weight.

I don’t have any quick-fix gimmicks or magic pills that allow you to loose weight while you sleep or other such nonsense, but I do know of a tool that I have personally found very useful: a calorie counter.  There is something powerful about recording every calorie you consume over the course of a day.   When doing this two things happen: 1) you will consume less food overall, and 2) you will be amazed at the, “Hidden” calories you consume.

By, “Hidden” I mean those calories that you just don’t consider meaningful when you consider your total daily intake.  Did you know, for example, that a can of Coke contains 140 calories?  Drink three of those on a hot summer day and that could represent over 1/3 of your daily calorie intake goal (assuming a 1,300 calories per day goal).  How about a nice glass of orange juice?  That’s 140 calories.  How about a quick cheeseburger at McDonald’s for lunch?  That’s 330 calories, more if you add mayo.  And don’t forget the fries, they add another 380 calories (medium size).

I’m not suggesting there is anything inherently wrong with a can of coke, or a glass of orange juice, or even a cheeseburger once a while.  I’m merely pointing out that the calories add up quickly and the weight loss game is all about the math of calorie consumption.  And if you have a specific calorie goal in mind as part of your weight loss or weight management program, these, “Hidden” calories will sabotage your work.  And of course, many of the foods we are told are, “Healthy,” are in fact very high in calories, irrespective of their, “Healthiness.”

If weight loss is your goal you must absolutely do one thing: take in fewer calories than your body uses.  There are three ways to accomplish this: 1) consume fewer calories, 2) utilize more calories through physical activity, or my favorite, 3) a combination of consuming fewer calories and utilizing more calories through physical activity.  Don’t kill the messenger, but these are the only options.  All weight loss plans are designed around these options in one manner or another.  A simple, but significant first step in any plan should be establishing a daily calorie intake goal and recording your performance against that goal.  What should your daily goal be?  It depends on your age, your gender, your activity level, and your desired weight loss.

There are numerous internet sites dedicated to calorie counting and most sites have corresponding smart phone apps that allow you to input your data remotely.  I am particularly fond of livestrong.com.  The, “My Plate” feature allows you to establish a daily calorie intake goal based on your age, weight, and gender.  It also allows you to, “credit” your calorie balance based on any exercise you do.  You can also view summary information about your daily, weekly, and monthly caloric intake, including the percentage of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates you have consumed over time.  The site has numerous other features such as excellent information on general health and healthy living, cancer support, weight loss and exercise forums, and tools to help you stop smoking.  Best of all, it’s completely free.

So make this the time you get serious about your weight management program.  Check out livestrong.com, start recording your daily calories, and watch what happens.   And of course, please share your experiences on my facebook page so others may benefit.