To maintain your weight, you have to balance your calories. There is some debate to this calories in, calories out mantra*, but for those new to the land of weight loss and weight maintenance the calorie balance mantra is a great platform to start.
So...calories. We've all heard of them, but what are they? Well, a calorie is a just unit of energy. We tend to associate calories with food, but they apply to anything containing energy. A calorie is the amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. We humans need energy to survive -- to breathe, move, pump blood, and think -- and we get this energy from food and beverages. We also burn energy, or calories, during physical activity.
We all come in different shapes and sizes and each person's body burns energy (calories) at different rates, so there isn't one perfect number of calories we should eat. However, the recommended range for most adults is between 1,600 to 2,800 calories per day, depending on your age, sex, and activity level. If you are maintaining your current body weight, you are in caloric balance. If you need to gain weight or to lose weight, you'll need to tip the balance scale in one direction or another to achieve your goal.
If you need to tip the balance scale in the direction of losing weight, keep in mind that 1 pound of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories – so you’ll have to eat that much less or burn that many more through exercise (ideally a combination of both!) to lose 1 pound. To lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week, you'll need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day.
To learn how many calories you are currently eating, begin by reading your nutrition labels and write down the foods and beverages you consume each day as well as the type and duration of your physical activities (cleaning the house counts!). By writing down what you eat and drink, you are incorporating awareness into your day. As I wrote in a prior post, journaling counts! A recent study revealed that people keeping a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. In addition, experiment tracking when and where you eat and what emotions you experience to beat emotional eating.
*Is a calorie a calorie regardless of its source ( carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, etc.)? I will get into this in a future post. Spoiler alert: some researchers believe that not all calories are created equal.
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!