The Calorie Balance

When it comes to taking control of your weight the two things to consider are calorie intake versus output. It’s all about the calorie balance!

Calories are not some form of gremlin that live under your bed and sneak out at night to put weight on you. Calories are simply a measurement of energy. For a scientific explanation, a nutritional calorie is the energy it takes to raise one liter of water one degree centigrade.

You take in calories when you eat or drink anything but water, and you use calories when you exercise, do work, or just simply live. The energy used resting, sleeping or in a coma is called the Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR. That’s the starting point to determine your calorie needs for the day. BMR calculators are available on line.

If the number of calories consumed are balanced by the number of calories used during a day your weight remains stable. If you take in more than you use the excess is converted for long term storage as FAT. The opposite of this happens if you use more than you take in. Some of the stored energy is broken down and used.

For example, a BMR of 1593 calories a day means that doctors would need to give a comatose patient that many calories daily in IV fluids and tube feedings to fuel the bodily functions and maintain the current weight. But, someone awake, alert, up and moving around, needs more calories to fuel their daily activities.

Again, there are calculators on line to help you determine your calorie needs each day to reach your goal weight in a selected time. A good weight loss rate is 1-2 pounds per week. That doesn’t seem like much, but how would you like to be 52 or104 pounds lighter this time next year?

Calories are easy to come by, far easier today than they were a couple of generations ago. In the days of our parents and grandparents, the only things that came from the store were commodities such as sugar, flour, coffee, and some meats. Other foods came from the family garden, grown, picked and canned. Labor and energy were used to obtain most foods.

Today there is a grocery store, convenience store, or fast food restaurant on every corner. Intake calories are available, plentiful, and cheap. Sometimes it seems that the fast food industry is in a competition to see which can pack the most calories into one meal at the cheapest price.

Combine the abundance of available calories and the many ways we have to avoid burning calories such as motorized vehicles, labor saving tools and devices, children using computers and video games rather than active play, and it’s not surprising that obesity and poor physical fitness rates are at an all time high.

What can you do to help yourself avoid becoming obese and out of shape? First, know how many calories you take in each day. Most of that information is found on food labels, or you can check internet sites. Keep track of serving sizes. If a serving is one cup and you eat two cups, you just doubled your calories for that item. Manage the intake.

At the same time, increase the calorie output by increasing your daily exercise. Walk to the corner and back once or twice daily. Slowly increase the amount and duration of the exercise. If you try to do what you did at age sixteen, you will probably hurt yourself, or tire out quickly and quit. Consistency is the key. Marathon runners don’t start by running marathons, they start by walking around the block, then gradually increase their distance and duration until several months later they are going the distance.

With discipline, patience, and consistency, you can take control and balance the calories.

This blog is intended for information purposes only and should not be considered Medical Advice. Discuss with your doctor any personal medical conditions, dietary changes or exercise programs before making any lifestyle changes.
©2016 Guy A. Crawford

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About Crawford, PA, Retired

I am a retired Physician Assistant. I graduated with the second PA class of Emory University in 1974. My first job out of school was with the ER at the Medical Center in Columbus. After 1 year I moved to Roanoke, AL to work in a rural family practice with Dr. John E. Campbell, the author of the book "Basic Trauma Life Support", a textbook used in many EMT classes. Following that I worked for 3 years with the Federal Prison System, providing healthcare to imates. In 1987 I accepted a position with the University of Florida Transplant Program as a donor coordinator. The last 18 years of my career were spent in family practice and urgent care. I am now retired from clinical medicine but hope to continue to help people through this blog, articles, and booklets about healthy lifestyles.

25 thoughts on “The Calorie Balance

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