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Posts Tagged ‘counting calories’

Two weeks ago, I posted on how you can figure out the right amount of food to eat. Simply speaking, it was about determining the correct amount of calories for you to reach your health and weight goals. That post was a follow-up to an earlier post on the importance of keeping a food diary. I hope you were able to experiment with your caloric intake, using your food diary, and that you were able to determine the right amount of food for you on a daily basis.

Different foodsThe next building block on your path to healthy eating and reaching your health and weight goals is this: determining the right kind of food. By this, I mean figuring out how carbohydrates, protein, fats, sugars, etc. make you feel.

Consider these examples:

One day, I made food choices that worked for me. For breakfast I had egg and cheese on an english muffin. I know that I need protein at every meal, or I am hungry about an hour later, so the egg and cheese sandwich fit the bill, and for 280 calories with protein, the sandwich was the “right” choice for me. About three hours later, I had a mid-morning snack of six medium-size strawberries, which was an excellent choice because I was planning to eat an early lunch around 11:30 a.m. I ate a sensible lunch of fish with mustard greens and sweet potatoes, which was approximately 400 calories, but was rich in protein and good fats, so it sustained me until around 4:00 p.m., when I needed a mid-afternoon snack. Then I ate a sensible dinner. All told, I came in with 1850 calories that day, never felt tired or hungry, and ate balanced meals and snacks.

The very next day was not a successful food day. I did well with breakfast, having an egg sandwich on whole wheat bread and then strawberries again for a snack. But I got lunch all wrong. I had a whole wheat wrap with only eggplant, tomato, and olive oil, and some cole slaw. Sounds healthy, but it was protein-deficient yet high in calories because of the fat in the oil (good fat, but still high in calories) and cole slaw.  An hour later, I was starving and went for a snack. Because I was famished and lacking energy due to my protein-deficient lunch, I ended up with a small piece of pecan pie for a quick-fix sugar rush! This was not the “right” choice for several reasons: one, it was loaded with calories and offered no nutritional value; second, it wasn’t sustaining because it was mostly sugar.  Ultimately, the pie compounded my problem since I had eaten, once again, high calorie/low protein foods that don’t sustain me for more than an hour or so. By my evening commute, I was sitting on the train, writing this article, and feeling very hungry even though I had consumed 1500 calories – before dinner! My target calorie consumption for that day, where the only exercise I got was the sprint to the train, was 1850 calories, so I had only 350 calories left for dinner. And I knew that was going to be difficult, not to mention disappointing and unfulfilling, given the state of my stomach (growl)!

Use these next two weeks to keep your food diary and experiment with the kinds of food that you are eating. Here is a Sample Food Diary Page.

See how they make you feel, whether they sustain you or leave you feeling drained, how long it is before you want to eat again, and what you want to eat at that time. Experimenting like this for two weeks will enable you to start taking control over your food and energy, rather than feeling at the mercy of your hunger.

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So how did you do with your food diary? I hope that you were able to learn something about what you eat, when you eat, why you eat (not just because you’re hungry, right?), and what you are doing well and where you could improve. Now that you are getting a grip on what you are eating, let’s talk a bit about how much you should be eating. This is the next step in any health and fitness goals supporting or sabatoged by food.

CaloriesThere is no magic quantity of food that is right for everyone.  While counting calories is not something that everyone will want to practice, it is the best, most straight-forward, and most accurate tool for determining the right quantity of food for each person.  The bad news is that it involves some math and actually counting every calorie that you consume. The good news is that you only need to do the math once, and you only need to count calories meticulously for about two weeks in order to gain a basic understanding of the amount of calories you need.  Plus, since our diets are generally repetitive, after a few weeks of counting, you will be able to accurately estimate the number of calories in most of your foods.

So how do you Estimate Your Caloric Needs?

Using the Harris-Benedict principle, you can estimate your BMR, or basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy that your body needs to function.  This number is influenced by the number of calories needed for basic bodily functions, and by height, weight, age, and gender.

Using this number, you can estimate your daily caloric needs in order to maintain your current weight.

Calculate your BMR

Women:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

 Men:
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

When I do this calculation, I get 1347.6 as my BMR.

Now Calculate Your Activity Number. 

If you are sedentary: BMR x 20 percent

If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent

If you are moderately active (exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent

If you are very active (exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent

If you are extra active (hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent

I do two calculations because some weeks and months I am lightly active and others I am moderately active.  My two numbers are 404.28 (1347.6 x 0.3) and 539.04 (1347.6 x 0.4).

Add this Activity Number to your BMR.  When I add these numbers to my BMR, I get approximately 1750 and 1885.

The result of this formula is the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight, then you will need to either reduce your caloric intake, or burn more calories by exercising, or both. So, for me, based upon the Harris-Benedict calculation, in order to maintain my weight, I want to eat between 1750 and 1885 calories per day.

Of course, this is only one method of calculating caloric intake.  There are many online calculators as well.  For example, there is a great, and simple, online calculator at www.shapefit.com.  When I enter my information (gender, height, weight, age, activity level), I get 1995 per day for weeks that I am moderately active and 1725 per day for weeks that I am lightly active. I can average those out to approximately 1850 calories per day and try to stay within 150 calories on either side of that number.

There is a similar online calculator at www.NutritionData.com that gives me a number of approximately 2100 calories.  And another one at www.CalorieKing.com that calculates my daily caloric intake at 1625.

Then Experiment! With all these differing numbers, how do you know which number is the right one for me?  Experimentation.  I have to try out the varying amount of calories over the course of a few weeks and see how it makes me feel, and if I gain, lose, or maintain weight.  I have done this and know that if I eat 2100 calories per day, I gain weight, but if I only eat 1625 calories, I am hungry, tired, and lose weight.  Between 1750 and 1900 calories per day works for me as a maintenance diet.

Experimentation is what you need to do as well. Use the Harris-Benedict calculation or the online calculators as a guide on where to start in determining the right quantity of food on a daily basis for your body, metabolism, and lifestyle. Keep up your experiments for two weeks. Then we’ll discuss how the kinds of foods you eat can help you reach your goals without feeling deprived or hungry!

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So you may not really want to know the information in this blog post — sometimes ignorance is bliss! — but this post at the EatingWell blogs (which you know that I love) lets you know which girl scout cookies have the most calories, fat, sugar, and trans fat. I like this information because at least I know exactly what I am getting myself into, and I can change my behavior if I choose. Or I can eat the Samoas anyway, knowing that I need to spend some extra time on cardio and should only buy one box instead of two!

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I am a panelist for this upcoming event: Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Lawyers on Thursday, January 12, 2012 from 9:00 am-10:30 am at the New York City Bar Association. Because the seminar is being sponsored by the bar association, it is geared toward lawyers. However, you don’t have to be a lawyer to attend and the information will be useful for anyone who is busy and trying to eat healthy despite a hectic schedule. The cost is $15 for bar association members and $25 for non-members.

I will be discussing the Ten Principles of a Healthy Diet. My co-panelists will also have great information to share.

Find all the details and register here.

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Did you know that it only takes an extra 100 calories per day to gain about 10 pounds each year?! So if you have a weight loss goal, or even a weight maintenance goal, let’s put 100 calories in perspective. All the items below are at least 100 calories:

  • 3 oz ice cream = 105 calories
  • 1 Tbsp butter = 100 calories
  • 1 Tbsp mayo = 100 calories
  • 1 slice American cheese = 100 calories
  • 2 slices bacon = 100 calories
  • Chocolate chip cookie = 100 calories
  • Glazed donut = 250 calories
  • 1 oz milk chocolate bar = 150 calories

So when we think “oh, it won’t hurt to have a little treat,” maybe we are wrong. Or maybe we need to spend some extra time exercising. For example, in a one-hour hatha yoga class, a 150-pound person burns about 190 calories. Or that same person can burn about 240 calories jogging for 30 minutes or 175 calories walking (at 4 mph) for 30 minutes.

So be aware of what you eat. Don’t let a little snack derail your goals!

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Another great post at the Eating Well recipe blog. There are recipes for

Swirled Cheesecake Brownies

Rocky Road Brownies

Dark Fudgy Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies

They each have healthier (not healthy, really, but healthier) ingredients than the average brownies and thus are lower in calories. Enjoy!

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As you know, I’m counting calories these days. It’s always a good idea to count calories periodically, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, so you have some idea how many calories you are eating each day. The truth can be shocking sometimes!

One thing counting calories has taught me (again) is that splurging just a little bit can have big consequences. For example, this past week I went over my alotted calorie count two days because I had a little “treat” and thought “eating this one little thing won’t really matter.” One day I had two Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and another day I had a cupcake. And both days my calorie count was over by the number of calories in those treats (both of which were over 200 calories).

So when I saw this blog post at Eating Well, I wanted to share it with you. I still believe that you have to have “treats” sometimes because life is short and I like sweets! But you should know what you are getting when you eat them. Read the post to learn how to have your cake and eat it too!

P.S. BTW, as you will read, that cupcake can have up to 585 calories!

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