If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A calorie is a calorie . . . so why am I not losing weight?

We have all had it drummed into us, A calorie is a calorie. All you have to do to lose weight is eat less calories than you burn. Then your body will convert your stored fat to energy, and you lose weight.

Well, that's just not so. The quality of your calories and the general health of your body play very big roles in how your body uses and metabolizes the food you eat.

I'll use an analogy to make my point. Suppose someone argued with you that a gallon of gasoline is a gallon of gasoline. Of course you know better. You know there are different grades of gasoline, some higher quality than others, and thus produce more miles to the gallon than others.

You also know that the general condition of your car makes a big impact on your miles per gallon. If you've taken good care of, and the engine is in good running order, you will get many more miles per gallon than if you never do tune-ups or change any filters. And, of course, some models are just designed to get more miles per gallon than others.

It's the same with the calories we eat. If we fill our bodies with junk food, our bodies are not going to function as well as if we filled them with good, nutritious foods. If we overeat, our bodies will not function as well as if we eat the proper amount. If we don't exercise, our bodies won't function as well as if we did. If we are fighting a disease, our bodies won't function as well as if we were disease-free.

That's the very simple but true reason why it's not just about counting calories -- it's about getting healthy and fit. The more healthy and fit you are, the better your body will function and the better job it will do metabolizing the food you eat.

What is true is that each of us has a calorie budget. Whether in poor health or good health; whether obese or normal weight -- our bodies have a certain calorie range within which it will maintain its current weight (of course, minor fluctuations of 1-2 lbs, up and down, are very normal, but charted, they form a pretty straight line over time). Some bodies are more adaptable than others, and can tolerate a bigger range. But, we all have a range. If we are within that range, our bodies will adapt and make use of all the calories we take in.

If we go above that range, we will gain weight. If we go below that range, we will lose weight.

This is not much different than the set point theory -- the theory that our bodies have a weight that they naturally try very hard to maintain, making whatever adjustments in our metabolism that are necessary. Of course, if we continue to overeat, or overeat too much at one time, we will defeat this very wonderful natural mechanism.

Only trial and error can tell you what your calorie budget is. And you don't have to measure and count calories to stay within that budget. Using smaller plates and bowls will do just as well. Always remember, your body has a "range of calories" that it can handle and maintain current weight.

To get started losing weight, use the DUM Plan:
  • DOWNSIZE: visibly reduce the amount of food you are eating by using smaller plates and bowls -- especially snacks and soft drinks
  • UPGRADE: gradually improve the quality of what you eat (and drink) by making better choices
  • MOBILIZE: get more activity into your lifestyle