A New Year, A Healthier New You!

Last month I blogged about a potential hazard of overeating during the holidays: annual, compounding weight gain. Research indicates that most of us never lose those couple of pounds, innocent as they might seem at the time. But, that doesn’t have to be the case! Since it’s now “Resolution Season,” let’s discuss the reality of taking that weight off now and utilizing those same strategies in the future.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: there is no magic pill. Sorry. Our society is rife with books, testimonials, television shows, infomercials, websites, organizations, etc. that endorse a specific diet, eating pattern, cleanse, nutritional supplement, etc. They all promise a slimmer, healthier you. Some work, some don’t. Some are safe, some are not. Some are free, some cost mega-bucks. Making significant changes to your diet can be overwhelming, time-consuming and expensive. So, before diving in, ask yourself if the changes you are contemplating are realistic, fulfilling and sustainable. If not, there is a good chance you’ll gain the weight back and incur a lot of frustration and disappointment along the way. You’re more likely to take weight off—and keep it off—by making small, incremental changes that include both diet and exercise. That’s probably not what you want to hear, but the less you stress yourself through deprivation and abrupt change, the more likely you are to succeed.

OK, now for the good news: no magic pill is even required. We tend to make things more complicated than need be, but in this case, it is “simply” calories in vs. calories out. Do not misunderstand me: I am not even close to implying that the act or process of losing weight is simple. If so, two-thirds of New York adults would not be overweight or obese. Medical conditions and emotional triggers often play an integral role in our struggles with weight, and that is a whole other topic. And, in the even bigger picture, poverty, unemployment/underemployment, lack of transportation and resources, etc. definitely impact one’s dietary choices that lead to unhealthy weight. But, back to the original topic: we’re talking about overindulging to the point of weight gain. Thus, the “simplicity:” it’s about expending more calories than you’re consuming. That’s it. Doesn’t cost a dime. Doesn’t require a fancy plan. Doesn’t require you to be completely deprived and miserable. It does, however, require knowledge, motivation and support.

First things first: you have to determine how many calories you need to consume to maintain your weight before you can calculate how many calories you need to cut out to lose weight. Follow these steps:

  1. Your weight in pounds __________ ÷ 2.2 = __________ (weight in kilograms)
  1. Your height in inches __________ × 2.54 = __________ (height in centimeters)
  1.  _________ (weight in kilograms) × 9.6 = __________(A)
  1.  _________(height in centimeters) × 1.8 = __________(B)
  1.  _________(age in years) × 4.7 = __________(C)
  1. 655 + (A) + (B) – (C) = __________ (Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR))
  1. Multiply your RMR by the appropriate activity factor:
  • If you are sedentary (you do little or no activity): Activity Factor is 1.2
  • If you are slightly active (you perform light exercise/sports 1-3 days per week): Activity Factor is 1.375
  • If you are moderately active (you perform moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days per week): Activity Factor is 1.55
  • If you are very active (you perform strenuous exercise/sports 6-7 days per week): Activity Factor is 1.725

RMR                × Activity Factor                     =                     Daily Caloric Expenditure Estimate.

If you want to lose one pound of fat, you will need to reduce your net calories by 3,500. So, if you want to lose one pound per week, you will need to reduce your net calories by approximately 500 each day from your Daily Caloric Expenditure Estimate (DCEE). For example, you may choose to decrease your intake from the result by about 200 calories per day and increase your expenditure through physical activity by 300 calories per day. If you want to lose two pounds per week, double those numbers.

But, what exactly does one have to do to expend those calories? Let’s take a closer look at what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say:

Calories Used per Hour in Common Physical Activities
Calories/30 minutes
for a 154 lb Person1
Calories/60 minutes
for a 154 lb Person1
Hiking 185 370
Light gardening/
yard work
165 330
Dancing 165 330
(walking and carrying clubs)
165 330
(<10 mph)
145 290
(3.5 mph)
140 280
Weight lifting
(general light workout)
110 220
Stretching 90 180
Calories/30 minutes
for a 154 lb Person1
Calories/60 minutes
for a 154 lb Person1
(5 mph)
295 590
(>10 mph)
295 590
(slow freestyle laps)
255 510
Aerobics 240 480
(4.5 mph)
230 460
Heavy yard work
(chopping wood)
220 440
Weight lifting
(vigorous effort)
220 440
220 440
1 Calories burned per hour will be higher for persons who weigh more than 154 lbs (70 kg) and lower for persons who weigh less.
Source: Adapted from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, page 16, Table 4.

So, now you have basic knowledge. You know how many calories you need to consume and expend each day to reach your goal. There are lots of apps and tools that can help. I’ve seen so many more people wearing Fitbits and other tracking devices in the past year, which can make your journey much easier—and, they are great motivators as well!

I’ll leave you with some wellness news. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 were just released with an even greater emphasis on physical activity and its role in health and weight maintenance. It cites the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans’ (2008) recommendation that kids get 60 minutes/day and adults get 150 minutes/week. So, with that, I encourage you to shift more of your focus to physical activity. Don’t throw sensible eating choices out the window, however (check out MyPlate and keep it simple). Combining healthy eating patterns with increased physical activity will yield results. Make “move more, eat less” be your mantra for 2016!

Happy New Year and Be well,

Program Coordinator, School Wellness

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