The Caloric Balance Equation
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight for a lifetime, the bottom line is – calories count! Weight management is all about balance – balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses or “burns off”.
* A calorie is defined as a unit of energy supplied by food. A calorie is a calorie regardless of its source. Whether you’re eating carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, all of them contain calories.
* Caloric balance is like a scale. To remain in balance and maintain your body weight, the calories consumed (from foods) must be balanced by the calories used (in normal body functions, daily activities, and exercise).
Am I in Caloric Balance?
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 it takes approximately 3,500 calories below your calorie needs to lose a pound of body fat.1 To lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week, you’ll need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day.2
To learn how many calories you are currently eating, begin writing down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink each day. By writing down what you eat and drink, you become more aware of everything you are putting in your mouth. Also, begin writing down the physical activity you do each day and the length of time you do it.
Physical activities (both daily activities and exercise) help tip the balance scale by increasing the calories you expend each day.
Questions and Answers About Calories
Q: Are fat-free and low-fat foods low in calories?
A: Not always. Some fat-free and low-fat foods have extra sugars, which push the calorie amount right back up. The following list of foods and their reduced fat varieties will show you that just because a product is fat-free, it doesn’t mean that it is “calorie-free.” And, calories do count!
Always read the Nutrition Facts food label to find out the calorie content. Remember, this is the calorie content for one serving of the food item, so be sure and check the serving size. If you eat more than one serving, you’ll be eating more calories than is listed on the food label.
Q: If I eat late at night, will these calories automatically turn into body fat?
A: The time of day isn’t what affects how your body uses calories. It’s the overall number of calories you eat and the calories you burn over the course of 24 hours that affects your weight.
Q: I’ve heard it is more important to worry about carbohydrates than calories. Is this true?
A: By focusing only on carbohydrates, you can still eat too many calories. Also, if you drastically reduce the variety of foods in your diet, you could end up sacrificing vital nutrients and not be able to sustain the diet over time.
Q: Does it matter how many calories I eat as long as I’m maintaining an active lifestyle
A: While physical activity is a vital part of weight control, so is controlling the number of calories you eat. If you consume more calories than you use through normal daily activities and physical activity, you will still gain weight.
Q. What other factors contribute to overweight and obesity?
A: Besides diet and behavior, environment, and genetic factors may also have an effect in causing people to be overweight and obese.