Making Calories Count: Weight Loss or Weight Management?

Exercise and nutrition

My Philosophy

Ever since I became a nutrition coach I’ve been preaching the following message:
If you want to reach your weight loss goal and maintain it you’ll need to eat healthy fuel in the form of lean, clean and fiber rich foods and don’t forget to burn off that fuel or else it will be stored as fat.

Seems simple and straightforward to me but people keep hoping my message will change. It won’t. Fuel as well as Exercise are the two components that have to be addressed when people hope to reach weight loss and weight management goals.

Calories

Are you the type who counts calories to lose weight? If you are, how is that working out for you?
Since you can’t hear the tone of my voice I want to clarify that I’m not being sarcastic. I truly would like to know how that is working out for you?

I ask because I was never able to successfully lose weight when I counted calories and I was generally very grumpy, extremely hungry and prone to other side effects that I won’t mention here. When and if I did lose weight I ALWAYS put it back on. It was one of the most depressing times in my life.

Apparently I was not alone. Here is some information reported recently in Medical Daily, an online news service reporting on health and science news. In one of their articles entitled Diet vs Exercise Debate Depends On The Difference Between Weight Loss and Weight Management. “More than 80 percent of people who lose weight regain all or most of it back within two years.” Yup, I used to be one of those.

Quality vs. Quantity

A number of years ago, I was fortunate enough to learn that it wasn’t the quantity of calories or lack thereof that worked for me, it was the quality. Once I figured that out and started focusing on healthy foods, the weight came off and stayed off!

Now I no longer worry about Weight Loss, I just focus on Weight Management. But oddly enough both those goals were attained the same way. I didn’t focus on calories, I focused on the quality of my food and portion sizes and the calories took care of themselves.

People often tell me that they are buying more healthy food like fruit and organic vegetables but they are still having weight issues. Apparently this is a common occurrence. Here is one explanation from the same article:

“Last year, the USDA reported we’re eating 25 percent more fresh fruit, 54 percent more fresh vegetables, and there’s been a rise in organic food sales. But the increase in consumption doesn’t mean we’ve been preparing our fruits and veggies healthily. Sure, we’re eating more vegetables, but we’re pouring 1,000 milligrams of salt onto them and drenching them with oil before they’re dipped into the fryer. When we do eat our veggies, it’s usually potatoes or tomatoes that have morphed into the form of French fries or pizza. Conversely, the foods you want in your system are dark green and orange veggies like spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes. But they only make up 10 percent of our diet.”

American Consumption vs. Reommendtaions

Now granted, not everyone falls into the category mentioned above but overall consumption of what are considered healthy foods is not where it should be. Here is a great graph that shows the actual consumption of foods in American households compared to the USDA recommendations.

usda-recommended-food-choices

Exercise

It seems obvious to me that the quality of the fuel we eat is a big determining factor as to whether or not it will be possible to lose weight. But food alone is not the answer and I discovered that myself several years ago. The right amount and kinds of food are essential but that is still no guarantee weight loss will occur. Exercise has to be a component of the formula.

As mentioned in a study quoted in the article above: “Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people” The article continues,”The challenge is keeping it off, not losing it. Virtually anyone can lose weight, but not everyone can maintain weight loss with healthy consistency…..Diets provide degree improvements where exercise constructs new habits. Ninety percent of those who were able to successfully keep their weight off exercised for one hour every day.”

This is the message I preach even though it may not be the message most people want to hear. There’s no way around it: Food is Fuel and needs to be used as such and the only way to do that is through exercise.

As I read the closing paragraph of the Medical Daily article it brought a smile to my lips. “Our bodies are machines, and if you pour low quality fuel into the tank, the engine won’t run as well. The secret is as simple as that. It is in the application of this stalwart analogy that makes it difficult for most. So do yourself a favor, grab yourself a pair of sneakers and a gym membership to go along with your salad fork.”

Perhaps with enough repetition that message will one day become clear.

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