A view from my side.
Yes, it has been a while since my last post. Yes, I’ve been busy! Getting ready to move takes time and effort! But I’ve also started running again. And that takes time and effort as well. Unfortunately, my cardio system is able to handle far more than my knees at this particular moment so I find myself with a day or two of rest. Too much, too soon is hardly ever a good thing! So, I’m going to do a series of posts on food, nutrition, and excercise. Largely because I’m in the middle of my summer training program and it’s on my mind.
Food is about energy. We eat to provide our body with the energy necessary to maintain life. (We also eat because we enjoy it, yes, I understand, but work with me here.) We measure the amount of energy in foods through units called calories. These calories give us the fuel to get through our day. The average person only needs around 2,000 calories a day which is why you see that figure as the basis for all of the percentages of recommended daily allowance on nutritional labels. The label at the right is an example from the USDA. See all those percentages on the side? That’s all based on that 2,000 calorie per day average.
All foods are further broken down into three main types: Fats, Carbohydrates, and Protiens. As you can see on the label, 1 gram of carborhydrate or protien equals 4 calories. 1 gram of fat, however, will earn you 9 calories. That’s why so many weight loss diets focus on lowering fats. At more than twice the calories per gram, cutting fats significantly cuts calories. But, I digress and that’s a matter for another post on another day. Back to the “average” diet, it is recommended that the percentages of your total calories come from each type as follows: Fat: 20 – 35% of total calories (average 30%); Protein: 10 – 35% (average 15%); Carbohydrates: 45 – 65% (average 55%). Basically, one pound equals 3500 calories.
Ok, so these are averages, for the average person, doing average things. If you live a more sedentary lifestyle…you work at a desk, are not up on your feet and moving much, drive home, hang out, sit and watch tv, then you need fewer calories. If you are more active, out and about doing things, moving around alot, you need more. Pretty simple when you think about it. And, of course, your needs are also based on your height, current weight, age, etc. But, that’s enough complications for now. For me to maintain my current weight, I only “need” about 1755 calories a day. According to an article at Livestrong.com:
Daily calorie needs vary by the individual, based on factors such as gender, lifestyle and age. MedlinePlus recommends using a simple formula to estimate your calorie needs for weight maintenance. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, for example, multiply your body weight in pounds by 10 to determine your weight-maintenance calorie needs. If you’re over 50 or rarely exercise, multiply your weight by 13. Multiply by 15 if you’re moderately active and by 18 if you have a physically rigorous job or routinely exercise strenuously.
I decided a few months ago I needed to shed about 12 pounds of body fat. So, using a website/app called MyFitnessPal, I started to keep track of what I ate on a daily basis. The database of foods in the app is pretty large and caloric/nutritional information of most of the chain restaraunt meals is available. It isn’t difficult to nor really time consuming to keep it up to date and I found that I actually ate “better” as a result of tracking what I was eating. My goal was to lose 12 pounds. I started in February and three months later, I had accomplished my goal. There was no “crash diet” involved. I simply cut about 500 calories a day from my diet.
500 calories??? OMG!!! That’s soooooooooooooooo much. Actually, it is hardly anything at all. It is amazing what you find you are eating when you start tracking it. For example, the average sized candy bar today…260 calories. The average 12 oz soda…140. The average 20 oz soda…260 calories. Those little peanut butter cracker packages so many people enjoy…180 calories in the packet. Oatmeal Cream Pie from Little Debbie snacks….170 calories. A slice of bread…70 calories. One final example to make it easy…a 4 oz fried chicken breast is around 360 calories. A 4 oz grilled chicken breast is around 120. You get the picture. It isn’t hard to find 500 calories in your daily diet if you are the average American.
So, for me, it came from my love of the good old American PB&J. I live close enough to work to go home at lunch and would often go home to eat. A simple PB&J with chips totals 530 calories. Add a soda and you’re at 640. Whew…see what I mean? I replaced that meal with a ham or chicken sandwich, a granola or fruit bar and water and dropped the calorie count down to 280. A “savings” of 360 calories. I found another 140 easily enough in the fruit juice I was drinking everyday. I replaced that with water and I had my 500 calories. 500 calories a day x 7 days gave me 3500 calories a week. 12 weeks and I lost 12 pounds. Not to shabby, nor too difficult.
Dropping that 12 pounds was Phase 1. Now that the season is over and I have my afternoons/evenings back, I started running again. That is Phase 2 and that is another post.