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Calories in, calories out

June 20, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
Years ago dieting meant counting calories.

But then something happened and people were trying to find other, easier ways to lose extra weight. Perhaps calorie counting became too confusing or perhaps it was too time-consuming once technology made our lives busier.

So instead of counting calories, we were counting nutrition, carbohydrates, fat grams, dealing our meals and substituting food for points. Some of us lost weight and some of us gained. It became so confusing to go on a diet that we had to read entire books explaining the newest method.

And then it became apparent that our mothers and grandmothers were right all along. It is the calories that really count. The bottom line in any weight loss plan is to burn more calories than we take in. To maintain that weight loss, we have to balance our daily calorie output with our daily calorie intake. It sounds pretty simple.

What the heck is a calorie anyway? If you want to get technical about it, a calorie is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius from a standard initial temperature. But, to put it more simply, it is a way of measuring energy. Energy is heat and our body uses energy for all of its functions, from the beating of our hearts to the transference of oxygen from our lungs throughout each and every cell. Our brains use energy when we think, move our muscles, walk, talk and chew. This energy that we need to maintain a daily existence is called our basal metabolic rate.

In order to live, we need to take in enough fuel each day to maintain our basal metabolic rate. By exercising, we speed up that rate and need more fuel. If we sit around all day, our rate is slower.

Genetics also plays a role in our basal metabolic rate. Some people are predisposed to metabolize their food more quickly than others. These are the people we know who can seemingly eat anything and still never gain weight. Our metabolism changes too, slowing down as we get older and making our basal metabolic rate lower than it was when we were younger.

Starting today, I will be adding calorie counts to my daily food lists in addition to watching food groups to make sure I’m getting enough healthy options throughout the day. My goal is to lose weight, but over time, I will need to maintain, so keeping an eye on my basal metabolic rate is key.

Web sites abound that offer average calculations for the average person’s needs and are based on height, goal weight and daily activity, but since everyone is different, I’ll be playing it by ear. If I stay the same for several days, I’ll know I have to cut back somewhere. If I am losing too much weight too fast, I’ll have to add to my daily intake. And of course, most people hit that dreaded plateau where nothing seems to work and you simply have to either wait it out, or give your metabolism some sort of boost. We’ll try to get through that too.

I will be posting updates with each meal, so check back mornings, afternoons and nights after each meal. Remember that I am not a licensed or certified nutritionist or dietician. Those with health issues, including weight problems, always should seek the advice of a professional before making any changes that might affect your health.

Breakfast was two scrambled eggs, two slices whole wheat toast, 2 teaspoons homemade strawberry low-sugar jam, a cup of milk, and of course a cup of tea with two teaspoons sugar.

Lunch out was a spinach salad with red onion, bacon bits and grilled shrimp with vinaigrette dressing served on the side. For my beverage I had water with a slice of lemon.

Dinner was at home. I wanted to use some of the beautiful kale from my garden, so I stirred up a one pan meal with mixed vegetables, including the chopped kale, whole wheat pasta and chicken. Steaming the vegetables in a little broth helped soften them so they didn't have to cook in a lot of oil. Adding the olive oil afterward, without cooking, also is healthier because heating olive oil to higher temperatures takes away the healthy components that help fight cholesterol.


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Breakfast: 2 ounces meat; 2 ounces grains; 1cup dairy; 60 discretionary calories (jam and sugar in tea). Total calories: 460