Monday, January 24, 2011

Focus Topic: Calories...

            Okay everyone, we’ve gone over fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and a previous article on good fats vs. bad fats. You’ve got the nutritional basics down. Now let’s talk calories. This is a really complicated subject simply because caloric intake is different for everyone. People assume that 2,000 calories is the magic number that we should shoot for when in reality, some people require less and others require more. For example, an obese individual looking to lose weight should never drop from 4,000+ calories per day to 1,500. While it is true that if you want to lose some weight you need to eat fewer calories, you need to make this a gradual change. If you’re use to a 4,000 calorie diet (you might seem shocked at this crazy high number but you’d be surprised how quickly calories can add up) move down to 3,800 for a few weeks. Once your body is use to that, take it down another 2-300 calories. You can’t shock your body with major calorie changes.
            Everywhere you look people are going to tell you something different but my personal opinion is that no one, under any circumstances, should drop below 1,500 calories per day, even if it’s for a short period of time. (This is one reason why the HCG diet is so bad for you. I’ll be having a post on that one later for sure.) Your body requires a certain amount of energy per day just to survive. If you’re not giving your body the energy it needs in the form of calories, basic bodily functions begin to shut down because there’s not enough energy to do everything that needs to be done. Simple things like digestion are not happening because it’s more important for your body to supply energy to your heart and lungs rather than spending it on digestion.  Everyone’s basic metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories simply by living) is different which is why you won’t find an exact number. However it is safe to say that no one should ever go below 1,500.
            Besides the fact that it’s dangerous to deny your body the calories it needs to function at its lowest level, weight loss needs to happen slowly. I know that sounds crazy and that some of you wish you could drop 20 pounds this week but it’s just not safe. A safe amount of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week (I realize the contestants on The Biggest Loser can sometimes lose up to 10 pounds in a week but please do not use this as an example of a good, normal practice). Slower weight loss means a slower drop in blood pressure. If you are losing too much weight too quickly you risk having your blood pressure drop drastically landing you right in the hospital or even in your very own comfy casket. I’m sure you’ve all heard horror stories about severely obese people having some sort of weight loss surgery and dying several weeks later. Part of that is because of what sudden weight loss does to your blood pressure. I know there are those of us out there who want to lose a lot of weight and that’s okay. Just please, please do it slowly.
            Another reason we want a slow weight loss is because weight loss and weight maintenance require lifestyle changes. It doesn’t do you any good to diet your way to the weight you want to be and then go right back to your old habits. That weight will be back on before you know it. Instead of “dieting” make the choice to change your lifestyle to a healthier one. “Dieting” is a temporary change to induce temporary weight loss. A lifestyle change helps us lose the weight and keep it off.

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