Updated: June 25, 2015
A weight management program often includes counting calories which helps record, or target a net zero weight gain or weight loss approach. Food nutrition data and calorie handbooks are easily found on the Internet and within bookstores and libraries.
Understanding how total calories increase, decrease or sustain healthy body weight can also lead to achieving other fitness goals. Such as increased cardio-muscular endurance capacity, flexibility, and strength and reduced body fat. Once you see the example I lay out below you’ll understand why so many depend on the use of calorie counting to achieve weight loss goals. And how marketers apply this knowledge to sell fast weight loss services and products that work short term, but cause weight gain in the long run.
To make my point I’m going to kill 3 birds with one stone. 1) Show how to count calories of a favorite food. 2) Why balanced food macro and micronutrients are important. 3) How improper use of this knowledge can break metabolism and cause illness and disease.
Now for our imbalanced diet plan approach. If a weight loss plan is composed mostly of protein and lacks essential fats and carbohydrates the metabolism will be starved one way or the other of macronutrients and the person will revert back to old dietary habits at some point in time. If this pattern continues, then obsessive diet practices become cyclical and so does body weight. This yo-yo effect on the metabolism after a period of time has proven to cause illness and disease [cardiovascular, diabetes, mental and immune disorders, etc.].
Next I illustrate the worst way you could plan weight loss using calorie count by creating, or buying into a restrictive or favorite food plan to lose weight in 30 days. And why this practice is bad for health.
Since I love cheese burgers, I’m creating a favorite cheese burger diet and calculating the calories to see how many burgers I can eat in a day and still lose weight. Whereas the beverage of choice is water and plan is set for a 30 day window. Now let’s calculate calories and effect on body weight.
For those that don’t recall 3500 calories equal approximately 1 pound.
The total calories in a Quarter Pounder with cheese…“I know you hate the math, but here it is…”
[30g fat (9cals/gram) =270cal, 28g Carbohydrate (4cals/g) =152cal, and 27g Protein (4 cals/g) =108cal] = ~530cals/ Total Quarter Pounder Calories
If a weight loss plan is designed around any dietary food strategy then you also need to know how many calories a day the average man and woman require to sustain life and get work done. For the sake of argument and more calculations, I’ve already averaged out the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) + RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) x EER (Estimated Energy Requirement) factor = TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and spared the tedious calculations.
I calculate the daily calorie requirement for men and women of aver BMR, weight, age, rest, work and exercise: Women require ~1700 cal/day and men require ~2500 cal/day.
If these caloric estimates were accurate and you ate 3 or 4 quarter pounders with cheese at 530cal each, this would limit the average woman and man’s daily burger intake to ~3 and 4 cheeseburgers/day. However, the reality of caloric intake and caloric burn metabolism is not that simple as there’s other metabolic variables at play. As noted there are varying metabolic requirements to sustain life and get work done, i.e., BMR (EER) +RMR = TDEE. There are also differences in individual daily exercise activities [intensity of effort, duration and frequency of tasks], sleep cycle,
daily rest cycles, genetics, environment, medical history, etc. I’ve simply made the math easy to make multiple dietary teaching points. Mostly to show how a favorite or restrictive food strategy to lose weight serves as a disadvantage to health long term.
Now back to the favorite food plan. The total calories found in our favorite food less the Total Daily Energy Expenditure if followed for 30 days will cause a daily net caloric loss and decreased body weight.
Whereas: 530calories per cheese burger x 4 = 2120 total calories. 2120 burger calories/day – 2500 caloric daily requirement (male) presents less then net zero sustained body weight by (380) calories/day. This represents (11,400) calorie loss in 30 days, or 3.25lbs solid weight loss in 1 month. Although this may not see like a lot, it’s a working weight loss concept that can provide 5 to 10 times that loss dependent on individual multiple factor differences.
Sounds great eh! You could lose weight this way right! Actually you could. But the thing you first notice is the lack of macronutrient food group variety and balanced micronutrients. This nutrient imbalance wouldn’t keep the brain, body and spirit satisfied for long. When calorie nutrient imbalances limit or restrict metabolic energy exchange needed to get work done; and cellular health maintenance, then the body and mind begin to feel sick and depressed.
Although the combined protein intake looks okay at 20% [~15% protein is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Macronutrient recommended daily average]; the other two macronutrients don’t fare so well.
Dietary fats in this favorite foods plan is around 51% [~30% fats is the USDA Macronutrient recommended daily average with a mix of saturated and mono/poly unsaturated fats].
Carbohydrate percentage in this favorite food plan is approximately 29% [~55% carbohydrates is the USDA Macronutrient recommended daily average]. At face value, you see there’s little macronutrient and also micronutrient balance in vitamin, mineral and fiber [not calculated in this example].
“I know some of you are thinking perfect,” I’ll just eat 2-4 burgers, pizza, cake, hotdogs, etc., a day to lose weight because Marc showed me how to eat my favorite foods to lose weight. Although the information presented may help you lose weight in the short term I didn’t say it would be healthy, sustainable or advisable. I merely painted one example out of many marketers and individuals have used to sell and create weight loss plans that ultimately put consumers in a hurt locker. It doesn’t matter how you limit or restrict calories to lose weight. When it’s not a natural and balanced approach the diet plan fails at the expense of short term weight loss and almost always causes long term weight gain.
Every diet plan offered in the marketplace no matter how good it looks or appears to work for others, if it doesn’t involve changing habits and behaviors then the weight will come back. This favorite food strategy is no different than eating fresh sandwiches at every meal, every day. Even this seemingly healthy diet strategy fails in the long run on multiple cultural, social, environment and nutrient fronts. Again, if you’ve not learned to change habits and behaviors that incorporate a variety of balanced eating and daily exercise habits then the body’s rejection of these imbalances let you know one way or the other. And when applied long term has insidious effect on metabolism, other bodily and cellular function and brain health.
There is nothing manmade including weight loss plans and services that improve upon God’s natural worldly order.
Where our holistic being is dependent upon balanced organic diet, exercise activity, and work in stress free environment. These balances per God’s design when applied as intended supports healthy body weight, fitness levels and living life to the fullest while mitigating illness and disease.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2015 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.