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Diet & Exercise - Counting Calories

I am often asked how do you calculate the number of calories burned in a particular exercise and how much activity do I need to get to lose weight? The answer is, it depends. Each of us has different caloric needs based on our gender, age, metabolism, etc. 

1 pound = 3500 calories

maintain weight: calories in = calories burned

lose weight: calories in < calories burned

gain weigth: calories in > calories burned

Safe weight gain / loss is about 1.0-1.5 lbs./week

There is no way to safely lose large amounts of weight in a short period of time. Most fad diets (diets that are all one food type or are not normal food) don't work because they rob your body of essential nutrients and they force you to give up regular foods you enjoy, including dining out. Plus, fasting and starving your body of needed calories and nutrients can actual lower your metabolism and cause your body to store more calories.

The best way is to calculate your caloric needs and track how much you are taking in vs. burning. Make sure the foods you are consuming are nutrient dense meaning you get a significant portion of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals for the calories consumed. The other factor is to base your diet on the food pyramid to ensure that you are getting the variety of foods to get your RDA of nutrients. At My Pyramid you can view the pyramid recommendations and RDA standards. These are published by the federal government. This site also offers a food pyramid planner.

Calories Burned.com allows you to calculate your personal Body Mass Index (BMI), Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and how many calories are in most activities. This list is very comprehensive, including accordion playing, arts & crafts, and bathing your dog in addition to walking, running, different exercises, etc. This site also has a weight loss planner and calorie counter for foods. The website is free.

To calculate the number of calories you are consuming, go to Calorie Count. This has all the national chain restaurants and the nutritional data for all of their menu items. It also has most brands in the grocery store, as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and meats. Plus, you can quick search for any item. There is also information on calories used for activities. This website is free and has a calorie tracker function.

Another helpful website is My Food Diary.com. For $9/month you can electronically track your weight, foot intake, calories burned and how you are progressing towards your weight goals. There are similar sites to this. The advantage is it is a little easier to keep track of your progress and they offer support.

Remember the tortoise and the hare. The key to weight management and good health is establishing good habits, every day for a lifetime. It is better to have small, gradual progress than the rapid YO-YO.

Good luck and happy, healthy eating!