Losing Weight without Losing Energy to Work and Play

DISCLAIMER:  Please follow the advice of your physician if you have been placed on a medical diet.  This blog should not be used in place of medical advice or prescription.


Losing weight without losing energy for work and play…isn’t this a ubiquitous problem?  A number of folks asked me to blog on this subject, so here is my perspective.   

Not Eating Enough.  If you eat too little compared to your basic calorie needs for sustaining body weight at rest, then you are likely to feel a bit cruddy.  Some of you might feel lightheaded, might have headaches, won’t be able to concentrate as well, might be grouchy, and in general, won’t perform as well.  Food intake much lower than basic needs will not bode well for long term adherence or for adequate nutrient intake.  Please consider getting help with setting intake goals if you are trying to eat less than 1200 Kcal as a woman, or less than 1500 Kcal as a man.  Even consuming those calorie levels are likely to be too low for many of you.

Skipping Meals or Going a Long Time between Meals.  Eat a whole grain Breakfast – there is a lot of research that shows correlation between overweight and Breakfast skipping.  In general, try to avoid going more than 4-5 hours between main meals.  If you wait too long before your next meal, you might find yourself overeating or eating higher fat/higher calorie items.  If you find yourself hungry in between meals, then consider eating 5-6 smaller meals rather than 3 large meals.  Have a big appetite?  Then check out Barbara Rolls, “Volumetrics Eating Plan” for ideas on how to eat larger portions of healthier and lower-calorie foods to help you lose weight.

Giving Up Instead of Working It Out.  It takes some tinkering to find an eating pattern that supports losing weight as well as performance and energy levels.  Don’t give up!  Try to avoid an “all or nothing” approach to eating well.  If you have a bad day, then try to get back on track the next day.  Calorie intake over time is what determines weight loss or gain. 

Can’t or Won’t Exercise.  It is harder to lose weight without the benefit of calorie burning from physical activity.  With or without the use of your legs, you can increase daily physical activity.  If you can still walk, then by all means start doing so (see your doctor for clearance if you have any serious medical condition).  Pool walking, pool aerobics, and swimming could be good choices for folks who have weight-bearing pain in their joints.  If you can’t use your legs, please see a physical therapist – they can help you with appropriate seated and lying down exercises. Standard activity goal is:  30 minutes moderate intensity x 5 days or more/week.

If any of you are curious, I have to bump up my physical activity to 1 hour of moderate intensity exercise (fast walking, jogging, or dancing) 6-7 days/week in order to gradually lose weight (e.g. 1 lb in 1 month).  This is in addition to watching my food intake! 


 From http://spot.colorado.edu/~humphrey/fact%20sheets/tortoise_galapagos/images/tortoise_photo.jpg

 The Tortoise Wins!

What I have found is that slow and gradual weight loss supported by healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity tends to be permanent.  You might not lose as much weight, but you’re likely to find that it stays off.  A weight loss of 1-2 lbs/week for an overweight or obese person is considered gradual.  For some people, a 1-2 lb weight loss per month might work better.  “Overweight” and “obese” are currently defined by Body Mass Index (BMI).  This number looks at your weight relative to your height (kg/m2).

Find out what your BMI is now. 

There are some very simple rules (relating to conservation of energy) that many of us already know to be true:

·        WEIGHT GAIN:  Calories consumed are greater than calories burned à calories stored

·        WEIGHT LOSS:  Calories consumed are less than calories burned à calorie deficit à use of stored fat/protein

·        WEIGHT MAINTENANCE:  Calories consumed are equal to calories burned à calories balanced

Even if you don’t know your estimated energy expenditure (there are a number of formulas to estimate this, as well as some pieces of equipment that measure this indirectly with a great deal of error), you can still chip away at body weight by simply eating a little less and exercising a little more.  This is where a dietitian comes in handy – to help you navigate a healthy eating pattern to support your weight goal.

If you want to explore this on your own, then access the Food Guide Pyramid.  On the right side of the website, click on the icons for “Menu Planner,” “Tracker,” and “Plan.”  You’ll get an estimated number of calories to sustain your body weight as well as recommended number of servings of foods to meet those calories.  You can track your food intake as well as physical activity.  If you want to lose weight, then simply knock off 125 Kcal/day – 500 Kcal/day from the recommended calorie intake depending upon your desired rate of weight loss.

Quick Tool:  1 LB = about 3500 Calories (Kcal)

·        500 Kcal deficit/day will result in a 1 lb weight loss per week

·        250 Kcal deficit/day will result in a 1 lb weight every 2 weeks

·        125 Kcal deficit/day will result in a 1 lb weight loss per month

See Prevention magazine’s “100 ways to cut 100 Calories” for ideas on how to cut food calories. 

See Kansas State University’s “Ten Activities That Burn 100 Calories” for ideas on how to increase activity calories.  

Also see Good Housekeeping’s “Easiest Ways to Burn 100 Calories.”

Good luck with your journey!  Do you have any questions for me?

Best - Kathy



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