By Elizabeth Herrin MS, RD, LD
Millions of Americans struggle with their weight. Today, more Americans are overweight or obese than are a healthy weight. It’s not a surprise; our restaurants and culture set us up for eating more and more and exercising less and less. Portion sizes are significantly larger now than they were in past generations, more people work at sedentary desk jobs, and there is so much misinformation regarding wellness available on the internet. If you are struggling with your weight, you are not alone. But what can be done when it seems like the entire world is set up to promote weight gain?
Calories In/Calories Out
It sounds basic because it is. While there is certainly more nuance in the chemistry of what happens in your body, a general rule is this: if the calories eaten are greater than the calories expended, you will gain weight. The opposite is also true. If the calories expended are greater than the calories eaten, you will lose weight. For a general rule of thumb, a 500 calorie per day deficit should result in approximately one pound of weight loss per week.
Should I count calories?
Short answer: maybe. Some people do well keeping a food log in a notebook or an app that tracks calories. At least in the short term, counting calories can help you assess appropriate portion sizes for foods that you typically eat. It also encourages consuming foods that generally have fewer calories like fruits and vegetables. You should be aware that calorie counting is inherently flawed; unless you are meticulously weighing and measuring, you are probably not going to get an accurate count. Also, food databases in tracking apps may not be accurate. Calorie counting also promotes rigid food rules that are not practical in the long term and may promote disordered eating behaviors. Anyone with a history of disordered eating should never count calories.
Instead, try using your hands to measure appropriate portion sizes: use your fist for fruits and vegetables, your palm for meats and fish, your thumb for salad dressings and peanut butter, and a level handful for grains like rice or pasta.
An essential part of a weight management program is physical activity. This is where anything counts: walking, jogging, biking, stairs, etc. However you are able to move your body counts in this category. Aim for 30 minutes of movement at least five times per week. Feel free to break it up into small segments throughout the day! 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening adds up to 30 minutes in the day. If you feel comfortable, you can add more time. Exercise builds muscle, which will help speed up your metabolism.
More weight management questions? Make an appointment with our registered dietitian – or ask about our comprehensive weight management program!