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January 2005 Newsletter

New Year's Resolutions: Simple Math for Weight Loss

Dear Fellow Business Traveler,

Happy New Year!

88% of you will go on a diet as part of your New Year’s resolution. How can you be successful? Forget fad diets; losing or maintaining weight is simple math. Take in fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight.

Travel Fit Tip: Eat less... Exercise more.

In this month’s article, I explore how to calculate your allowable daily caloric intake, how to track it effectively, and how to calculate your activity level.

The rest is up to you. Congratulations for taking charge of your nutrition and good luck!
To Your Health,
Customer Service, Healthy Travel Network



Calculating Your Allowable Intake

First, you need to figure out a reasonable caloric intake based on your age, weight, sex, and daily activity level.

Each of us has a basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR represents the number of calories that you must consume each day to exist. Your body uses these calories for your heart, breathing and so on. BMR varies by age and sex, and oh so unfortunately, decreases as we get older.

There’s little that you can do in the short term to positively affect your BMR. Studies have shown that people with lower body fat content have a higher BMR, so there’s hope for you to increase your BMR in the long term through diet and exercise.

Travel Fit Tip: If you consume fewer calories than your BMR on a regular basis, your body will lower your BMR by going into “starvation mode.”

Our bodies have been tuned through evolution to lower their caloric needs in times of famine. By eating fewer calories than your current BMR, you are telling your body that you’re starving, and it will adjust accordingly. Starvation diets don’t work!

Calories that you burn on top of your BMR come from activity, whether it be walking the dog, mowing the lawn, housework, or sporting activities such as running, aerobics, golf, tennis, and so on. Obviously, the more calories that you burn through activity, the bigger the gap between your calories consumed and calories burned, helping you to loose weight faster.

Don’t be fooled by the FDA’s standard 2,000 calorie per day baseline for nutrition labels. This standard represents an average of a wide range of ages and both sexes. For example, I am a very active individual and my allowable caloric intake is only 1625 calories per day.

Use our new calculator to compute both your BMR and your active metabolism. Be realistic about your average daily activity level. Remember, there are seven days in the week and don't forget to factor in vacation days, sick days, and other "inactive" days.



How Much Should You Eat?

Now that you know your BMR and active metabolic rate, you can figure out how many calories you should eat each day to safely lose weight. Experts recommend eating 200 calories more than your BMR for safe weight loss, or if you are very active, 200 calories less than your active metabolic rate.

Your Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) of calories should be the greater of:

 BMR + 200 calories
Active Metabolic Rate - 200 calories

You can increase your weight loss by further reducing your calories, but you should not lose more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. For healthy weight loss, your maximum reduction in calories shouldn't be more than 500 per day.

With that number in hand, let's look at tools for monitoring your caloric intake.



Calorie Counting Databases

Most of us eat 700 calories per day more than we realize. That amounts to almost 1.5 pounds gained per week! It pays to track your calories to make sure you aren't eating too much.

The advent of the Internet has brought us many great calorie databases. One of my favorites is http://www.calorieking.com, which has a remarkably complete index of foods including many prepared foods and restaurant foods.

Alternatively, if you’ve eaten at a chain restaurant or eaten a brand name prepared food, try the restaurant or manufacturer’s web site. Most post detailed nutrition information on their sites.

If you want very detailed information on nutrition content, including sugar breakdown (fructose, glucose, etc.), water content, fats, amino acids, and all minerals and vitamins, try the USDA web site at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.



Calorie Counting Software

Many great, inexpensive software programs exist for tracking your foods and activity on a daily basis. I started tracking my calories about three months ago and have found it to be fairly easy because I am frequently at the computer.

If you are honest with yourself, the software is great tool for really assessing whether your ADI is on target and where the bulk of your calories are coming from. In addition, if you are trying a particular diet such as low-carb or low-fat, these tools will help you track your caloric breakdown so that you can monitor your compliance with the diet guidelines.

I also like the fact that during the afternoon, I can quickly plug in breakfast, any morning snack, and lunch, to get a sense of how I am doing before I decide what to have for dinner.

You can find many programs on Google. My personal favorite is FitDay. The download only version is $19.95, and it's quick and easy to use, with a fairly robust database of foods.

If you are serious about counting calories, I highly recommend spending $15 to $25 dollars on a software program. Trying to count calories on paper is very time consuming and laborious. Most of us will quickly grow tired of the effort and give up.



Maximize Your Exercise

If you can’t eat less, then exercise more. Not only will this allow you to still lose weight without having to make significant calorie reductions, over time you will build more muscle which in turn will increase your BMR, enabling you to lose more weight.

Calories Per Hour has a great calculator to help you assess how many calories you are burning during your workouts or just about any daily activity. My favorite for this time of year: taking down the Christmas tree, which burns about 100 calories per half hour. Try tracking your activity for a week to see if your estimates were accurate.

For a simple paper-based activity log, check out The Complete Travel Diet.

If you’re using an online calorie counting program, most will allow you to log time spent on various activities and will compute the calories burned for you and will compare those to your calories consumed.



Mind Over Matter

Lastly, controlling what you eat is an exercise in mind over matter. Many of us fall prey to emotional eating. For a few tips on making sure you stay on the wagon, check out the article What You Should Know Before Starting a Diet in our new Travel Fitness Blog.
Travel Fitness Links
Travel Fitness Blog
Metabolism Calculator
Calorie King
Calories Per Hour
Fit Day

Fit Travel Book
Eat Out, Eat Right
by Hope Warshaw
Practical, realistic guidelines for making healthier menu choices.
Fit Travel Book

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