Monday, March 5, 2012

Energy Balance

by Kris Pitcher

We used to think that weight loss was simply math. When calories in are less than calories out, we lose weight. On paper it works. But there are many factors - human factors - which complicate the simple math.

Figuring out how many calories we need to burn on a weekly basis to make a change is complicated. It's also quite a few more calories than needed just to maintain health. This is the first important distinction. To lose weight we need to be doing more work.

Many of the recommendations we are familiar with, and comfortable with, are for maintaining health. Forgive me...but who cares about that? We want body composition change. People want to win the battle of the bulge. And three days a week won't cut it.

The big challenge with what it actually takes to make change, is that it would turn any beginner into a quitter. We have to find balance as we ramp up to the needed amount of exercise, while managing our expectations about the massive changes we think are going to take place.

There are many different equations to determine your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you need to perform basic bodily function), then we add on our activity level to determine approximately how many calories we should be eating. One thing that will typically happen as we begin to increase our activity is we increase our nutrition.

This can be good, or it can be harmful to our progress. It's complicated. There is a fine balance. We have to make sure we're getting the right nutrients to repair and build, but not excess. This takes trial and error to see where we make changes.

It's not just as simple as energy in, energy out. The real kicker is that each individual will respond differently. That's what makes this a science. So, when I modify my eating plan with my husband's guidance, we are "trying" things. Then we're looking for my body to respond.

People inquire if he develops "individual" programs. Each person is individual, and their nutrition plan is individualized and modified based on their specific response. If it were as simple as energy in, energy out...he could write one diet and put everyone on it. It doesn't work that way.

As you are working to figure out the energy balance equation, know that each of us is individual, and it's not as simple as the math penciled out on paper. We are complex, and we present complicated situations. Be patient with yourself and the process. Find the balance.

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