Your Health: Calories do count
January 18, 2014
In the 21st century, determining the exact details of what goes into your body is the easiest it's ever been, and just taking the time to make note of your daily diet can make a considerable impression on your overall health.
Keeping track of the calories contained within your food is an important step for weight loss and weight maintenance.
With caloric values available for nearly any kind of sustenance imaginable, the process of monitoring what is eaten on a daily basis doesn't have to be complicated, said Lindsey Hester, registered dietitian for The Memorial Hospital.
Calorie-counting is an example of a behavioral change that, when combined with elements such as exercise and balanced nutrition, can assist those seeking to better their lifestyle and keep an ideal weight.
Hester recommends people get into the habit of writing down whatever food and the approximate calories they consume throughout each day.
Just seeing a list can give folks a greater awareness of their dietary habits, she said, stating that about 50 percent of her clients are hesitant to try the approach.
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"Once they do, their caloric intake decreases by about 20 percent, and they lose weight without even realizing it just because they're committed to self-monitoring," she said.
The website MyFitnessPal — also offered as a smartphone app — is an online source that offers a database for those looking for the most accurate calorie count, as well as numerous resources for those seeking advice on the subject.
Hester recommends the site, but also said starting with a pen and paper is the best way to start off the process.
Having a hard copy of the information helps people see unhealthy patterns they can adjust, such as "trigger foods" that result in excessive binging. A single slice of pizza averages several hundred calories, according to MyFitnessPal, an indulgence that looks more glaring when multiplied by eight for someone who chooses to eat an entire pie in one sitting.
For some, cutting out pizza altogether may be the answer, but keeping tabs on the calories this way can help emphasize the importance of portion control.
"It all depends on the person," Hester said. "If they can control their intake without going overboard, that's great, but if they're trying to get serious, I advise people to avoid all kinds of trigger foods" when beginning to document calories.
Knowing how much of a daily caloric intake is appropriate for your body also is crucial for managing nutrition, she said. A rule of thumb she uses is to add a zero to a person's current weight, resulting in a tally for how many calories should be consumed to maintain that weight, though some bodily needs may require a different margin.
For instance, a typical 200-pound man should be eating about 2,000 calories each day, Hester said.
Still, focusing purely on the numbers is not the ultimate objective. Calorie-counting is a tool to improve a person's own ability to stick to a diet that will keep them.
In the case of children, it's more important to teach them how to make good nutritional choices than to constantly calculate their calories, Hester said.
"If they can focus on how to eat instead of how much to eat, it sets them up to have long-term success in weight management," she said.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.