Ideal Weight: Can you Master Nature’s Simple Balance?

I could tell you a lot of scary things about being overweight. I could tell you that over 20% of heart attacks and over 60% (wow!) of diabetes are attributable to being overweight. I could tell you that adipocytes (fat cells) play a sinister role in systemic inflammation that drives heart disease and diabetes. I could tell you that excessive weight increases your chances of having high blood pressure and suffering a stroke (physicians fear this most). I could tell you that it increases your risk for cancer of the colon, breast, uterus lining and gallbladder. I could tell you that it increases the chance of your experiencing osteoarthritis.

But I won’t, because you are probably already acutely conscious of this, and spend time worrying about it, and probably bounce between various programs trying to combat it. I know, because I did. And worse than all of this, I bet you just feel bad for it! Later in my writings I will explain why you feel bad from a physiological perspective, but for each of us, we just feel bad when we can’t fit into our clothes, or the mirror tells us things we don’t want to know. Familiar? As a physician, I knew all the scary facts, but I finally took meaningful, lasting action after sitting in exquisite pain for six interminably long hours on a transcontinental flight feeling like I couldn’t breathe!

Few people will argue that being a healthy weight is the second step (after exercise) to achieving BodyWHealth. But how to get there? First, you have to know your target and set realistic goals. We will discuss this in detail another day. Most physicians will advocate using your Body Mass Index (BMI) to set a healthy target. You will find many convenient BMI Calculators online. Most normal people will use their dress or pants size! The hard part is getting to the goal. If you responded positively to my first blog, you’ve already started walking your way to your target. Here is your next task: count your calories!

Every living organism is ruled by their energy balance. Universities and labs employ smart scientists who study energetics. One profoundly simple equation rules all of their work. Birds know it. Bees know it. And, by the way, did you ever see an overweight bee? The amount of energy you take in MUST balance the amount of energy you use. Very, very simple. No matter what fancy diet you choose to follow, this is the only important rule! If you take in more or less energy than you’re using for a sustained period of time, you will compromise your BodyWHealth.

If you’re serious about achieving BodyWHealth, you MUST estimate the energy (calories) you are consuming and burning. How? You have to read the package! If a package doesn’t give the caloric content of your food, don’t buy it (or at least complain until they add it). Find a chart that helps you to estimate when you can’t find it – you can’t demand that grandma put the calorie chart on her menu, and I want you to keep eating grandma’s cooking. You MUST write this down at first. Add up your total intake at the end of each day. Use a napkin, a spreadsheet, an app or a program, but you MUST capture this information. Now you know how much energy is coming in.

Next you must know how much energy you are burning. Our regular daily activity (getting out of bed, eating, brushing teeth, even sleeping) consumes energy. This is known as our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). There are many good BMR calculators available that will estimate your BMR for you based on your height, weight, age and gender. The same calculators then use a conversion to estimate your total energy consumption by including your additional daily activity (walking at work, yoga, jogging). You can use this as an average daily estimate or get more specific with fancier tools that will help you estimate energy burnt for each day. Either way, you MUST also write this down each day!

You now have the ability to see on a daily basis if you are eating more energy than you burn, or burning more than you eat. If your intake exceeds your burn rate, I guarantee you will end up overweight. If your intake is less than your burn rate, I guarantee you will lose weight. Period!

At first, this is a difficult task, and most people won’t put in the initial hard work to derive the long-term reward. In the end, I can assure you from personal experience that the job becomes quick and easy. Today, I look at a plate and will guess with sufficient accuracy its calorie content. I know what my basic daily burn rate (BMR) is, and I know what an hour of walking, running, kayaking or swimming consumes. Without the labor of writing or calculating I know each day if I’m over, or under. In the end, that’s all you need.

Step Out and Count your Calories towards BodyWHealth!

Have fun,

Roddy

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