Finding The Right Energy Balance
When we talk about weight gain or weight loss we need to consider how the energy balance is being swayed. For weight maintenance we want energy in (calories consumed) to equal energy out (calories burned). When:
energy in > energy out = weight gain
energy in < energy out = weight loss
Our body absorbs calories from food and beverages and converts it to energy to allow us to breath, sleep, function at work, be active, etc. Consider which way you are trying to sway the balance, then figure out how to create a deficit or a surplus of energy (calories).
If you are considering weight loss, remember that dietitians recommend goals of 1/2 to 1 kg (1 to 2 lb) per week as sustainable loss. Losing weight in a gradual way versus a drastic drop means that you will maintain your muscle mass and will likely be getting the nutrients that you need to maintain your health. The fad diets that promise miracles are often very restrictive, too low in vitamins and minerals, and have a negative effect on your metabolism. When you don't give your body enough calories because you're being too restrictive or skipping meals you can actually slow down your metabolism. With a slower metabolism your body will be less efficient at using the calories in food because it thinks you are starving and begins storing fat as a protective mechanism.
So how can you begin to find balance? Start creating new habits that you know you can maintain. By starting to listen to your appetite and slowing down at meals and snacks you will be more aware of when you are hungry and be able to stop when you are satisfied. Also remember to include a source of protein (meat, poultry, fish, legumes, milk products, soy products, eggs, nuts) and a source of fibre (vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains) with your meals because they are filling and create lasting energy. Adding activity or staying active can also help with your energy balance as it helps you burn calories. Creating a deficit of 3500 calories per week (that's only 500 calories per day) will lead to a loss of 1 lb per week. This can be created with a lower intake, increased activity, or a combination of both.
Stephanie Wheler, RD
Something Nutrishus Counselling & Coaching
Source: Maintaining a Healthy Weight: A Balancing Act, Dairy Farmers of Canada, June 2010