Have you ever thought about how contradictory some TV commercials can be? You see an ad for a restaurant that prides itself on its luscious pies, then the next commercial is about low-fat yogurt, or high-fiber cereal, or the local health club. With those mixed messages, no wonder it’s hard to do what’s best for you.
Actually, the reasons for avoiding the restaurant’s rich pies aren’t all that difficult to understand. Your body needs enough vitamins, minerals, iron, and protein to function properly. What your body doesn’t need much of are foods loaded with salt, sugar, and fat. The calories from those foods really do little to affect the body positively. Instead, they can contribute to increased blood pressure, and put added stress on the heart through extra weight.
It takes only 3,500 calories to equal one pound. This may sound like a lot, but they really can add up quickly. If you ate one 500-calorie piece of pecan pie for seven days in a row, if nothing else were altered in your diet or exercise program, by the end of that week you’d have gained a pound. And that’s the way they can start to add up.
Exercise to the Rescue
Exercise can help. It can put fat in its place by turning it into muscle tissue. What’s more, exercise can prevent extra calories from becoming extra pounds. It’s tempting to eat everything in sight when you’re hungry, and that can add up to calorie overload.
Calories are nothing more than a measurement of energy. Like a steam engine that uses coal for fuel, the body uses calories obtained from food as a source of energy. When it needs more energy, it uses more calories. Likewise, if there isn’t a big energy demand, those calories can be stored until needed. The body stores the calories it doesn’t use right away as adipose tissue, better known as fat.
An active, energetic person usually doesn’t have much extra fat because calories are continually being used for fuel. The classic legion of couch potatoes, on the other hand, probably has increased stores of calories, since, generally, their energy requirements are lower.
Facing the Fats
This all means that if you eat the same number of calories that you burn off, you won’t gain weight. But, if you eat more than your body can use, you’ll notice a weight gain.
Everyone’s metabolism (the rate at which your body uses food) is different, so it’s difficult to compare calorie requirements between people. Some people gain weight easily even if they don’t overeat, while others may eat a lot and never gain an ounce. Age, sex, heredity, and physical makeup all figure into the total scheme of metabolism and weight control.
Older people, for example, may exercise daily and be very active. But they may not need as many calories because their metabolism might be slower. Young people, for the most part, need more calories, since their energy levels are higher and their metabolism is faster. Nutritionists recommend that girls age 15 to 18 should eat an average of 2,100 calories a day, while boys age 15 to 18 should have an average of 2,800 calories a day. But it is also important that girls not go below an average of 1,500 calories per day unless they are under a doctor’s supervision for weight loss. There is a limit to how much a person can cut back on calories and still be healthy.
Fitness experts have some simple advice when it comes to fighting fat and staying fit. They say that exercise and movement are simply the flip side of eating. It’s not enough to treat your body like a bottomless storage bin of stockpiled calories. That only translates into extra pounds and fatigue. These experts suggest that good health involves the total body, not just what is–or even isn’t–put into the mouth.
Interestingly, dieting alone isn’t the most effective method of dealing with extra weight. The problem with many diets is that they are just fads that quickly fade away and are easily forgotten.
Aerobic exercise such as swimming, biking, walking, and running can have a far more lasting effect than just maintaining fitness and promoting a healthy heart. These exercises use a lot of energy, so they burn calories faster. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly burn more calories than those who are inactive. So they are likely to be thinner and have less overall body fat.
There are also the added benefits of lower blood pressure, reduced stress on the heart, and a decrease in the amount of harmful blood fats like cholesterol. Your self-image will get a positive boost, too.
Certainly building a good exercise program into your daily routine is much better than having to constantly worry about what you eat every day. Not only that, if you know that you will be exercising the extra calories off, it won’t be necessary to feel guilty about eating an occasional burger with fries or a favorite dessert. And there won’t be the need to come up with an excuse for why the latest diet didn’t work. You will have discovered something that does!