What's the number-one reason people seek to make dietary changes? Better weight control. And with over half of all Americans now fitting into the overweight category, this problem is getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately, this is also an area that is fraught with misinformation, fad diets, and quick fixes. But if you look at the primary causes of obesity today, it's easy to see why quick fix diets don't offer permanent success.
Over the past few decades, our environment has changed dramatically. We now have labor-saving devices that do much of the work we used to do ourselves. Many people also have sedentary jobs, and then go home at night and sit in front of a television or a computer. To make matters worse, the vast majority of Americans do not engage in regular exercise. The bottom line is that people just don't burn as many calories as they used to.
At the same time, portion sizes have grown dramatically just compare the size of the average muffin or bagel today with that of two decades ago! and we are constantly being bombarded with advertisements that encourage us to eat. The fact is that, on average, people eat 200 to 300 calories more per day than they did twenty years ago. And when you eat more calories than you burn, the excess gets stored as fat.
How can you bring your lifestyle back into balance? First, be aware of portion sizes. The simple consumption of too much food may well be the number-one dietary problem in America. Watching your fat intake is another important strategy for controlling calories, since fat contains more than twice the calories of carbohydrate or protein. And, of course, increasing your daily activity level is a must for permanent weight control.
Following the Simple Steps to a Healthier Diet will go a long way toward helping you maintain calorie control, because an eating plan based on these strategies is low in fat and sugar and high in foods that are filling and satisfying. For many people, these guidelines alone will promote natural weight control because they will get full before they overeat. However, everyone should have a sense of how many calories they need to maintain a healthy weight, and how much fat is reasonable in a healthy eating plan. The following table presents daily calorie budgets based on a variety of body weights. (If you are overweight, go by the weight you would like to be.) These budgets are based on the fact that most people need about 13 to 15 calories per pound to maintain their weight. Of course, some people will need more or less calories than the table states, depending on their activity level and metabolic rate.
The following table also shows two recommended daily fat-gram budgets to go along with each range of calorie intakes. Most health experts recommend that fat constitute no more than 30 percent of your daily calorie intake. In fact, 20 to 25 percent would be better in most cases. Realize, though, that you do need some fat for good health, so it is neither necessary nor healthy to eliminate all of the fat from your diet. The article Getting a Smart Balance of Fats, will help you spend your fat budget wisely so that you can get the essential fats you need, while avoiding the harmful fats that you don't need.
Keep in mind that although you shouldn't become obsessed with counting calories or fat grams, this "budget" can help you make wise decisions when purchasing and preparing foods. And realize that small changes, practiced consistently, can make a big difference. For instance, simply trimming 100 calories from your daily diet can produce a ten-pound weight loss over the course of a year. If you are unable to get your weight under control on your own, seek the help of a health professional such as a registered or licensed dietitian who specializes in weight control. She or he can help you set some realistic weight-management goals, fine-tune a healthful eating plan, and recommend exercise and behavior strategies that will meet your individual needs.
Recommended Daily Calorie and Fat Intakes
|Recommended Daily Calorie Intake |
(13-15 calories per pound)
|Daily Fat Gram Intake |
(20% of calorie intake)
|Daily Fat Gram Intake |
(25% of calorie intake)