Weight Management: Diet and Exercise

Successful weight management, barring any chronic health conditions, depends on the quality and the quantity of the foods consumed as well as the amount of dedicated physical activity. Many will argue that exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy weight while others prefer to diet. The right mix of diet and exercise yields the best results, but it is important that a weight management regimen is customized for each individual.  

Weight gain often occurs when there is a decrease in physical activity and/or an increase in the calories consumed. The key to maintaining a desirable weight is to ensure that the number of calories consumed is equal to the number of calories expended. For example, consider two females who have the same age, height, and weight. One is a distance runner logging 60 miles per week and the other is an office worker who sits 40 hours per week and performs no dedicated exercise. The runner will need to eat enough food to fuel her workouts, fuel her base metabolic functions, and support her activities of daily living (ADL’s). The office worker will need to consume enough calories to fuel her base metabolic functions and ADL’s while ensuring that the foods are nutrient-dense and low in fat, calories, and sugar content. Both women should avoid fast food, junk food, and highly refined foods in spite of their activity levels to ensure better health. Should there be a significant increase or decrease in their levels of physical activity, they should adjust their calorie intakes accordingly. So, how much is enough?

A great example of how to manage weight gain is detailed in an article on Medicine.net entitled, “Weight Loss”:

Due to working a stressful, sedentary office job, the 45 year-old female gained a total of 16 pounds over the last 13 months (4 of which were in the last month alone). Average healthy weight loss is equal to 1-2 pounds per week.  By reducing calorie intake by 3500 calories (the equivalent of 1 pound) per week, she will be able to lose the 16 pounds in about 4 months. This calorie reduction is achieved by eliminating certain foods from her diet and increasing physical activity. To reach her goal of 3500 calories per week, each day she looks at ways to cut her food intake and increase her physical activity to the tune of 500 calories per day. Foregoing sweet tea (200 calories), replacing soda with water (150 calories), or passing on her morning muffin (250 calories) will achieve about half of that goal. She then incorporates 30 minutes of walking, swimming, or cycling during the week and 60 minutes of walking or gardening per day over the weekend. These activities can burn up to 250 calories per session.

Utilizing a balanced mix of diet and exercise is the most effective approach to weight management and has lasting results. By eliminating empty calories from the diet, consuming more water, and engaging in physical activity, anyone can be successful at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

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