Here we go again, the age old question that continues to make headlines: to lose weight, should we limit the total amount of calories, carbohydrates or the fat grams that we eat? Or should we eat endless amounts of fat and protein and just limit the starchy foods? Or should we eat whole grains, proteins and low fat? Or maybe just liquid protein, or rice or cabbage or grapefruit? What is the answer? Well, it seems that we are slowly getting directed to the answer my friends. A research projected headed by Andrew D. Calvin, M.D., MPH from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, and presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism (EPI/NPAM) meeting in San Diego, suggests that not getting enough sleep will increase the amount of calories that are consumed. In fact, as sleep time decreases, calories intake rises. So it seems that the longer we remain awake, the more we tend to eat. I think this makes a lot of sense. I know from a personal stand point, if I am up late, reading or reviewing the literature, I tend to visit the kitchen quite often. And I can tell by the scale in the morning (besides my pants getting tighter), that I have gained weight because of my nocturnal eating patterns. I bet each and every one of you reading this will experience the same thing. If you eat after your dinner meals, up to the time you go to sleep, no matter what kind of foods you consume (e.g. proteins, fats or carbohydrates), you will gain weight. It’s the total amount of calories that counts.
Remember, you have a calorie register in your body. Think of it like a cash register. Every type of food has a calorie value. And all of the food calories, no matter what type they are (e.g. meats or fish, cheese, milk, bread, etc-proteins, fats or carbohydrates) pass this register on their way to the digestion center. So at the end of every 24 hour cycle-the register adds up the amount of calories that have been consumed. It then calls up the metabolism center and asks how many calories have been burned up for the same 24 hour period. If more calories were used up than were consumed, a negative number is produced and suggests that conditions favor a loss of weight. If on the other hand, more calories were taken in than used up, a positive calorie balance is produced which tends to lead to weight gain. Of course this is n over-simplified explanation and many other factors have to be taken into consideration, but basically you get the picture. Now if you overwhelm your system by eating 3000 calories of fats like healthy olive oil or 3000 calories of lettuce or even 3000 calories of lean steak but only use up 1000 calories, where do you think that extra 2000 calories goes? Well, there’s a good chance it will be turned into body fat. Remember, eating an extra 3500 calories per week adds an extra pound to your weight or cutting the 3500 calories per week will help you shed that pound.
So you can start to see that, it really is the total amount of calories that you eat that really is the main component of weight gain and loss. This “total calories consumed” concept also should make you more aware of the facts that it is very important to make the best of those calories consumed-in plain English-eat a healthy diet composed of lots of fruits and veggies (half of every plate), low fat dairy, lean proteins, low saturated/solid fats (e.g. red meat), more mono and poly unsaturated fats (more fish, nuts, beans and plant proteins), more water, less salt, less added sugars and more whole grains (less refined products like white rice and white starches). Just don’t eat too much. We all need to eat less, but eat healthy. And don’t forget to spend time each and every day exercising. Get and stay fit. People who exercise are a generally healthier group of people.
So my friends, keep thinking total calories! And as far as after dinner eating-skip it. If you get hungry, try drinking a 6 ounce glass of water first and then if that doesn’t fill you up, have some lettuce sans dressing. Lettuce, a veggie, is low in calories and composed mostly of water. Salad items like lettuce, cucumber slices and peppers are good between meal snacks and are naturally low in calories and add to your daily veggie count!
How to calculate the amount of calories-information that can help you:
A. A protein has 4 calories per gram; a fat has 9 calories per gram and a carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram. To calculate the total calories, multiple the amount of grams of the food times the calorie count. Example:
My meal consisted of a piece of fish/protein-10 grams (10 x 4=40 calories), and a thin slice of whole grain bread/carbohydrate-5 grams (5×4=20 calories) and a teaspoon of olive oil/fat-5 grams (5×9=45 calories). The total calories for this meal are: 40+20+45=105.