“Follow the yellow brick road…… follow the yellow brick road.”
Do you often feel the road to weight loss is some magical occurrence or whimsical idea that is as realistic as Dorothy’s dream? If you are shaking your head yes or saying to yourself, “It sure does feel that way,” then you certainly are not alone. When you understand the basic energy equation, you become empowered to take control of yourself and realize there is no need to be dependent upon anything else for your weight loss goals other than managing this balance.
Understanding your energy source
Energy is energy. When it comes to the source of energy that your body requires it is in the form of a calorie from a food source. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us a calorie is, “A unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body.” The reverse is true when we talk about burning calories and how much energy we need to create to utilize stored calories or “fat.”
When you eat, regardless of what you eat, your body is either going to utilize food for immediate energy or store it as a reserved source of energy (fat) for a later time. Fat storage is not a curse. It is your bodies way of preparing for a fight or flight situation or for any unforeseen starvation period when food is not accessible. This is a good thing. However, times have changed. We usually always have food available, we are eating a lot of it, we are storing a lot of it, but we are not having those periods of “without” or in many cases not utilizing that stored energy through physical activity or exercise.
Every person is different when it comes to their energy needs. You require energy for breathing, digestion, maintaining your bodies core temperature, metabolism, thinking, feeling, basically all of the mechanisms that go on in your body that you aren’t consciously thinking about.
Then you need to consider your activity level. You need additional energy for getting through your day- movement, exercise, cleaning, cooking, working, whatever it is that you do, always requires energy. If you are sedentary you need less, a more active person will need more. This can change from day to day.
*photo courtesy of theweightofthenation.hbo.com*
Regulating your energy source
So how do you find that balance of regulating energy? Your goal in achieving a healthy weight should be the basic equation of eating nutrient dense foods that provide the energy you need, but also knowing when to say enough so you are not promoting continuous storage. Here are some helpful tips:
- You learn to listen to your natural hunger cues. You differentiate them from non hunger provokers that I discuss in my beginning series of mindful eating.
- You pay close attention to your portions when eating.
- You get the most bang for your buck. This means eating nutrient dense foods as opposed to high calorie non nutritive foods that will promote energy storage, but still leave you feeling hungry because you have not yet provided the ample nutrients your body requires. This is why banning major food groups to attempt weight loss is not a good idea. We need diversity to acquire all of the essential nutrients.
- You balance meals with lean protein, high fiber complex carbohydrates and colorful produce to promote feelings of satiety (fullness and contentment after meals) so you can go longer periods without feeling like you are starving within an hour.
- You limit your calories or energy from sweetened beverages that offer little nutrition, but is still contributing to your energy total for the day and very well leading to weight gain. It is not any one food or drink, it is the total energy you consume from both food and drink realizing that every bite and every sip counts.
- If you have a hard time regulating your total energy input, keep a food journal or utilize a free online calorie counting service to bring awareness to what you are eating while simultaneously learning which foods contribute the most calories, but not nutrients.
- You find a way to balance energy input with energy output – community fitness classes, walking, swimming, home fitness DVD’s, calisthenics, running, dancing, etc.
- You learn to enjoy food and find that healthy balance between saying yes and saying no. There really is no magic secret – nourishing foods, within your energy requirements and incorporating activity. This is the tried and true way, you just need to get yourself to that realization. It’s okay to say no when you know it will throw your energy balance off and you know that you don’t need it. Say to yourself, “I don’t need that.”
- Remember: Energy in…Nourish…Energy out. Energy in…Nourish… Energy out. A delicate, but effective mindset.
- You can do this. Find an accountability partner to take this journey with you. Once you establish this lifestyle of self regulation, you will never lose it. Sure you will have days when you over do it and not care, but get back on track. It is not one day or even one week, it is the bigger picture over a long period of time.
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