Maintaining a healthy weight is not the only thing that matters when it comes to physical fitness. There’s also cardiovascular health, and bone density, and body fat percentage, and muscles, and macronutrients and micronutrients, and individual physiologies and abilities and limitations, and mental baggage!
And all of these things are interrelated.
But getting to a healthy weight was the idea I started with, so that’s where I’ll start talking. I’m not saying anything new, and I’m likely saying it less well than others have said it, but maybe my little voice will mean something to someone so…
There’s a formula to weight loss. Take in less energy than you expend. We take in energy by eating and we expend energy by being alive. We can increase energy intake by eating more and we can increase energy output by moving more. Two dials to adjust to get us where we want to be: the energy in knob and the energy out knob. Simple does not mean easy. I know. Getting these controls in a comfortable balance can take some practice.
In the U.S. we generally call energy by its unit of measurement: calorie. It’s also know as a kilocalorie or kcal.* There are other units of measure used in other parts of the world (hello, kilojoule), but however you measure it is fine. So, you can state the weight loss formula as “take in fewer calories than you expend” or calories in < calories out or CI<CO or CICO. I want to repeat that weight loss/management isn’t everything. How you feel matters. How different foods affect you physically and mentally matters, but strictly speaking, CICO is the formula.
When I was a teenager and a young woman, I kept my weight mostly steady by occasionally increasing my energy output, my energy expenditure, my calories out, my CO, with exercise. I also smoked cigarettes to manage stress.
When I got a little older, I had less time and inclination to exercise, I gave up the unhealthy habit of smoking and replaced it with the better bad habit of over-snacking, I moved from the city to the suburbs where driving is more of a necessity, I grew three babies in my body in five years, and then felt somewhat housebound by my responsibilities in raising them. Oh, and sleep deprivation common to new mothers drastically decreased my non-exercise activity. The result was that during the course of my marriage I put on about eighty pounds of fat.
Look out for part 2 coming soon.
*A kilocalorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water one degree Celsius. Please visit USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory for additional information.