Learning to Live Lean

Lots of us have a few extra pounds hanging around after having had a baby. Or perhaps after starting your first desk (read: sedentary) job. Or perhaps just after putting on a few pounds a year every year since college. Whatever the reason, there are a plethora of diet plans out there. I read about most of them with skepticism, because for me the absolute bottom line has always been:

calories in – calories out = weight gained (or lost)

Simple, right? And yet, such a difficult equation to internalize. One article that does a pretty good job at showing some places where people tend to make unhealthy choices is this Lose 10 Pounds in 5 Weeks from MSN. Normally I eschew articles like this, but this one points out that simple, everyday choices that you don’t even realize you are making, really add up.

Maybe this is you:

Often, I see overweight people at salad bars. Presumably they have chosen to eat a salad because it’s healthy and less fattening than a meal elsewhere. But the salad they create often has more calories than a Big Mac! It’s piled high with very few vegetables, but with all the meat toppings and creamy potato and pasta salads that can fit on the plate. And then, the entire thing is slathered with blue cheese or ranch dressing.”

Or, this is you:

“This fat mindset doesn’t just apply to eating. It applies to being active. I know overweight people whose hobbies are all sedentary: watching movie after movie, playing video game after video game, surfing the Net, and watching endless TV shows. Studies have shown that the more hours spent doing these sorts of activities, the more overweight a person is.”

How to fix it? How to break the cycle? Some people swear by keeping a food log, either on paper or by using on of the many online calorie counters. An easier solution, if you’re fairly aware of what you eat and the relative calorie counts of foods, is to do the 500 rule: decrease your total calories by 500. You can do this by cutting calories that you take in, or increasing calories that you burn, or doing both. For example, making breakfast a bowl of healthy cereal with skim milk rather than a fancy coffee and a high-calorie scone or muffin, plus taking a 30 minute brisk walk at lunch, will probably get you to that 500 calorie mark fairly easily.

At least, this is the path I’m taking…I’ll let you all know how it turns out!


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