How to Balance your Energy Budget

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No, this is not about saving energy by turning down the thermostat but about balancing your body’s energy budget. Many people start off the New Year with a list of good intentions. Losing weight is generally one of the most popular items on those lists, together with saving money. The rules that apply for financial budgeting also apply for achieving and maintaining an ideal weight: One has to balance what comes in with what goes out. If a person consistently takes in more calories (energy) than he spends, he will gain weight. Keeping track of one’s “energy budget” can help consumers lose a few extra pounds and keep them off over the long-term.

There is no magic formula for losing weight. Consumers should be wary of those who promise a “quick fix” to a weight problem. Long-lasting changes to eating habits and lifestyles are the only real methods of losing weight.

Whether dealing with personal finance or weight management, consumers have to start by finding out where they are right now. To lose an extra pound, a person has to “spend” the equivalent of 3,500 calories. An average man uses up about 2,200-2,400 calories a day and for women it is about 1,800-2,100. Of course, there are differences depending on whether a person has a physically demanding occupation and an active lifestyle. Simple math shows that significant weight loss is not something achieved overnight.

It is a good idea to check with a doctor before starting a weight-loss program, especially if the plan includes losing a lot of weight.

A good start is to write down what you eat on a normal day and calculate how many calories this represents. Keeping a food diary even for a short period of time can help you find out what you add to your “energy account” during the day. Writing it down helps you remember all the little snacks here and there that add calories during the day.

There are several Web sites–such as www.caloriecontrol.org–and books that allow consumers to check quickly how many calories certain foods contain. Nutritional information on most packaged foods is also helpful for your accounting.

Of course, there is also the “spending” side of the equation. In contrast to financial budget planning, consumers who want to reduce their weight are encouraged to spend freely in the form of more activity. Since most adults’ levels of physical activity are often lower than those of a generation ago (reflecting lifestyle changes), spending more energy is recommended by health experts. Everything from extending the lunch-hour walk to doing some extra gardening work can help to balance the books. Finding out how many calories are spent on an extra 15 minutes of walking or a workout in the gym will help you to set your budget.

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After the “income” and the “spending” are calculated, consumers can move on to make some changes that can help them to reach a healthy weight gradually. They can also see that it is not necessary to drop all foods that are fun and tasty. Even small changes can help if consumers stick with them.

With a budget, saving even small amounts is good financial advice because over the years the small amounts can add up to a significant pet of money. Unfortunately, that is also what happens to many people in terms of weight when they grow older. A few more calories consumed than one spends every day through physical activity end up as the extra pounds so many people schlep around today.

For example, add 100 extra calories (the equivalent of two chocolate chip cookies or a couple handfuls of potato chips) each day for a year and, voila, there are the extra 10 pounds that don’t quite fit into the old jeans any more. That’s the bad news; but the good news is that it also works the other way around.

Dropping a few cherished sweets or substituting a piece of fruit for a cream doughnut can make a big difference over the course of a year. Consumers who write down what they eat should find it easier to identify a few changes in their eating habits to start achieving their goals.

Besides the nutritional changes, consumers might also look at their schedules and see if they really can’t find a few minutes here and there to be more active. As with food, even several 10-15 minutes intervals of physical activities during the day will burn away some of those cookies. After all, it takes about 15 minutes of brisk walking to get rid of about a 100 calories. While many might overestimate the calorie-burning effects of their gym visits, getting physically fit by becoming more active is considered by many experts as important as losing a few extra pounds. Even couch potatoes might discover some activities they enjoy.

So do the math and get started with your energy budget!

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