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Diet - The usual food and drink consumed by an organism (person or animal)

Diet - The act of restricting food intake (or intake of particular foods)

So which is it, eating or not eating?

Most people consider it the latter. A temporary adjustment made to lose some unwanted pounds. A change made to squeeze into that special outfit before a big event. Diet isn't that at all. Diet is one's hourly, daily, monthly, yearly eating habits. It's not something done for months or even years. It's something done for the rest of one's life. It's a lifetime adjustment to eating habits, starting now. Changes made are permanent, not just until a goal weight it achieved.

That's not why this link was clicked though was it? This link was clicked because there was an interest in weight loss. Before we address that, we've got to get a few things out of the way.

Excuses like "big boned" or "I just like to eat" as things that only effect the horizontally challenged are incorrect in general. The difference between a large skeletal frame and a smaller one is about 5 pounds and everyone likes to eat.

Stereotyping fit people as those that are "naturally skinny" or having "overactive metabolisms" is not only generally incorrect but also insulting to those that maintain an ideal body weight. There is a very small percentage of the population with medical reasons for weight loss or gain. Most fit people are that way because they've formed eating habits that are very strict and over time learned to accept them. Their sacrifice is no different than yours. Before saying, "I wish I could eat a candy bar like you but I'll just get fat", ask them what they already have or will sacrifice to make caloric room for that candy bar in their diet.

Acceptance is important. "Hi, my name is Rob, and I'm overweight because I eat too many calories."

Why are harsh comments on this page? Because I was overweight, lost 45 pounds, kept it off for 10 years and now have to listen to the rumblings of others who say, "He doesn't have to worry about what he eats." There's no biological miracle to my low body fat percentage. It takes discipline at every meal today just like it did the first meal of my life change 10 years ago.

If excuses, stereotyping and acceptance are in order then we can proceed to combining the above diet definitions and creating a new one which can define a lifetime diet.

Diet - Usual foods and drinks consumed in a restricted manner by an organism.

A calorie is a measure of how much energy the nutrients protein, carbohydrate and fat can supply the body. When we eat food, our body uses the food as fuel, burning it to produce energy, or calories. Every person's body needs energy to function. Whether the body is pumping blood, breathing, blinking or exercising the body always needs calories.

Some types of nutrients have more calories than others. When protein is eaten the body burns the food as fuel and gives four calories for every gram. When carbohydrates are fed to the body it also gives four calories for every gram. Fat gets its reputation for being fattening because when the body burns it, the body gets nine calories for every gram of fat. That's more than twice the amount from protein or carbohydrates.

So if it's energy the body is after, why not eat fatty foods since they offer twice the calories (energy) per gram than either protein or carbohydrates? The body can only use so many calories at one time. Whatever calories the body doesn't burn for fuel, it stores in the body as fat. Energy for the body is good, stored energy becomes fat and storing fat is weight gain.

The key to keeping the body healthy is to remember that the body uses food for energy. When active, the body burns lots of calories but when inactive the body doesn't burn nearly as many calories. It's this balance that keeps weight stable. Adjusting calories in either direction upsets this balance.

Counting calories is the only way to manage weight.

To begin, calculate the body's Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the number of calories required to keep the body functioning at a resting state.

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x pounds) + (12.7 x inches) - (6.8 x age)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x pounds) + (4.7 x inches) - (4.7 x age)

To better understand how this works I will offer my own weight, height and age.

Body Weight (pounds): 165
Height (inches): 68
Age (years): 40 BMR = 66 + (6.23 x 165) + (12.7 x 68) - (6.8 x 40)
BMR = 66 + (1028) + (864) - (272)
BMR = 1686 calories

1686 calories is the minimum number of calories to maintain my current weight at rest. Obviously it's not likely the body is kept in a restful state all day so we need to add some calories to leave the bed in the morning.

Exercise=500, active=200 or none=0.

Add the appropriate calories for lifestyle above to the BMR calories to calculate the daily calorie intake. Again I'll offer 500 calories since I exercise regularly.

BMR + Exercise = Total calories
1686 + 500 = 2186

2186c represents my caloric balance point. This number is the secret to weight control. I must eat no more and no less than 2186c to maintain my current weight. The only changes I can make would be to increase exercise and eat more calories or decrease exercise and eat fewer calories. That's the bottom line.

Experts will argue that this is over simplified. Other factors like calories burned after exercise or metabolism differences flaw this formula. We consider them irrelevant in the long run. Once the balance is found, small calorie adjustments can be made to compensate for the formula errors. In other words, it's close enough to work.

We've learned about calories and how many calories the body needs to function in our everyday lives. Was there any mention of the type of calories that were consumed in the formula above? No. There doesn't need to be. As far as weight is concerned, a calorie is a calorie. In the example above it could be 2186 lettuce calories or 2186 bacon calories. No difference to weight. Let's pause here to take a look at some popular fad diets and see how this formula relates to them.

Low Fat or Low Carbohydrate diets are a way of upsetting over eating habits by limiting ingredients or food groups enough to limit portion sizes and calorie intake. They have different methods which may or may not control hunger, but the bottom line is getting to the same point discussed above where calories in are less than calories burned for weight loss or equal to calories burned for weight maintenance. By upsetting the balance of what is normally eaten the confusion factor leads to eating fewer calories. Not because calories are limited by the diet, but rather because members on a plan of this type just don't know what they can eat since many of their normal diet foods have be taken away. Several factors cause these diets to fail.

90% and 10% diets allow occasional rewards without sacrificing your weight. Simply put, eat the right amount of calories 90% of the time and treat yourself the remaining 10%. These diets are probably more recognized as Point System Diets wherein a certain number of points are allowed per day or week and it's required to stay within those limits. It's counting calories like discussed above, but modified into points from a look-up table. Bank points one day and feel free to use them the next. Again, it's a fancy way of counting calories.

This brings us to the end of the weight control section. We've learned that the body requires energy (calories) which we give it through food. We understand it's important to know how many calories the body requires so we can limit the amount that is stored as fat.

Quality of calories is the next step after limiting consumed calories. The number of calories consumed doesn't change, but the type of calories does. This offers the body better sources of water, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Click Health | Nutrients to continue.