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Weight control the facts

Overweight? Then you are consuming too many calories! That's all

I do exercise but still gain weight

After reflecting on why if am cycling twenty odd miles, walking four or five miles, swimming a half to one kilometer and ice skating umpteen circuits a week I have put on weight! The answer is simple -I have eaten too much.

Calories the science

Our bodies only get energy by consuming food this includes liquid foods. We could lose weight by watching TV all day, provided we didn't eat much food or rather consumed less food than we need. Good food? Well a well known brand of muesli has nearly 400 calories per 100 grams and that's before adding milk, or as I used to do add a banana as well!  Muesli is good food but other food with less calories need to be eaten to compensate for all those calories.

Alcohol and calories

The problem is how do know how many calories we are consuming? I have looked at meal planners and find that they don't really enable one to easily work out how many calories we are consuming. The answer to me was to use Microsoft Excel and make a list of all the food I might eat. Including drink, and I mean all drink. Whilst a healthy diet is supposed to ignore alcohol, the reality is that alcoholic drinks contain calories so are food.

Daily diet calorie tool

I have included a copy of the Excel spreadsheet for anyone to download here: Diet Daily Calorie Tool To use the spreadsheet you will need to save the file. There is also another spreadsheet that has a list of the food which includes a sorted list of food by highest calories. The list helps the user to avoid high calorie food and increase the consumption of low calorie food.

Your weight needs to be entered in kilograms. If you are used to working in stones and pounds the easiest way to convert your weight is to use Google's new Calculator feature. All you do is type in your weight and Google does the rest, for example:


In this case 77.6 kg is good enough! Google also finds references, which could be useful.

There are a few observations I would like to make: I have found by having, just a little more than the maximum number of units of alcohol about a quarter of my daily calories were coming from a couple of pints of beer!

I am not going to be blinded with science. If we simply ensure that our calorie consumption is no more than what we need then we will no more lose weight or gain it. If we want to lose weight then we must consume fewer calories. It is much easier to eat a little less than we need and lose weight over a long period.

Diet the science

Of course controlling weight by tracking calories consumed and altering our diet to lose or gain weight is only one aspect of what is an extremely complicated subject over which there is much controvery. One writer has gone as far as to refer to diet as "Diet Zoo"! in his article: Diet Zoo: Does Science Provide Guidance?  (William R. Ware, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of Western Ontario) The article which is a review of the latest low carbohydrate diets has not been updated since its publication in Internationl Health News 2004 but is still a very authoritive document with 125 references. The document also of necessity covers the history of our diet and the chemistry of how we gain and lose weight. Apparently food does not actually go into our bodies - think about it!

Overweight in denial? 

I hear this nonsense: "Oh I went on a diet and lost weight and then when I came off the diet I quickly put it on again"!  Well no this only happened because the person resumed a diet that contained more calories than their body actually needs. Our diet is what we eat, changing that diet to lose weight rapidly may be used rather than using a punishing regime of exercise; but is pointless unless we return to a daily diet that keeps our weight stable.

Excel spreadsheet and weight control

I have set up the spreadsheet with the data for a person who is moderately active: that is 12 x (weight in pounds) Most of the items in the spreadsheet are measured in grams. Only two changes need to be made to the spreadsheet: the starting date of the week - Sunday and your present weight in kilograms. I have added a typical diet for Sunday which will need to be replaced by your own.

I have not exactly considered a balanced diet, but rather have colour coded the foods to reflect the categories in a natural manner. Reds are used as a warning for example and greens as desirable. We need to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables to balance our meat and diary consumption.

Apart from the drink section most of the spreadsheet is arranged alphabetically (well all of it should be but I might have made some errors)

There is a miscellaneous item entry which may be used to add food which is not part of an everyday diet eg. Christmas pudding.

USDA food groups

I have also added a US department of Agriculture interpretation of the data out of interest. I have based it on the USDA food groups and their food pyramid - the new one is almost meaningless - I prefer a pie chart! But I have only used calories and a colour scheme not percentages of food consumed.

Food needs to be added during the day if possible, or if that is not practical make notes so that you can add the items to the spreadsheet later.

Using the Excel diet spreadsheet

I am using a more complicated spreadsheet that started in January 2009 using data from a 2008 workbook with 52 sheets! You could keep your initial spreadsheet by making a copy and deleting the data and changing the Sunday date and adding your new weight to the new sheet. Or save a copy and use that as the new weekly sheet. Incidentally, if you forget to complete a day just add some imaginary extra cups of tea to increase that day's calorie total to your calculated daily need. For example, if I miss a day, I could add 44 cups of tea to equal my daily calorie needs!  

It would be nice to also see the daily food consumption data in terms of the proportion of carbohydrates, protein and fats but this is quite difficult. A lot of my data came from this website: The Daily Plate but there are others. The USDA food guidance diagram is reprinted below.

How useful is the USDA diet guidance?

Obviously we need to measure our calorie consumption. So how does the USDA diet guidance as represented in the food pyramid help?  Whilst the proportion of foods in the (USDA) Grains and Meats group are almost equal, it is difficult to relate the other groups as they are represented as being in "cup" quantities. 

Milk can be calculated as being weight rather than cups. but then the Milk group does actually include cheese. Cheese is of high fat content and is consequently very high in calories. Three cups of "milk" (two ounces of cheese as well) could add up to 800 calories!

The new food pyramid is not a good model as the food sections are not geometrically related to a pyramid. Unless we think of the sections as being spaced around a pyramid. It would have been far better to have simply used a pie chart.  Everyone knows what a pie chart is!

However, there are a lot of people who could quite easily benefit from the USDA diet guidance.

The Food Standards Agency UK

THe UK government has a website for people seeking advice on their diet: Eatwell And I was pleased to see that a pie chart model has been used  "The Eatwell Plate" This is much better than the USDA's "Food Pyramid". I particularly like the way that food is shown on a plate. Anybody even a young child could see what we should eat the most of and what we should eat the least of.

the Eatwell plate

The Eatwell Plate

They have also used a colour scheme similar to the one that I have used in the Excel spreadsheet. I suppose they might be able to devise similar Eatwell plates for others with different dietary needs and from different cultures. The website has an option to view a larger image which people could print out and put in their kitchens, my image is a downsized copy of the larger image.

 

 

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Posted on 16 Feb 2009 by Geoff Edwards
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