Calories & Weight Control: 3 Keys to “Manage The 1%”

Calories (the measure of energy contained in food) are the ONLY source of power for humans. In fact, calories energize human metabolism and human function in all its glory. Whether building muscle and bone, thinking thoughts, growing hair, or fighting disease-causing viruses and bacteria, only calories can meet our energy needs.

So why have we become obsessed with avoiding calories? Look at the efforts to avoid calories, our source of ENERGY:

  • Low-calorie snacks are priced at a premium for LESS calories.
  • Dieters are obsessed with COUNTING (and avoiding) calories.
  • Some communities now LIMIT portion sizes of beverages and snacks.
  • Restaurants give calorie info so we can choose FEWER calories.
  • Food labels list calories, so we can AVOID excess calories.

Why would such a necessary, good and essential thing as “energy” become the source of such controversy and concern?

The answer, of course, lies in our escalating epidemic of the calorie storage disease of obesity. But the strategy to completely avoid weight gain is quite simple. Every person can avoid weight gain if they will just “manage the 1%” (of calories that is).

Let me explain…

Fact # 1: Women, since the 1970’s, have gained over 1 lb per year on average!
The typical woman in the 1970’s weighed 135 lbs at age 25. Now (30 years later) that same woman, currently age 55, weighs 170 lbs, and has gained 35 lbs. Yikes!!! What happened? It’s no wonder women miss being back in their old clothes! (Men, our situation is not much better, so no getting arrogant!)

Fact #2: An imbalance of just 13 extra calories per day, less than a 1% increase, causes over 1 pound of fat gain per year!
The average adult uses about 2,100 calories to function each day. The obesity epidemic is the result of an extra 1% or 13 calories per day EXTRA per person per year over 30 years. (JAMA, Jan 6, 2010. Vol 303, No. 1, p. 65) Note: Adding 13 calories is ¼ of a small cookie (or just 1 potato chip… hmmm, “but what if I can’t eat just one?” you may ask…keep reading…) added daily to one’s diet, then adding another ¼ of a cookie (or 1 potato chip) per day the next year and so on. This subtle behavior change can have a devastating impact over time!

Fact #3: There are 3 keys you absolutely MUST control to “manage the 1%”.
So why don’t people just “manage the 1%” calorie imbalance each day? After all, controlling an excess of 13 calories per day can’t be that hard, can it? Surely we wouldn’t even notice if we cut out 13 calories each day, right? The truth is, everyone can unintentionally be a victim of “the calorie storage disease” and fail to “manage the 1%” for one or more of the following 3 reasons:

Key #1: Appetite – Appetite includes all the motivations to put calories in your mouth. Stomach “growling” hunger is obvious. The tempting smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies is another. Americans “love” their food for all sorts of reasons. Appetite (unless managed aggressively) can and often does sabotage dieters.

Key #2: Metabolism – There are many, many factors that influence metabolism and calorie burning BESIDES your activity level. Age, hormones, nutrient levels, stress, and sleep have an impact, just to name a few.

Key #3: Nutrition – We now know that not all calories are created equal. The quantity and quality of your nutritional intake is a KEY to your weight gain tendency.

If you are struggling with the impact of a 1% daily calorie excess (or more) over time (perhaps with many years of excess calories stored), please think through how the 3 keys have played a role. There are sound, medically-based, nutrition-oriented approaches and trained professionals that can help you manage appetite, metabolism, and nutrition factors to empower you for real, lasting success. Be encouraged, be intentional, and get back in control of your weight destiny!

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.

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