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The same holds true when it comes to eating. If we wanted to budget our calories, how in world could we make good choices if we didn't know calorie count of foods we eat? We just couldn't do a good job. Our calorie intake per day would probably exceed our break-even point for maintaining body weight, and we would gain.
So, in order to make sensible choices, it's crucial to know approximate number of calories in foods we eat. An easy way to do that is to buy a paperback book in check-out line of your grocery store that lists calorie content of usual portions of commonly consumed food and beverages. (Or look them up online.) We don't necessarily need to check list each time we sit down to eat, but knowing typical figures for our favorite foods will enable us to know if we're keeping or exceeding our daily calorie budget.
This is not as awful as it sounds. In fact, there can be pleasant surprises. Suppose I typically get munchies in evening, and I roam house in search of goodies to snack upon. Here is where knowledge of calorie contents can pay off. If I satisfy my munchies by eating cookies, French fries, potato chips or candies, then I'll blow my daily food-budget in just one sitting. But what if I substitute pretzels or unbuttered popcorn? They might be just as satisfying, yet contain fewer calories. So these alternative choices might spare my daily calorie budget at no loss of satisfaction.
As a physician I often encourage my patients to lose weight. Being overweight can increase blood pressure and cholesterol which, in turn, increase likelihoods of heart attacks and strokes. Heart attacks and strokes are number one and number three causes of death in U.S., respectively, and strokes are number one cause of disability. So we're talking about real conditions that afflict real people. Moreover, our overweight bodies put more stress and strain on our spines and our knees, making them wear out earlier, hurt more, and interfere with quality of life.
Some patients with whom I have this conversation look at me like I'm crazy. They're eating barely enough food to keep a small bird warm, they say. The problem—or solution—couldn't possibly lie with food they eat.
The incentives are clear. The choices are ours to make. We shouldn't blame our metabolism. And we shouldn't delude ourselves that we consume barely enough to keep ourselves alive, and yet still, unaccountably, gain weight. We need to take our health into our own hands and start making choices that increase quality and quantity of our remaining years.
(C) 2005 by Gary Cordingley
Gary Cordingley, MD, PhD, is a clinical neurologist, teacher and researcher. For more health-related articles see his website at: http://www.cordingleyneurology.com