I read a blog the other day about calories. It was a wonderful piece of writing and there was a lot of truth in it, but if you take all of your diet advice from a guy known as Fatty, you may need to look elsewhere for diet advice.
A calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius. As an example of how confusing this is, 76 grams of light ice cream contains 125 calories. That is 76 grams of material at zero degrees Celsius and your body is at 37 degrees Celsius. Some quick math would suggest that it would take more energy (calories) to warm the ice cream to body temperature than are contained in the ice cream. That is because the calories that we talk about are kilocalories and so our definitions get a little mixed up. I guess that is just my way of saying that even though ice cream is cold and your body heats it, doesn’t make it a good diet food.
In short, a calorie is the energy contained in food, that your body either uses for activities or stores to be used later… or not. If you want to remain at a constant weight, you need to eat the same number of calories that you expend during the day. If you want to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you consume. Really, weight loss is that simple if it weren’t for feelings of hunger.
Exercising more tends to make you more hungry. While that seems like a bad thing, studies have consistently shown that the more calories that you expend, the more closely your body is able to regulate your hunger and how much you eat. Additionally, exercise is the best way to remain healthy. While that is not an open ticket to eat whatever you want after exercise, it is a good reason to exercise.
One thing to consider when you exercise (and eat afterwords), is how many calories you burn (and consume). A half hour of fairly vigorous exercise will burn about 200 calories. A tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 200 calories. A double fudge brownie dessert thing from a restaurant contains, I don’t know, lets just say more than 200 calories. Lets also say that it would take more than an hour of intense physical activity to burn off the calories from the dessert.
Since most people are unwilling to put in the time doing intense exercise, diet (not eating the dessert and cutting back on peanut butter) is the best way to manage weight. But don’t forget that exercise is going to help you in the long run as well.
Earlier I mentioned hunger and I just need to make a final point. The key to managing hunger is to consume more foods that are high in fiber and water (vegetables, whole grains, and broth based soups) and to consume less fat (dressings, gravies, butter, high fat dairy, and fatty meats). It’s a matter of consuming foods that fill you up without providing calories (fiber and water) and minimizing foods that are high in calories but don’t fill you up (fatty foods).