How much food does a person need to exist? Depends upon the size, age, gender, and activity level of the person. So it may not really be an easy answer but there are some helps that are available to give a good ESTIMATE using biometric data in a formula. One I have used in the past is found here – Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Daily Calorie Needs – Calculator Online (Harris-Benedict equation). For most people this will work for general guidelines on how much food, or actually, how many calories, a person needs each day to sustain life.
I have worked with many people that did not have any idea how many calories they were consuming. Once they became aware, educated you might say, about the calorie content in their food choices they were able to lose weight simply by being able to keep at an amount that created a deficit in their ‘energy balance’. Very simply, if the amount of calories that are consumed are greater than the amount of calories expended or burned, this will equal weight gain. The reverse is weight loss. Like I said, it is simple but unfortunately controlling that balance is not easy. Why? because you cannot out run the pizza, or ice cream, or french fries . . . or whatever you have a hard time saying no to that is calorie dense and lacking in life-giving nutrients. It takes more physical activity to burn off a slice of pizza than most of us are willing to do. An average serving of pizza contains 300 calories which is roughly equal to walking (or running) 3 miles. Doesn’t sound like much but when was the last time you only ate one slice?
The nutritional value of food has a big impact on the amount of food that can be eaten to maintain a healthy body.
Now, I am over simplifying this just to make the point that we cannot out exercise a bad diet. And by bad I am referring to the mindset that thinks it doesn’t make a difference in what is eaten as long as physical activity is included to COMPENSATE for calorie dense, less nutritious foods. I remember reading an article about a man that lost weight on a diet of only twinkies. He kept his calorie intake to the minimum that he needed so he created a negative energy balance that resulted in him reducing his body weight. There is not a single vitamin, mineral, phytochemical (plant based nutrient), or electrolyte (except sodium) in a twinkie. He may lose weight but his body will be lacking in all the elements that actually make up his body so his quality of life will suffer! And here is another point to know: It won’t show up in just one day. Meaning our bodies are amazing and can deal with lacking nutrients for a time period. Exactly how much time is dependant on initial level of health, but eventually every body will suffer in performance without proper replacement of needed nutritional components.
So it seems that we are back to talking about what we eat making a difference in health, not how much. But actually we are getting to a place where we can understand that the nutritional value of food has a big impact on the amount of food that can be eaten to maintain a healthy body. So let’s stay with the twinkie and compare how many of those we would be able to eat versus say, broccoli, a very nutrient dense, low calorie food. For most women, we need to eat a minimum of 1200 calories a day to maintain healthy body functions. One twinkie has 135 calories so that would be 8.9 twinkies consumed to equal 1200 calories . . . . one cup of broccoli has 55 calories so that would equal 23.5 cups of broccoli. Obviously you could eat more broccoli than twinkies. At least in theory, because I know I couldn’t eat that much of either.
Next time we’ll tackle the physical activity questions, what to do and how much of it to do!