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Food Calories, Exercise Calories and Net Calories

Fresh fruit and vegetables help your food calories go further

When you want to lose weight, understanding how your body uses the food you eat is important. The key thing to learn is the simple to say, but sometimes harder to do, phrase:

"Weight loss = Inputting less than your body needs to maintain its current weight"

What this means is that to lose body fat you need to eat less than the amount of energy your body is using each day.

Energy is measured in calories or kilojoules. You gain energy from the food you eat, and you expend energy by moving, breathing, body functions and by exercising. For example, eating a slice of bread supplies your body with around 70 calories of energy. Going for a 30 minute walk burns (uses) around 90 calories.

So how do you know how many calories you need to eat each day, and how much energy each food item supplies your body with? Read on to learn more about calories and using your Food and Exercise Diary to track your input and output.

What this means is that to lose body fat you need to eat less than the amount of energy your body is using each day.

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Food calories

Your Food Diary is a great tool for tracking everything you eat and drink during the day. You can use the customised meal plans or substitute your own meal ideas. The Food Diary adds up all the calories you consume over the day, making it easy to keep track of whether you're meeting your targets.

For weight loss the aim is to reduce calories so that your caloric intake is less than the calories your currently intake to maintain your current weight. However, cutting back below certain caloric levels will actually slow down your weight loss. When you don't eat enough food, your body goes into starvation mode, and starts hoarding fat in order to help the body survive through the famine that it thinks you are experiencing. Women should never consume less than 1200 food calories per day; men should make sure they eat at least 1500 calories per day.

After taking your Personal Profile, you will know what your recommended daily calorie intake is. You should stick as closely as possible to this recommendation.

The best way to make use of your calorie allowance is to choose low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods that are filling and satisfying to eat.

Compare these two examples, showing the amounts of food you can eat for 300 calories.

For around 300 calories you could eat:
  • 50g packet of cheese corn chips
  • 2 squares of milk chocolate
    (Fat total: 15.5g)
Or you could choose to eat all of this for around 300 calories:
  • 1 tub of diet yoghurt (200g)
  • ½ punnet of strawberries
  • 1 crumpet with 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 cup of air popped popcorn
  • 1 lollipop
    (Fat total: 1g)

It's pretty easy to see that even though you are watching your calorie intake, if you choose your foods wisely you don't need to feel hungry or deprived - there's even room for occasional treats!

Some good examples of foods that are tasty and filling are:

  • Lean protein sources, such as skinless chicken, lean beef, tofu, salmon and tuna
  • Low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat yoghurt, skim milk, low-fat cheese and diet dairy desserts
  • Vegetables - try raw veggies for snacking on and reserve at least half of your dinner plate for salad or vegetables at lunch and dinner
  • Fruits - delicious for snacks or breakfast. Experiment with different types of fruits, such as berries, kiwi fruit, papaya, pineapple and melons
  • Wholegrain products, such as grainy breads and high-fibre cereals

Exercise calories

Choose activities that you enjoy

Regular exercise is crucial to your weight loss goals. Exercise also has many benefits for your health and fitness. recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes per day. You may need to work up to this amount if you have never exercised before.

There are many ways to exercise, so choose something that you enjoy - whether it's walking, cycling, swimming or dancing!

Your Exercise Diary will track the time you have exercised for and will also compute the amount of calories you burnt while participating.

Benefits of exercising:

  • Increases metabolism and helps your body burn calories more efficiently
  • Gives you more energy
  • Improves heart health
  • Speeds weight loss
  • Tones your body
  • Increases your fitness

Net calories

The amount of food that you eat per day (intake) minus the amount of energy that you burn through daily activities and exercise (output) equals your net calories. You will notice that your Food and Exercise Diary will compute this calculation for you, and it's also displayed on the Today page.

As exercising burns calories, doing some each day will help you to lose weight faster. It can also let you eat a little more each day. Your Diary keeps track of it all and lets you know whether you are on track with meeting your Net calories target.

Green ticks

On your Today page, you can gain three green ticks if you meet all of your targets:

  • A tick for exercising for at least 30 minutes per day
  • A tick for meeting your Net calories target
  • A tick for drinking at least 6 glasses of fluid per day

All three ticks are important. Regularly getting them all will help you reach your weight- oss goals faster.

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Last updated: October 8th, 2006

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