Maintaining a healthy weight is not only good for your physical health, but also for your mental and emotional well-being. However, many people struggle with finding the right balance between eating enough and not overeating, especially in today’s world where food is abundant and tempting. In this article, we will explain some of the key concepts and tips that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, such as calories, macros, and portion control.
What are calories and why do they matter?
Calories are units of energy that measure how much fuel your body gets from the food you eat. Your body needs a certain amount of calories every day to perform its basic functions, such as breathing, pumping blood, and digesting food. This is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and it varies depending on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level.
However, your body also burns calories when you do any physical activity, such as walking, running, lifting weights, or even fidgeting. This is called your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and it also varies depending on how active you are.
To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you eat the same amount of calories as you burn, you will maintain your weight.
The general rule of thumb is that one pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. Therefore, to lose one pound of fat per week, you need to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. Conversely, to gain one pound of fat per week, you need to create a calorie surplus of 500 calories per day.
However, this rule is not very accurate because it does not account for other factors that affect your weight loss or gain, such as your hormones, genetics, muscle mass, water retention, and metabolic adaptation. Therefore, it is better to use it as a rough guide rather than a precise formula.
What are macros and why do they matter?
Macros are short for macronutrients, which are the three main types of nutrients that your body needs in large amounts: carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and fat. Each macro has a different function and effect on your body and health.
Carbs are the main source of energy for your body and brain. They are broken down into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream and used for immediate or stored energy. Carbs can be classified into simple or complex carbs depending on their structure and how quickly they are digested and absorbed.
Simple carbs are composed of one or two sugar molecules and are found in foods like fruits, honey, milk, candy, soda, and white bread. They are digested and absorbed quickly and cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar levels. This can give you a burst of energy but also make you hungry and crave more carbs soon after.
Complex carbs are composed of many sugar molecules linked together and are found in foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. They are digested and absorbed slowly and cause a gradual rise in your blood sugar levels. This can provide you with sustained energy and keep you full and satisfied for longer.
Protein is the building block of your muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails, hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and neurotransmitters. It is made up of amino acids that your body can either produce (non-essential amino acids) or get from food (essential amino acids). Protein helps repair and grow your tissues, support your immune system, regulate your metabolism, and maintain your fluid balance.
Protein can be found in animal sources like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and whey protein powder; or plant sources like soybeans, tofu, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and pea protein powder. Protein is digested and absorbed at a moderate rate and causes a moderate rise in your blood sugar levels. This can help you preserve and build your muscle mass, boost your metabolism, and reduce your appetite and cravings.
Fat is the most concentrated source of energy for your body and also helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals, protect your organs, insulate your body, and produce some hormones. Fat can be classified into saturated or unsaturated fat depending on their chemical structure and how they affect your cholesterol levels and heart health.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and is found in foods like butter, cheese, cream, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil. Saturated fat can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and is found in foods like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Unsaturated fat can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Fat is digested and absorbed slowly and causes a slight rise in your blood sugar levels. This can help you store excess energy, enhance your flavor and texture of food, and increase your satiety and fullness.
The amount and ratio of macros that you need depend on your goals, preferences, and individual factors. However, a general recommendation is to get 45-65% of your calories from carbs, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat.
What is portion control and why does it matter?
Portion control is the practice of limiting the amount of food that you eat per meal or snack. Portion control can help you manage your calorie intake and prevent overeating or undereating, which can lead to weight gain or loss, respectively.
Portion control can also help you balance your macros and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and ensure that you get enough of each nutrient for your health and well-being.
One way to practice portion control is to use your hand as a guide to measure the size of your food portions. For example, you can use:
- Your palm to measure your protein portions, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or tofu. One palm-sized portion is about 3-4 ounces or 20-30 grams of protein.
- Your fist to measure your carb portions, such as rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, or fruit. One fist-sized portion is about 1 cup or 45-60 grams of carbs.
- Your thumb to measure your fat portions, such as oil, butter, cheese, nuts, or seeds. One thumb-sized portion is about 1 tablespoon or 10-15 grams of fat.
- Your cupped hand to measure your vegetable portions, such as salad greens, broccoli, carrots, or tomatoes. One cupped hand-sized portion is about 1/2 cup or 2-3 servings of vegetables.
Of course, these are just rough estimates and you may need to adjust them according to your needs and preferences. You can also use other tools like scales, measuring cups and spoons, food labels, or apps to track your portions more accurately.
Maintaining a healthy weight is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires a combination of factors like calories, macros, and portion control, as well as other aspects like exercise, sleep, stress management, hydration, and mindset. However, by understanding these concepts and applying them to your daily life, you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight that suits you and your lifestyle.
I hope this article was helpful and informative for you. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for reading and happy weight management! 😊