How Many Calories Do You Need? Live by the Numbers

The rates of obesity in the United States began to rise sharply in the early 1980s, increasing 100 percent by 2000. Why did people start eating more and/or exercising less?

It turns out one of the main culprits is an increase in our food supply. The number of calories available per capita per day increased from 3,200 to 3,900 from 1980 to 2000, a rise of more than 20 percent.

Remember the laws of economics? When supply increases, prices go down. In this case, prices went down and the size of portions increased, so people could afford to eat out more often. Eating more is good for business, but it’s not good for our health. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. If we burn more than we eat, we lose weight; if we burn less than we eat, we gain weight.

A researcher lost weight on a diet comprised primarily of Twinkies by reducing his intake to 800 calories a day, but I doubt he felt very good (and I highly recommend against such a weight-loss program).

We’re not good at estimating how much we eat. When researchers asked individuals how many calories they usually eat, people underestimate by 30 percent or more.

Here are a couple of ideas of how to address this problem:

Resign from the clean-your-plate club. It was likely a good idea back when our parents insisted on it as kids, but it’s the cause of too many calories today.

At least for a few weeks, write down what you eat – down to the gnat’s ass – and add up your caloric intake. It’s not as hard as you think: There are websites where you can get an estimate of how many calories you should consume per day, based upon age, height, weight and activity level – Click Here.

With that number in hand, you can then count your calories with this tool. You’ll be amazed at what you learn – and how the information will provide motivation.

Remember, a guy who weighs 230 pounds burns more calories than someone who weighs 200 pounds. So if a 230-pound guy wants to slim down, he’ll need to reduce his daily caloric intake as he loses weight. Otherwise, he’ll plateau.

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