Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is moderation?

Given all my talk of moderation when it comes to eating, I guess I should disclose what my idea of the word means -- which to some may feel like a near-anorexic diet and to others a gluttonous feast.

But ultimately, if the goal is to maintain or lose weight, you have to gauge the calories you take in versus calories being burned, with caloric intake equaling burn for maintenance and intake less than burn for weightloss (approximately 3,500 calories per pound.) I'm not a obsessed, precise calorie-counter, but I do a fair job of guesstimating how many I'm eating -- as for estimating calories burned, there are calculators out there like this easy-to-use one at, which takes into consideration your sex, current height, weight, age and activity level.

That being said, I try to stay within 1,600-1,800 calorie range on a normal day, enough to for me to have three satisfying meals plus wiggle room for snacks/treats/alchy while still creating a signficant calorie deficit (if the calculator's guesstimated 2,400 calories burned/day is to be trusted.)

So on a given week with 4-5 days of normal eating, I'll have a weekly caloric deficit of 2,400 to 4,000 calories -- which I have to "splurge" on more indulgent and decadent meals at home or out and about. And given my love of all things sweet and fatty, two to three splurge meals will easily fill that deficit up, so that's how I moderate my indulgences: no more than three blowout meals on a given week. I think of it as my own "three strikes" rule. And it works for me in the past two and a half years at this weight, since I've never deviated more than five pounds.

Of course, this is what works for me -- unless you're identical to me in body size, activity level, eating habits and food cravings, you're probably going to have different calorie needs and probably a different regimen. If you don't eat out a whole lot, you may do better with a consistent but overall higher-calorie intake everyday. Or if you go out-of-town regularly, perhaps a "three weeks clean, one week mean" schedule is more suitable. There's definitely some room to play around as to finding what lifestyle's best for you, but just remember and use the simple calories in-calories out formula to guide your eating habits to meet your goals (word of caution: don't try to restrict yourself too much trying to get fast results; as a rule, healthy weight loss is considered 2 pounds/week maximum a.k.a. 7,000 calorie deficit.)

P.S. if 1,800 calories a day sounds like a deprivation diet to you, keep an eye out for this blog where I'll share some of my favorite recipes and products that's filling, tasty and won't blow your calorie budget.


Diana said...

I love this post. That is exactly how I approach my diet. Most days of the week I stick to approximately 1800 calories or so, balanced out with cardio/strength training, and then I am able to indulge guilt-free when I go out to dinner or get the urge for a big bowl of ice cream. Back in college, I would go through cycles of deprivation vs. binging, and as a result, my weight was all over the place. Moderation really is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. Or at least it is for me.

H. C. said...

@Diana your plan sounds pretty close to mine! great foodie minds think alike ;)

teresa said...

love this story! i've learned that moderation is the key, although i wish i would have learned it years ago. i've been eating well and exercising and using an online food journal to keep me eating smart (and in moderation). i've been using and it's free and easy to use. it lets me log my foods and my exercise. i like all the graphs - they keep me motivated. anyway, thought i'd pass it along. cheers!