When saving for a rainy day is NOT a good plan

Who can argue with the old adage “Save it for a rainy day”? No one wants to be caught short. Your body is also designed to save for a rainy day. Those love handles around your waist are your insurance policy for days when you are faced with no time to eat or get caught somewhere without access to a meal or snack. In fact, your body has many ways to fuel the necessary activities of life (e.g. breathing, keeping warm, thinking, etc.)

Regardless of how much you eat or how active you are, your body manages to keep the flow of energy to all parts of your body in just the right amounts. This is what is known as energy or calorie balance: when your body has all the energy from the food you eat, in the right amounts, to meet all your body’s needs. The trouble begins when there is extra or not enough on either side of the balance. That’s when your body has to make adjustments to correct for the imbalance.

People often struggle to understand why they can’t lose weight, despite their efforts. Some may have never experienced what it feels like to be at their ideal weight. Here are some tips to help them know when to save vs. spend in their quest for optimal health.


Tip #1: Use it or Choose it

Calories are a measure of energy in food, like inches and feet are measures of height. To stay in balance, calories should be used by your body at the same rate as you consume them in your food or drinks. When you use fewer calories than you eat or drink, either by sitting instead of moving or by consuming more calories than you need, your body starts to save the extra calories. Fat tissue is the storage area in your body for the excess calories. In order not to gain weight, you must either use those stored calories by moving your body more, or choose your calories from foods more wisely (More on this below).

When you consume the nutrients your body needs and use the calories you eat without storing too much, you have reached energy balance!


Tip #2: Know Your Number

Everyone has their own calorie and activity needs. Health professionals use the Body Mass Index, or BMI, to tell you if you are within the range of body weight that is healthy for most people of your height. A BMI of 25 or below is considered a healthy weight for most people. 

The USDA MyPlate Supertracker tool can help you estimate the number of calories and the amount of activity you need to reach your target weight (for a BMI of 25 or below). Since everyone is slightly different, you may have to use a little trial and error to find what works best for you. Keep a food diary and/or use a mobile app or website to track each step you take toward bringing your calorie and activities into balance. 

What your BMI tells you about your weight

BMI is an indicator based on your height and weight. If your BMI is between 18 and 25, then you are likely to be at a healthy weight for your size. However, it is important to note that BMI does not take muscle mass into account, which means an active, healthy person with a high muscle mass may have a higher BMI. Likewise, it could incorrectly classify someone who is thin and has a high percentage of body fat as having a healthy weight. A health professional can use multiple indicators to assess healthfulness and advise those watching their weight on healthful changes they can implement to reach their ideal weight.


Tip #3: Fill up on satisfying foods

Calories are a measure of energy and therefore are all alike. However, foods high in protein (such as lean meat and dairy products) and fiber (such as whole grain bread) can also make you feel satisfied longer, so you may be less likely to over-consume calories throughout the day. Filling up on high-protein foods after a workout is important for building muscle. Some foods can also act as a source of many vitamins and minerals. Others supply simple carbohydrates like sugar and starch, which are used by the body for quick energy. However, in general, if you consume more calories than your body burns, the excess will be stored as body fat.


Tip #4: Use credible sources to build a healthful eating plan

Credible information should include scientific findings that have gone through critical review by experts. Organizations such as National Institute of Health’s MedlinePlus, MyPlate.gov, Food Insight and The Obesity Society’s Obesity.org are good sources of credible information. Government and university websites also provide valuable resources to keep the public informed. According to a recent statement by The Obesity Society, otherwise scientifically sound studies should not be discredited simply on the basis of funding source.

When shopping for or preparing foods, check the Nutrition Facts Panel on the food or beverage package for nutrition information per serving and the proper serving size. Keep in mind that no food or drink alone is responsible for your weight.

Helpful Resources:





Upcoming Webcast:

To learn more about what is being done in the area of energy balance, tune in to a joint webcast, hosted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation with the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine, and International Life Sciences Institute on Thursday, August 28, 2014, from 12:00-1:00pm EDT – For more information and to register, click here.

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