Energy Balance

posted Feb 20, 2012, 10:38 AM by H. Connor   [ updated Feb 20, 2012, 10:57 AM ]

Jennifer Hudson lost weight using Weight Watchers and looks amazing.  What’s the secret behind Jennifer’s success and the key to why Weight Watcher’s works? It’s all in understanding energy balance.

Unfortunately, the American population hasn’t seen the results that Jennifer’s seen. The obesity epidemic is increasing in America with every year that passes. What’s worse is that the epidemic is now affecting our youth.  In 2008, approximately 20% of children between the ages of 6-19 were considered obese.

So what’s behind our growing waistlines? Obesity and overweight are the result of an energy imbalance; the energy we take in exceeds the energy we use up.

Where does the energy come from? The energy that we need to perform our activities of daily living comes from our food and is measured in calories (kcal). Calories are found in carbohydrates, protein and fat. Out of these three, fat contains the greatest number of calories per gram (g). 

Carbohydrates provide 4 kcal/g

Protein provides 4 kcal/g

Fat provides 9 kcal/g

Now let’s try and make sense of this caloric imbalance. When people gain weight the amount of calories consumed exceeds the number of calories used.

For example, imagine eating 2 slices of regular cheese pizza. Your body has just consumed about 550 calories. If you decide that for the rest of the night you’ll sit on the couch and watch television, the amount of calories you spend in activity is zero.  Now you have an excess of 550 calories. Since you aren’t using the calories your body decides it will store the energy for later, as fat. The more calories stored (fat accumulating) the more weight you’ll gain.

Although, if after those 2 slices of pizza you decide you’ll go for a swim, you could potentially use up all those calories, meaning you wouldn’t gain any weight.

The idea is as follows:

If calories in > calories out → weight gain

If calories in < calories out → weight loss

If calories in = calories out → weight maintenance

By now you must be asking what can we can do in our lives to encourage weight loss for those that are overweight or obese or to maintain a health weight?

1) Increase your physical activity: It is recommended that the average person exercise at least 30 minutes daily.

2) Reduce our calories in: By choosing foods that are lower in calories (reduced fat or skim milk as opposed to whole milk), limiting or eliminating high calorie foods (i.e. pastries, chips, etc.). Also consider decreasing portion sizes or making low calorie substitutions (low fat cheeses, applesauce in baking rather than oil, broth instead of cream soups).

3) Cook Smart: Bake and broil instead of fry.

Recipe of the Week:

Tuna and Edamame Bagelwich

Serves: 1


-    3 ounces low sodium white tuna, in water, drained

-    2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

-    1/8 cup of edamame (edamame is a softer version of the soybean and is often used in Asian foods. You can buy them fresh or frozen)

-    2 Tablespoons of red onion, chopped

-    2 Tablespoons of cilantro, chopped

-    1 teaspoon of lemon juice

-    Dash of hot sauce

-    Bagel Thin (Thomas' 100% Whole Wheat Thins Bagel)


-    Lettuce, Tomato, and Cucumber

1.    Combine all ingredients except for the Bagel Thin and the toppings.

2.    Spread tuna mixture on bagel and top with lettuce, tomato and cucumber.