Don’t Fool Yourself with Calorie Burn

Many exercise machines, and even some computer programs, give you a tally of the total calories you’re burning during exercise.

Perhaps the designers think this is encouraging. I believe it is misguiding. I don’t trust the calculators to be accurate.

She-weighed-170-poundsFurthermore, I feel that this practice can be counterproductive. For example, if your treadmill flashes a burn of 500 calories, it’s easy to say to yourself, “Now I can have a piece of cake.” You figure a piece of cake is about 250 calories and that you’re still ahead by 250 calories. Not true. The original calorie burn was almost certainly exaggerated, and the calorie content of your dessert is likely underestimated. The best guide I have found that combines a proper method and diet is Venus Factor. You can read a research of this program at Putnam website.

Trusting these readings becomes even more misguided if you eat more at a meal than you should and justify it by promising yourself that you’ll burn it off the next day. It is very hard to exercise away overindulgence. Exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as you think.

In my opinion, playing the calorie game is no way to live. It’s a game you’re always going to lose. I cannot stress enough that you should exercise for good health, to give yourself more energy, to reduce your stress, and to reduce your risk of disease. It can be very liberating to disconnect exercising from burning calories.

A Culture of Health

burn_calories-doing-exerciseHealth will become a bigger part of your mindset as you incorporate exercise and physical activity into your life, even if you don’t enjoy it at first. You’ll discover yourself making healthier choices with food, sleeping better, and reducing your stress through exercise. If you smoke, you may even be motivated to quit smoking to make your cardio workouts less difficult. As you adopt this culture of health, you may find that other people around you – children, partners, co-workers, and friends – start to join in. You’ll find yourself seeking out others who share this passion. It’s a mindset that generates community.

A Word About Resistance Training

Although I feel resistance training is important, I recommend, with the proper program, that you initially focus on increasing your daily physical activity and then work to increase (gradually if necessary) your cardio exercise to four times per week for forty five minutes. (Remember, it’s important for you to stretch for ten to fifteen minutes after you finish your cardio exercise to prevent injury.)

Once you’ve embraced this program and have achieved your weight-loss goal, you can start to incorporate some resistance and weight training into your exercise program. I suggest two days a week for fifteen to thirty minutes. My experience with patients is that this order of exercise sequencing works best.

With a commitment to being more active every day and exercising four days a week, you’re on your way to a personal culture of heath.

Now, I want to finish this article with my story of a friend of mine, Debbie.

When Health Becomes Second Nature

Debbie, a seventeen-year-old, was concerned about her weight, as she was going off to university the following year. She weighed 170 pounds (77.5kg). She was doing very little exercise, and was not very mindful about what she was eating. She wanted to lose weight, but didn’t want to go on any fad diets, as so many of her girlfriends had tried them, lost weight, and then gained it all back.

She embraced the weight loss program I recommend you previously, consistently lost 1 to 2 pounds per week, and reached her target weight loss of 28 pounds. She made exercise a part of her life, and focused on being physically active every day. Now, at age twenty-five, she has kept her 28 pounds off, goes to the gym three or four times a week, and follows the Weight Maintenance part of the program religiously. As she puts it:

I got it! It is now just second nature to me to stay focused, eat healthy foods in proper portion sizes, and exercise. It’s that simple. I see my co-workers eating junk food at work. I bring lots of vegetables, have my four fruit portions per day, and eat three healthy meals a day, along with four snacks. I will often go to the gym at 5:00 p.m. and then come back to the office to finish my work.

Fat and Salt: The Dangerous Duo For Your Health

We all need some fat in our diet. In fact, saturated fats help us absorb essential vitamins. However, the North American diet has too many saturated fats for good health. To improve our health, we must reduce our bad fat consumption and increase our intake of good fat.

By “bad fat,” I mean saturated and trans fats. Many studies have shown that these fats contribute to heart disease, elevated cholesterol, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and peripheral artery disease.


By “good fats,” I mean unsaturated fats (sometimes separated into mono and polyunsaturated fats). I will refer to them here simply as unsaturated fats. “Bad fats” are the saturated fats, and trans fats are the worst of the saturated fats.

Saturated Fats Vs Unsaturated Fats

  • Beef Olive oil
  • Veal Canola oil
  • Lamb Sunflower oil
  • Pork products Peanut oil
  • Chicken with the skin Sesame oil
  • Dairy products* Soybean oil
  • Butter and lard Corn oil
  • Stick of margarine Safflower oil
  • Vegetable shortening Olives
  • Palm and coconut oil Almonds
  • Cheese Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Avocado

*Because dairy products are a saturated fat, I recommend dairy products with 0% to 1% fat. That way you can get all the
health benefits from dairy products without consuming too many saturated fats.

Trans fats (really bad) may be in: Fatty fishes (really good) such as:

  • Commercially baked:
  • Salmon
  • Cookies Mackerel
  • Doughnuts Tuna
  • Muffins Herring
  • Cakes Trout
  • Pastries Sardines
  • Pizza dough Anchovies

Packaged and Fried Foods:

  • Arctic char
  • Crackers Whitefish (light)
  • Chips
  • Fried foods

Good Fats: But Not Too Much

All fats are high in calories, so even the good fats need to be eaten in moderation. One gram of fat has twice the calories of an equal amount of carbohydrates or protein.

Omega-3 Fats

Based on current evidence, omega-3 fats help reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke. This is a polyunsaturated fat found in cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. I recommend eating three servings of fish a week. Flax seed, walnuts, and canola oil are also good sources of omega-3 fats.

Healthy Oils

Oils derived from plants are better for you than lard, butter, or hydrogenated vegetable shortening, but even these oils are not equally heart-healthy. Olive oil contains the highest proportion of monounsaturated fats, with these other oils following in decreasing order:

• Olive oil (most monounsaturated fats)
• Canola oil
• Peanut oil
• Corn oil
• Sunflower oil
• Safflower oil (least monounsaturated fats)

Keep this in mind when you turn to healthy salad dressings. You may want to develop a taste for balsamic and flavored vinegars.

Whenever oil is called for in a recipe, unless there is a good reason to choose otherwise, use olive oil. Oils you should avoid are those high in saturated fats, such as palm oil, coconut oil, and kernel oil.

Nuts: A Great Snack Food

Saturated_Fats_Versus_Unsaturated_FatsNuts are a good source of unsaturated fats, both poly and monounsaturated fats. However, you will have noted from earlier blog posts that portions are not unlimited, because the calories from nuts can add up. Nuts are also a valuable source of protein. Let’s look at different varieties of nuts and find out a little more about them.

  • Almonds: A great source of vitamin E and magnesium
  • Walnuts: A source of omega-3 fatty acid (the heart protection type)
  • Cashews: Contain lots of magnesium, oleic acid (the same healthy fat that is in olive oil)
  • Brazil nuts: A good source of selenium
  • Pistachios: Contain antioxidants and are a good source of fiber
  • Macadamia nuts: Slightly higher in fats and lower in protein
  • Peanuts: Really a legume, have the most folate
  • Pecans: Slightly higher in fats than other varieties

In a study in the Journal of Circulation, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios all tied for first place in helping to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Almonds were a close second. Obviously, it’s important to watch your portion size when enjoying nuts. Keep it to about a palm-sized serving per day.

Remember to pre-portion them; if you eat them directly from a container, you’ll find it difficult to track the amount you have consumed. Remember, too, that unsalted dry-roasted nuts are healthier than salted ones.

Seeds: Another Healthy Snack

Seeds are a healthy snack food. The table below lists four types of seeds and their health benefits.

• Flaxseed: Lots of omega-3 fatty acid (the good fat) and fiber
• Sunflower seeds: Vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium
• Sesame seeds Magnesium, calcium, and zinc
• Pumpkin seeds: Zinc and vitamin E

I recommend one palm-sized serving per day. Again, pre-portion to ensure that you don’t eat a whole bag or container of seeds.