Energy balance may not be as famous as some extreme celebrity diets but it is the only diet that really works in both the short and long term.
When it comes to
diets, we've seen it all: Celebrity diets, extreme starvation plans, intermittent fasting, weird "eat-as-much-as-you-want-but-stay-skinny" programmes, and more.
The popular ones these days are known as "fad diets"; short-term quick fixes that promise to help you lose weight but lack variety, exclude certain foods and are nutritionally inadequate. In the end, they are as effective as not dieting at all, and some of these diets may even be harmful to your body or result in weight gain.
Take the no-carb diet. Fad or no fad, our bodies get energy mostly from carbs. They fuel our daily activities from simple breathing to intense exercise. Cutting carbohydrates altogether could lead to a negative energy balance – our bodies are not getting enough fuel.
If you are keen to lose weight or achieve and maintain a healthy weight, give up on the idea of finding and following extreme celebrity diets that work.
The only equation for diets is the Energy Balance Equation. What is it?
Simply put, it’s a balance between
Energy Input and
Energy Output. In other words, it focuses on balancing the energy (calories) you consume and the energy (calories) you burn through physical activity.
Here's how the equation relates to weight management:
Energy Intake =
Energy Output over time: Weight stays the same
Energy Intake >
Energy Output over time: Weight gain
Energy Output >
Energy Intake over time: Weight loss
To lose weight, the number of calories we consume must be less than the number of calories we burn. A
negative energy balance over time leads to weight loss.
Conversely, when we consume more calories per day than we use through physical activity, we gain weight.
Energy Balance and Obesity: Over a prolonged period, we may develop obesity. Obesity increases our risk of stroke, heart attack and, in more serious cases, can lead to organ failure.
Instead of “going big” or “going all in” on the latest extreme celebrity diet to lose weight, what we want to do is achieve a healthy weight. That means we should consume energy our bodies need and also engage in a healthy level of physical activity.
How much and what level of physical activity should we be doing? Here are some broad guidelines:
If you are aged between 13-18 years, you should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity* physical activity every day.And if you are above 18, you are encouraged to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity* aerobic activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity** aerobic exercise each week.
*Moderate intensity activities refer to those that cause a noticeable increase in breathing rate — one is able to carry on a conversation but does not have enough breath to sing.**Vigorous intensity activities refer to those that cause large increases in breathing rate — one is not able to carry on a conversation but is not out of breath.
You can engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity in a single session or over a few sessions by setting aside some days of the week for exercise.
Remember, it is important that you keep track and balance your energy intake (calories consumed) and energy output (calories burned through exercising) to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Here’s a quick example. A healthy 18-year old girl, weighing at 60kg, will have to balance her regular food intake with any of these activities: an hour of badminton or fast-paced modern dance; or an hour and a half of leisurely cycling a week.
When it comes to dieting and weight loss, it is really a game of balancing the food you eat and the amount of physical activity you engage in. Most importantly, it is an ideal and healthier way to do so as well!
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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