Which One of These Scenarios Tend to Sneak Up On You?

by Liz Daeninck MS, RD – Registered Dietitian


Creeping CaloriesIt is estimated that 37.9% of U.S. adults aged 20 or older are obese, compared to 13.4% of adults in the 1960s. That means that one in three people are considered obese compared to 1 in 7 people (from the 1960s).

To help clarify what it means to be obese, a 5ft 6in female is considered obese when she weighs at least 186 lbs, whereas a male 6ft tall weighing 222 lbs (or more) qualifies him as obese.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average US woman now weighs 166.2 lbs compared to 140 lbs in the 1960s whereas the average man now weighs in at 195.5 lbs, a nearly 30-pound increase since the 1960s, when he weighed 166.3 lbs.

So why do all these statistics matter?

Being obese puts us at greater risk for various diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, cancers, dementia, polycystic ovarian syndrome and non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

But what is behind these overwhelming trends?

There are certainly many factors that play into the obesity epidemic, but one that I want to highlight is how calories can ‘creep’ into our diet so easily, in some cases without us even knowing. With Halloween candy now in grocery stores and Christmas treats soon to follow, I felt it timely to be having this conversation…


The Energetics of Body Weight: Balancing Energy In, Energy Out

At the most basic level, to maintain a consistent weight, our energy intake (what we eat and drink) needs to be the same as our energy requirements (the number of calories necessary for our regular body functions and our movement, including exercise). When we consume more than our body requires, we gain weight.  When we eat less energy (in the form of calories) than our body needs, we lose weight.  The type of calories matter as well, but for this discussion, we are going to look at just straight calories.

With this in mind, I want to demonstrate how easy it is to accumulate calories and ultimately gain the weight described above.  I have selected a few of the more common examples I see, where almost unknowingly; we accumulate small amounts of calories over time.


Iced Tea Tracy:

Tracy had been increasingly thirsty over the summer, being outside with her children doing fun, summer activities.  Tracy had been steadily losing weight, but as the summer progressed she found her weight was plateauing which she could not understand because she was more active with her kids than she had been in years!

When she visited with me, we discovered how Tracy had started to drink sweet tea to help quench her thirst.  She was drinking 1 bottle, 5 days per week.

Calorie Impact:

 70 calories, 19 g sugar per 12 oz serving
 3 servings per bottle: 210 calories, 57 g sugar total per bottle
 Weekly impact: 1050 calories, 285 g sugar

Over the summer (3 months): ~ 3 ½ lbs weight gain


G2 Gary:

Gary had started to use G2 Gatorade because he had read that it is a good thing to drink with his increased level of exercise.  He had started going to the gym and exercising for 45 minutes per day.

Calorie Impact:

 1 – 32 oz bottle, 6 days per week
 80 calories, 19 g sugar/32 oz bottle
 Weekly Impact: 480 calories, 57 g sugar

Over 6 months: 3 ½ lb weight gain


Cheez-It Chester:

Chester started to eat 1 bag of Cheez-It crackers for snack every day at work – his wife was so kind to pack it in his lunch every day.

Calorie Impact:

 140 calories per bag, 5 days/week
 700 calories per week

Over 6 months: 5 lbs weight gain


Hard Candy Bowl:

Jolly Rancher Jim passes his receptionist’s desk frequently throughout the day.  She has Jolly Rancher candies in a bowl for guests atop of her desk.  He picks a candy up frequently throughout the day – he decides to count how many candies he eats for a day.

Calorie Impact:

 5 candies (23 calories each) = 115 calories per day
 115 calories, 5 days per week = 575 calories per week

Over 6 months: ~ 4 lbs weight gain


Licorice Love:

Tara LOVES Twizzlers.  She had bariatric surgery and used to eat 3 bags per week.  Eighteen months after surgery, Twizzler Tara started to snack on Twizzlers, but limited herself to 2 pieces per day.

Calorie Impact:

 40 calories per piece = 80 calories, 9.5 g sugar per piece
 80 calories, 7 days per week = 560 calories, 66.5 g sugar per week

Over 6 months: ~ 4 lbs weight gain


Strawberry Love:

Tara decided to eat strawberries instead of Twizzlers – here is how that looks as a substitution:

Calorie Impact:

 ½ cup strawberries: 25 calories, 3.5 g sugar (natural), 1.5 g fiber!
 Per week: 172 calories, 25 g sugar, 10.5 g fiber

When compared to Twizzlers: Strawberries (fruit) has 69% less calories, 62% less sugar and 100% more FIBER!!


Nutty for Nuts:

Tom loves trail mix, and started to snack on nuts – he had read that they were healthy for his heart.  He would eat a handful her and there throughout the day, as he keeps a bag of them at his desk.  He decides to measure exactly how much he would eat in 1 day:

Calorie Impact:

 2/3 cup trail mix: 466 calories, 31 g fat, 14 g protein
 Per week (5 days at work): 2330 calories, 155g fat, 98 g protein

Over 6 months: ~ 17 lbs weight gain


Ultimately nuts ARE a heart healthy snack, but they are also dense in calories, because they are a high fat food.

Here are some ideas in how to eat nuts responsibly:

 Measure out a portion of nuts into a snack bag – goal is no more than ¼ cup (which can amount to as much as 200 calories!)
 Avoid the snacking/grazing – you can do so by not having your snacks in a place like your desk that is so easily available.
 Eat your heart healthy nuts as a part of your meal – add 2 Tbsp. chopped nuts to a salad

These examples serve to help you identify where small ‘add-ons’ in your diet may be sabotaging your efforts at maintaining or reaching a healthy weight.  None of these foods are ‘bad’, they simply need to be accounted for in the total daily dietary budget so as to reach your specific goal of maintaining, losing or gaining weight.

If you need more specific guidance on calculating your dietary budget and where you may be accumulating unsuspecting calories, contact Healthful Life MD for a FREE Consultation at https://healthfullifemd.com/schedule-a-free-consultation-now/