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Preparing and Training…A 100 CALORIE PROPOSAL
Linda Marsa
LA Times Staff Writer

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Burning... 100 Calories

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Cutting out just 100 calories a day (roughly 25 M&Ms) -- or burning off the equivalent -- could prevent the gradual weight gain that's making many Americans fat.

Nutrition researchers have done the math and found that, although such an incremental strategy probably isn't enough for weight loss, it would stem the nation's rising obesity rate.

"What we're doing isn't working so we've got to come up with something completely different," says James O. Hill, lead author of an article published last week in the journal Science. "One less soft drink, or walking an extra mile -- it's an easy change to make."

The research comes at an opportune time: Roughly two-thirds of the adult population is overweight. If current trends continue, two out of five Americans will be obese by 2008, which ups the risks for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression.

Scientists at the Center for Human Nutrition, located at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Centers in Denver, and their colleagues say that small changes could offset weight gain in roughly 90% of the population.

Their calculations are based on some simple facts. Data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults indicated that we're gaining an average of 14 to 16 pounds in eight years, which translates to about 1.8 to 2 pounds a year. Given that 3,500 calories equals one pound of body fat, researchers calculated that 90% of the population is gaining up to 50 extra calories a day.

Since the body isn't 100% efficient, Hill and his colleagues figured that for every 100 calories consumed, about 50 would be stored as fat. Hence, subtracting 100 calories a day, either by exercising more or eating less, would close the so-called "energy gap," which is the difference between the number of calories we consume and what we burn off.

"The challenge is producing such a reduction consistently in daily life," Hill says.

Experts agree that environment is what is driving this epidemic, rather than biology. Although weight, height and metabolism vary from person to person, the primary reason that growing numbers of Americans are seriously overweight -- and more are joining their ranks every day -- is a changing environment. Time pressures prompt us to drive rather than walk, take the elevator instead of the stairs, and wolf down gargantuan Big Macs while we're behind the wheel talking on our cell phones.

The cumulative effects of the increased portion size and our more sedentary lifestyle are that the majority of Americans have difficulty maintaining a normal energy balance and now consume more calories than they expend, according to Dr. Benjamin Caballero, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore.

"We live in a society that promotes excess weight gain," he says. "It's impossible to do almost anything without getting into a car, and food is readily available throughout the day."

The other part of the problem is that most people are clueless as to the caloric content of their favorite munchies, and engage in mindless snacking while watching TV or driving that adds up. Even some salads that are chock-full of fried chicken, cheeses, or fat-laden dressings can contain 800 calories, comparable to a hot fudge sundae.

"We think we're being virtuous," says Randi Konikoff Beranbaum, a dietitian at Tufts University in Boston. "But there are minefields everywhere."

100 Calories of Food...

You can eliminate 100 a calories day by eating less or exercising more.

Here are portions of food that amount to 100 calories:

1/2 cup cooked white rice

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 of a bagel

2 doughnut holes

1/2 small order of fries

2 tablespoons of most salad dressings

3/4 cup cereal

2 cups popcorn

1 cup Coca-Cola

4 Hershey's Kisses

25 M&Ms

25 jelly beans

15 medium-sized thin pretzel twists

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

... and how to burn them off

Here's how much time it takes to burn off...
100 calories, in minutes, for individuals of various body weights:

Your Weight Activity 125 pounds - 175 pounds  - 225 pounds

Bicycling, 6 mph   18 - 13 - 10

Bowling   35 - 25 - 20

Calisthenics   30 - 22 - 17

Gardening   21 - 15 - 12

Golf   23 - 17 - 13

Folding clothes   53 - 38 - 29

Jogging   15 - 11 - 8

Jumping rope   13 - 9 - 7

Mowing the lawn   19 - 14 - 11

Tennis, singles   15 - 11 - 7

Walking, 2 mph   42 - 30 - 23

Walking, 3 mph   32 - 23 - 18

Vacuuming   30 - 22 - 17

Source: Mayo Clinic Health Letter, February 2003

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