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New Year, New You

As we drift toward the end of the year and New Years Eve, which traditionally is a time for resolutions for the coming year, the “Food Carnival” is also slowly winding down. Many of us, including myself, will step on the scale and say #%&*#, or where did those five pounds come from! As I discussed in November, whatever you gained through the holiday season did not occur overnight. Nor should you expect to lose it overnight. Most of us started the holiday eating in November, which seems to go on until New Years Eve. Basically, we all put those extra pounds on over a five- to six-week period. This includes the week before Thanksgiving, which, at least for me, seems to be my pre-carnival warm-up.

For many people, the New Year is the time to start a new workout program to lose the extra weight put on during the holidays, which is evident at most gyms and health clubs as the numbers swell after January first. Or, perhaps, you are just looking to improve your overall health. Many individuals jump into a so-called diet or fad diet in an attempt to lose the extra pounds. However, three to six weeks later, they have given up and often put more weight on. I am going to offer you a three-step process that will get you on your way to losing weight, but also keep you from feeling like you’re on a diet.

Step 1: Track Your Intake

First, take a week and keep track of everything you eat. I mean everything! Also, keep track of how much water you drink (I have a link to a printable form at the bottom of the page). As you are doing this, look at and record the contents of what you are eating — not just the calories, but how much protein, carbohydrates (note the ones listed as sugars separate), and fat (saturated) (see Box A). For a breakdown of how much of each nutrient you should be consuming, refer back to the article from safety and survival week. This also means keeping track of the little, so-called snacks, the chips and dip, and even the couple of beers you might have watching your favorite sporting event. Why? Because it all adds up! Also, how much water do you take in during the day. Ideally, two to three quarts will keep you well hydrated, but adjust according to your activity and weather extremes. On daily basis, add up what you have eaten, that is, total calories, total protein, carbohydrates (sugars separate), and fats (saturated). Then, sit down and tally it for the week.


Box A
Grams Calories
1 gram protein 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates 4 calories
1 gram fat 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol 7 calories

Step 2: Determining Caloric Needs

Now step two, you will need to figure out your daily caloric needs, which is different for men and women, and is adjusted based on age and physical activity. For example, a 30-year-old male (active) may need an intake of 2,900 calories (range 2,400-3,000; USDA, 2005). However, for the last six weeks his intake has looked more like this, roughly 4,000 calories per day, except for Saturday night when it jumped to 6,000. So, he is at a caloric surplus on weekdays of 1,100 calories and 2,000 calories on Saturdays, minus any burned during physical activity. A pound of body fat equates to 3,500 surplus calories. So, in a week he consumed 8,600 calories and, let’s say, burned 1,600 with physical activity. That would still leave a surplus of 7,000 calories, or roughly 2 pounds of fat. Now you are beginning to get the idea. No, all is not lost, and no, it is not impossible to lose the weight. Remember, your caloric intake varies from day to day, that is why you track it for a week. Now let’s look at step three.

Step 3: Deciding Your Diet

Step three is the challenging part. Now you, yes you, have to decide what items you can do without. Basically, what did you eat during the week that you really didn’t need? I didn’t say didn’t want, I said didn’t need. Start simple, that is, pick one item from what you kept track of, that you really didn’t need. For example, did you need a 32 ounce bottle of pop, which has 454 calories and 122 grams of carbohydrates, which are all sugar, when you could have had a 12 ounce can, which has 165 calories and 31 grams of carbohydrates, all sugar? By making a small switch such as that, you would have discarded 2,023 calories in a week, basically, about half a pound. Then the next week, select another item you do not need. You can see that by doing it this way, it will take time to lose weight, but you will not feel deprived, you are more likely to succeed, and ultimately, remember, you didn’t put the extra pounds on in a week or two. They are not going to come off in a week or two!

Now, add in some physical exercise, say ice-skating, or maybe not, but let’s say it anyway. Ice-skating, in general, burns around 100 calories per 10 minutes for a 180-pound individual. Thirty minutes of golf (walking), around 64 calories per 10 minutes. You are starting to see that it is not huge changes that you have to make, it is little, consistent changes that add up (see box B). Even when I was training for this past October’s bodybuilding competition, I averaged 1 to 1 1/2 pound loss of body fat per week. Most fitness experts agree that a 1-2 pound loss of weight per week is healthy. I lean towards the 1 pound, which also allows me a cheat me during the week. If an individual is extremely overweight, a more rapid loss may be needed, but only do that under the supervision of a physician experienced in that specialty.


Box B
It adds up!
2,023 calories (pop)
386 calories (3x30 minutes of light weight training)
643 calories (3x30 minutes walking at 4 mph)
Total: 3,052 calories

As I wrap up, I always recommend that you have a physical prior to any major dietary change or beginning a new workout regime. It is worth the cost. Also, depending on your health status, your physician may want you working with a dietician and/or a certified personal trainer as you begin your new program. Combining the knowledge of these individuals often can help you achieve your goals. I have also included a few links at the end that you may find useful.

Next month, “So Your Company Wants to Run a Marathon.” Nicole Olson will rejoin me as we discuss what has become the current rage in the U.S., which is completing a marathon. We will start off with training in January, nutrition in February, and selecting a marathon in March. We will also discuss the half-marathon and 10-miler as other options. Until January, good luck, be safe, and enjoy the holidays!

SCOTT TOMEK MA, EMT-P has been a paramedic for 25 years with 23 of those at Lakeview Hospital EMS in Stillwater, MN. He is a faculty member with the Century College Paramedic Program and wrote the curriculum for and served as the interim director of their public safety degree program. He is a frequent contributor to EMS World Magazine, a frequent presenter at EMS conferences in the Midwest and an educational consultant to fire and EMS services. View all of Scott's artices and podcasts hereHe can be reached at