In my previous article, I introduced the energy balance equation and all of the components that comprise it. In this article, I will explain the components of a successful weight management program and how they relate to the energy balance equation.
As a quick review, the energy balance equation has two sides: the energy in (made up by carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and the energy out (made up by the thermic effect of feeding, the thermic effect of physical activity, and resting metabolic rate). (For more information, see my PTontheNET.com article The Key to Weight Management:The Energy Balance Equation and RMR) Resting metabolic rate (RMR) constitutes approximately 60-75% of total daily energy expenditure and for this reason is the most important component of the ‘energy out’ side of the energy balance equation.
Once RMR is determined from measuring the oxygen consumption (V02) of an individual, any weight related goal can be easily planned. RMR serves as the basis for body weight changes. For years health professionals have been using equations to estimate RMR. The terms “yo-yo dieting” and “weight plateaus” have become very popular in the United States simply because individuals did not have access to all of the tools necessary to ensure success. Stated another way, try balancing your checkbook without knowing how much money you are spending - it’s impossible! The same situation applies for changing body weight without first knowing RMR – you have no idea how many calories you should eat and how many calories you should burn if you don’t know how many calories your body needs!
The energy balance equation is based on hard science and can be used by anyone to lose, gain, or maintain weight. However, there is a catch – a person must take personal ownership of their health and be motivated enough to want to make a lifestyle change, rather than a quick fix.
The 6 Components of Successful Weight Management
1. Measuring RMR and re-measuring it when significant weight loss is achieved or a plateau is reached.
As previously mentioned, the first step in any weight management program is to measure RMR. RMR must be re-measured at consistent intervals throughout the weight management program because it will decrease with a loss of body mass and vice versa. Once this occurs, it is crucial to re-adjust the energy balance to account for the new RMR measurement. This is where most “diets” fail – they do not account for the change in RMR, which can have a significant impact on the amount of calories a person should eat or the amount of calories a person should burn for weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance.
2. Asking a health professional to determine the correct energy balance equation for the person's goals.
An individual must consult with a nutrition professional initially to determine the correct amount of calories they should eat and expend to achieve their weight related goal. After this meeting, the nutrition professional should work closely with the team of health care professionals (fitness professional, physician, nurse, etc.) to ensure a successful continuum of care.
3. Logging food and beverages consumed.
It is common knowledge that an individual is more successful at achieving weight related goals if they log how much food and drink they consume. This is a great awareness tool. Various software programs exist that will help an individual accomplish this more easily than the old “pen and paper” method. The benefit to software programs is that the individual will be able to actually see their daily progress real time and use the software program’s food database instead of spending the time searching for this information in a calorie reference book.
4. Logging calories burned through purposeful exercise.
The same principle applies with logging purposeful exercise as it does with food and beverage. Individuals will be more successful if they track their exercise expenditure.
5. Re-adjusting the energy balance each time RMR is measured and is different.
As mentioned in the first component, if the energy balance equation is not re-adjusted with each RMR measurement, it is impossible to remain successful at attaining weight related goals. For example, one 12-week weight loss study1 showed that at week 4, participants lost 8 pounds and RMR decreased by 89 calories. If the participants did not re-adjust the amount of calories they ate and expended, they would not continue to lose weight. In fact, the researchers in this study did re-adjust the energy balance equation at certain intervals and at week 12 the mean weight loss was 18 pounds with a decrease in RMR of 125 calories.
6. Participating in a successful behavior change program.
This is one of the most important components and is often overlooked because individuals want fast weight loss or weight gain without adapting it as part of their lifestyle. This is the “magic pill” approach, which has never been proven to be successful over time. It is recommended that an individual consult a health care professional experienced with behavior change counseling in order to promote long-term success. Behavior change counseling includes:
- Determining if the individual is ready to change and take personal ownership of their health by identifying small, incremental steps that will lead them to attaining their long-term goal.
- Identifying a support network that can be used on a daily basis to help the individual achieve success.
- Identifying barriers and bypasses.
- Participating in group discussion sessions.
By using the energy balance equation as the foundation of weight management education, measuring RMR on a consistent basis, and implementing the six components of a successful weight management program, fitness professionals will help individuals attain their weight related goals in a physiologically safe manner but more importantly, will help individuals take personal ownership of their health.
- Alexander, H.A., et al. Efficacy of a resting metabolic rate based energy balance prescription in a weight management program. Obesity Research, Abstract presented at Nutrition Week Conference, San Diego, California, 2002.