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Losing Weight Likely a Matter of Getting Your Number

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Posted: 12/30/2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio – To know your resting metabolic rate is to know how many calories you can eat in a day to maintain, lose or gain weight. The trick is finding the accurate number.

A quick search on the Internet is likely to turn up a number of sites that offer a calculation of a browser’s resting metabolic rate (RMR) based on age, height, weight and gender. But a key ingredient is missing: the actual amount of energy your body uses to get through the day – which is what metabolism measures – and which can vary widely in people with the same outward physical characteristics.

Newly available devices cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now are in use at select fitness centers, and they can accurately gauge the amount of energy a body needs just to function each day, which translates into an indicator of the number of calories a body requires.

“People need a starting point to know what the real numbers are so they can adequately decrease their intake of calories to achieve weight loss, if that’s their goal,” said Dr. Shirley Kindrick, who directs the Comprehensive Weight Management Program at The Ohio State University Medical Center. The rate and calorie guidelines are determined for a sedentary lifestyle and can be adjusted according to an individual’s activity level.

To accurately determine a person’s resting metabolic rate – and the accompanying daily caloric needs – a reading must be taken of the amount of oxygen he or she uses while the body is at rest. Kindrick uses a device called MedGem for clients at OSU Medical Center’s Center for Wellness and Prevention, the first central Ohio center to offer a MedGem reading.

“Almost everyone is surprised by their resting metabolic rate number,” Kindrick said. “Even active people often find they should be eating fewer calories if they want to lose or maintain their weight. For example, marathon runners sometimes assume they can eat hundreds more calories than they need because of the intensity of their exercise. Determining this number is the only way to know for sure.”

Given that two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese, Kindrick said, many individuals would likely benefit from accurately calculating their resting metabolic rate and then tracking their calorie intake accordingly. It’s making a commitment to nutrition management that will pay off in the long run, she said.

“We may be fooling ourselves without this information,” Kindrick asserted. “Knowing these numbers would mean people would be less likely to give up on their weight-loss effort.”

Kindrick also noted that people should feed the body in a balanced and responsible way. “You need more than calories,” she said. “You need to give your body the nutrients it needs, and you can’t do that on a fad diet.”

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Emily Caldwell
Medical Center Communications

Center for Wellness and Prevention; Weight Management