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Running with Fries: Eating Less by Comparing Calories with Exercise

Updated on January 4, 2012
This food has too many empty calories.
This food has too many empty calories. | Source

You try to lose weight by eating less and then exercising. But when the smell of a thick grilled steak beckons from the barbecue or the beauty of a triple chocolate fudge cake fills your vision, you indulge your taste buds and ask for seconds. Your subsequent exercise sessions change little despite the rich food. You then despair at your growing waistlines and increasing poundage, only to repeat the cycle of gluttony and hopelessness.

Even though you may know the calorie count of your food, you continue unhealthy eating habits because the numbers mean nothing. You have no way of turning those calorie counts into the assaults on your health that they truly are. The strategy of comparing calories with exercise may help you finally realize the cost of unfettered consumption.

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Running can burn off unwanted calories.
Running can burn off unwanted calories. | Source


The first step to eating less with comparisons is finding the calories used by the exercises you use. Fortunately, Harvard Medical School has already published a list of calories burned by exercises based on weight. It assumes 30 minutes of effort. Here’s an abbreviated version of that list:

125 lbs.
155 lbs.
185 lbs.
Bicycling 14-15 mph
Elliptical machine
Hatha Yoga
High-impact aerobics
Jumping rope
Running 6 mph
Slow walk (3.5 mph)
Stair step machine
Vigorous stationary rowing
Weight lifting

Pick an exercise that you normally do. Feel free to round the figures to make them easier to remember. For example, if you weigh 125 lbs. and like to run at 6 mph, that activity burns 300 calories for 30 minutes of effort.


The next step to eating less with comparisons is find the calorie count of the food you want to eat on one of many calorie counting websites such as Nutrition Data or The Calorie Counter. Here are the values of some common foods:

Apple pie, 1 slice
Big Mac
Chocolate cake with frosting, 1 slice
Coca Cola, 12 oz. can
Donut, glazed
Fries, McDonald's, Medium, 4.1 oz
KFC chicken breast, original recipe
KFC chicken thigh, original recipe
Pizza Hut Meat Lover's pizza, 1 slice
Snicker's Bar
Steak, Rib Eye, 8 oz.
Steak, Sirloin, lean, 8 oz.
Vanilla ice cream, cup

For example, if you wanted to eat a Big Mac, medium fries and a can of Coke, you’d consume 1083 calories (563 + 380 + 140).

Eating Less with Comparisons

The final step in eating less with comparisons is converting the calories you consume into real world effort. For example, your McDonald’s meal of 1083 calories requires three hours of running at 6 mph to burn up at 300 calories every 30 minutes. A KFC chicken breast equals 37 minutes of running and a slice of apple pie requires 41 minutes. If you don’t burn off those calories, you’ll gain a pound for roughly every 3,500 extra calories you consume, which equals only about 3.5 McDonald’s meals.

This strategy makes you aware of the exercise needed to burn off the calories in the food you eat. This doesn’t mean you must swear off your favorite desserts or steaks entirely. Instead, if you don’t want such edibles to eventually add pounds to your body, you can reduce the extra calories by eating less or exercising more.


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