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Know The Meaning of Excess

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -
Know The Meaning of Excess

One of the most popular words among people concerned about their weight is "excess." Quite often we hear about excess weight or excessive eating, but do we actually know what excess means?

The one explanation everybody seems to agree upon is that excess is not good.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, excess is defined as "the state or instance of surpassing usual, proper, or specified limits." But what are those "usual, proper, or specified limits" when we describe something as being excessive? This is not always easy to define when we're trying to fight off the pounds.

Excess and the human body

For many years the term "ideal body weight" was used to define those limits above which something was excessive. But there were so many varied opinions and criteria that, finally, this term was dropped in favor of a better indicator.
This new indicator, based on the combination of weight and height, is known as the Body Mass Index (BMI).  The normal range is between 20 and 24.9.

Nevertheless, this normal range doesn't necessarily mean that everything over 25 is excessive and undesirable. Someone who regularly exercises or practices a sport, for instance, may develop, and proudly show off, a volume of muscle mass that might push his/her BMI into the 25 to 29.5 range. This person would not be considered overweight. However, this wouldn't be the case for someone with the same BMI due to fat deposits instead of muscle mass.

Excess and your diet

It's tricky to define excessive eating, be it of food in general, or a certain type of food. There are no specific limits applicable to everyone to define what is a normal serving of meat or potatoes. However, certain criteria may encourage most people to eat healthy.
A starting point is a diet that incorporates a variety of foods and provides 2,000 calories a day for an average woman, and 2,500 for an average man. This, however, might prompt you to ask: What is variety in a diet? and, How do you count the calories of a food serving?

The answer to the first question is quite easy: you must avoid monotony. Include foods from different sources into each meal and avoid choosing the same food day in and day out. If you eat salad every day because it's a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, try to change the vegetables you eat in the salad.

As to the second question, there is no practical calorie measure that you can use. The solution is moderation, both when choosing your serving size and when adding high-calorie components, such as fat. A dish with a piece of chicken or fish, a medium potato and a colorful vegetable salad can be either an excellent meal or an excessive source of calories, depending on how the food is prepared. It’s not the same to fry the chicken and potatoes and cover the salad in mayonnaise, as it is to bake the chicken and the potato and add a few drops of of olive oil to the salad.

When it comes to dietary excesses, remember that you always have the option of increasing your physical activity as well. It’s very possible that a certain amount of food that may be excessive for a sedentary person may be just right for a person who burns more calories by exercising.

*Dr. Lara-Pantin, a nutrition specialist, is Vice President of Product Development for DrTango, Inc.


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