Try something different for lunch! 02/05/23

I was at Panera Bread the other day and something occurred to me: people consume a lot of calories at lunch! And the reality is, most people have no idea they are doing it. Let me say up front, this blog isn't a knock on Panera Bread. I really do like this restaurant. I just want to highlight a problem that I feel undermines many who attempt a fitness and weight loss program. It's the issue of thinking we are eating healthy but at the end of the day it's just way too many calories.

I did the math using nutrition and calorie tools available at the Panera Bread website and the typical lunch of soup, 1/2 sandwich and a side is 700-1,000 calories. If you add in a pop and dessert, then we're talking about 700 calories more for a grand total of 1,400-1,700 calories. Part of my fitness training program is helping clients determine an appropriate amount of calories to consume based on their metabolism and activity level. Honestly, this lunch at Panera Bread would be anywhere from 75-100% of most client's daily calorie budget. In other words, they may have reached their maximum calorie intake at just one meal!

Additionally, many of Panera Bread lunch patrons are office workers. This means that the majority of their day is spent sitting. Once again, I am not criticizing office workers. We need office workers! My beautiful wife is an office worker! However, the fact is, an office worker doesn't burn many calories throughout the day. Back to the math: If the office worker eats a 500 calorie breakfast (easy to do at McDonald's or Starbucks), a 1000 calorie lunch and a 1,500 calorie dinner (easy to do at a casual dining restaurant like Applebees), they will eat a total of at least 3,000 calories. This total does not include any snacks or beverages consumed mindlessly throughout the day and evening. The total at the end of the day could easily exceed 3,500-4,000 calories!

Comparatively, the typical female office worker only burns about 1,500-1,600 calories a day without exercise. The typical male office worker burns about 2,100-2,200 calories a day without exercise. So, without a consistent exercise plan, the typical office worker will consume almost 2x the amount of calories that they burn each day! Uh-oh. Not good. Any excess calories consumed and not burned are converted to fat. A pound of body fat is 3,500 calories. A person could easily gain 2-3 lbs per week based on these examples. That means 8-12 lbs per month and a frightening 96-144 lbs per year!

How is this combated? The answer is simple but not easy. Consume less calories and burn more! This is simple because it's just basic math. It's not easy because it takes effort. But, it can be done!

So, back to the title of this blog: Try Something Different for Lunch! There are many options to put a stop to weight gain and actually start chipping away at the excess weight. Below is a list of practical steps to take that will make a real difference!

Pack a lunch. The typical packed lunch will be about half the calories of a restaurant lunch. This will knock 500-700 calories off your lunch. At the end of the week this could add up to losing 1 lb of fat! Use your lunch time to take a walk. Eat your lunch at your desk before or after the walk. The walk (30-60 minutes) will probably burn 150-300 calories. Now your daily deficit could reach up to 1,000 calories! This will equal losing 2 lbs of fat! Go to the gym during lunch. Eat a piece of fruit before the workout for fuel and have a protein shake after to fill you up and recover. A gym session (30-60 minutes) will burn 300-600 calories and the food will total about 300-400 calories. This scenario could create up to a 1,500 calorie difference resulting in losing 3 lbs per week! A non-exercise option could look like this. Eat a snack at 10:00 AM, fast lunch and eat a snack again a 2:00 or 3:00 PM. Spend the time you normally eat lunch engaging in a personal improvement activity. My activity of choice during fasting is Bible study and prayer. The possibilities are endless, but just don't use the time to mindlessly surf the Internet or update Facebook! Like the first example, you will probably knock 500-700 calories off your typical intake by doing this. Hopefully, this gets you thinking about how you typically do things. As the saying goes, you can't do the same thing and expect different results. Now is the time to act. Today, not tomorrow. Plan some changes, stick with it and see what happens!


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