Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bonus Calories Defined

Everything that we do burns calories in some way and to some extent.  Breathing is the result of movement in the diaphragm muscle which allows the lungs to expand and contract as we inhale and exhale.  This muscle burns calories as it performs it's job.  The beating of our heart is, in itself, a muscle and it too burns calories.  Blinking, licking your lips, smiling, chewing, scratching an itch, and even digesting food are all activities that burn calories; the only element of this fact is how many calories are being burned and whether or not they are significant enough to aid in weight loss.  The items listed above are your base calories, they are the calories that your body burns every day, and has been burning every day of your life, and will continue to burn every day.

Bonus calories are calories that we burn on top of those required for our bodies to function normally.  These can, of course, be burned through exercise or physical activity ... but there are other, simpler ways to burn bonus calories too.  According to research conducted by the Mayo clinic, people who fidget tend to burn 350 calories more per day, on average, than people who don't.  This can include snapping your fingers while you walk (something my brother does), waving your hands around when you talk (something my mother does), or bouncing your leg or moving your feet a lot when you're sitting/laying down ("Temptation" does this to the point of making me want to tie his ankles together).

So what if you're like me and, to your knowledge, you don't have any odd little fidgets that come naturally.  Should you force yourself to develop one to burn calories?  Considering that all of the fidgets mentioned above tend to drive the people around you completely NUTS ... I would advise against this.  However, there are other ways to burn bonus calories throughout your day.  According to the Mayo Clinic's study, a 150 lb person burns approx. 136 calories just by taking a shower.  The number is significant less than taking a bath so, if you're like me and you love a nice hot bath, stand up and take a shower when you're done soaking to get those bonus calories.

Sewing, knitting, crocheting, wrapping presents, typing, drawing, and painting all burn approx: 183 calories per hour.  Cooking burns approx 244 calories per hour (provided you're on your feet actively cooking for the full hour and not sitting on the couch waiting for the timer to go off).  Playing with a dog or cat, while seated, can burn around 300 calories per hour.  Playing the piano burns 305, playing guitar burns 244, and drums burn 488.  (Bear in mind that ALL of these numbers are for someone who weighs what I weigh right now which is 269.5; if you weigh less these numbers will be lower).  For some really fascinating information regarding how many calories you burn during intimate moments with your partner (insert adult content warning here) check out this study as published in the American Journal of Exercise Calorimetry in August 2006.

Celery, though not actually negative in calories, is considered a "freebie" to calorie counters because, when consumed raw, it contains fewer calories than your body will need to chew and digest it.  Cooking it, chopping it up into little pieces, etc significantly modifies this rule.  So should we take up crochet as a replacement for exercise when we're trying to lose weight?  I personally don't think so but ... that said, yesterday instead of spending my few hours laying on the couch watching TV before bed like I usually do, I spent it working on a big, heavy blanket for "Temptation".  Instead of the 366 calories I would have burned just laying there like a bump on a log (over a 3 hour period), I burned 915.  How?  I burned the same 122 calories per hour that I would have otherwise burned just by existing, plus an extra 183 calories per hour by crocheting; and that is in addition to the 300 calories I burned exercising earlier in the day.

Next time you sit down to watch a movie and your hands are idle, ask yourself how you can keep them entertained for those few-hundred extra calories that you wouldn't otherwise burn.

2 glasses of water
1 cup of coffee with creamer
8 oz mocha protein shake
2 bananas
1 Korean rice cake
1 yogurt
1 wheat bagel sandwich
>>1 tomato slice
>>2 tbsps cream cheese
>>1 scrambled egg
1 cup tomato soup
Daily Caloric Intake: 1,117

I didn't get any exercise done today; I think my 300 calories per day goal is some kind of curse.  When I don't set it I accomplish it and when I do set it I always have a bum day.  Today I didn't take a lunch at work, went all through the entire day at my desk waiting for the emails to come in or the phone to ring while simultaneously following a family emergency, coordinating communications with distant family members, talking to police and local rescue efforts, and keeping my family updated with info from news and response websites.  Once the emergency was over and everything had calmed down I packed my bags for the trip to San Diego tomorrow, did laundry, and then just collapsed in a cloud of emotional and mental exhaustion.  I did crochet for about three hours (550 "bonus calories").  Three hours that I know I should have been doing something somewhat physical but I just couldn't muster the internal incentive today.  It's funny because I didn't physically feel too tired to exercise; but I realized that motivation is a mental war ... and today I lost.  I just need to make sure that I don't allow this to be the beginning of a downward holiday spiral.

p.s. The family is ok, no one was harmed (including the family dog) and, for the time being, the crisis seems to be over.  However, there is still an active flood watch in effect and a whole lot of people are waiting before returning to their homes because it's still FREAKIN' RAINING!


  1. This was very informative!! I had no idea, tapping my leg when I am sitting acutally is a good thing, but like you said... ahahahahaha it drives my husband nuts!!!

  2. Funny, I started jiggling my leg while reading this. Any calorie burnt is good for me.

  3. Well this post immediately drew a somewhat scornful response from someone who indicated that I was trying to bill leg bouncing as a replacement for exercise. Let me reiterate, even though I said this in the original post, NO I am not trying to claim that crocheting is a form of exercise! This is merely an interesting fact to point out. Even if the caloric numbers are somewhat off (as I too suspect they may be) the POINT of the article is that maintaining any movement, even small ones, is better than being completely still. Honestly...people who skim a two page post and then rant about it without actually reading it just irritate the hell out of me!

    Trisha and Layla: Thank you both for understanding the point that I was trying to make here! :) Everything posted above this paragraph is not directed at or in regards to either of you.

  4. I'm glad to hear that your family is okay. I sure hope it all works out without too much trouble. Life always happens, so dieting and exercise is happening around and in it.

    That's why it's good you've got a program that works where you are.

    Even if you miss a day or two of work outs because the stress of life is killing ya.

    (What's gritting your teeth for bonus calories? Lol.)

  5. Grinding I'm not sure but brushing is 244 cph (calories per hour). Not like anyone actually spends an hour brushing their teeth lol.