Everyday choices are important – it’s the small things we do daily that can lead to large changes to our health because they are repeated over and over for a long period of time. To illustrate this, suppose we have to women, Lucy and Molly, who are identical twins and have the exact same body weight and composition. In order to maintain the same body weight they need to consume 1800 calories per day so let’s also assume that they eat identical meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Lucy starts her day by getting up at 7 AM, eats her breakfast and then meets with her personal trainer for a 60 minute session of resistance and weight training (-500 kcal). After finishing her lunch during her break, Lucy takes a walk outside (-100 kcal). After work when Lucy gets home, she takes her dog out and then takes the dog for a 2 mile walk (-200 kcal) to decompress and relax. After dinner she sips a cup of green tea and makes sure to go to bed at a time that will ensure she gets 8 hours of sleep.
Molly starts her day by getting up at 7 AM, eats her breakfast and then leisurely drinks her coffee and watches the Today show until it is time for work. She eats lunch at her desk and does some online browsing during the remainder of her break. After work when Molly gets home, she takes her dog out and then has a glass of wine to decompress and relax (+200 kcal). After dinner, she stays up late watching her favorite shows and then gets the urge for a late-night snack (+300 kcal).
Even though both women had the same meals, they had very different physical activity levels and habits. When these small differences are added across the whole day, Molly has netted 1300 more calories than Lucy. If these patterns are continued every other day, after a month, Molly has netted 19,500 more calories than Lucy, which results in several pounds gained. You can see how these small choices can lead to big differences in weight when continued month after month.
Although there is nothing wrong with skipping the gym sometimes, staying up late once in a while or having a glass of wine occasionally after work, when these choices become habits weight gain can occur very gradually. At the same time, making exercise a priority, taking daily walks during lunch, and being active after work are great habits that can lead to improved health, strength and well-being.