Although the causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial, it is speculated that one reason…

Although the causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial, it is speculated that one reason obesity rates are rising globally is due to a combination of increased energy intake, reflecting expanding food portion sizes, and reduced overall daily physical activity. This math activity should help you better understand how portion sizes have increased over the past 20 years and how much physical activity you would need to do to expend the excess energy resulting from these larger portion sizes. The two set of photos in Figure 2.9 give examples of foods whose portion sizes have increased substantially. A bagel 20 years ago had a diameter of approximately 3 inches and contained 140 kcal. A bagel today is about 6 inches in diameter and contains 350 kcal. Similarly, a cup of coffee 20 years ago was 8 fl. oz and was typically served with a small amount of whole milk and sugar. It contained about 45 kcal. A standard coffee mocha commonly consumed today is 16 fl. oz and contains 350 kcal; this excess energy comes from the addition of a sweet flavored syrup and whole milk. On her morning break at work, Judy routinely consumes a bagel and a coffee mocha. Judy has type 2 diabetes, and her doctor has advised her to lose weight. How much physical activity would Judy need to do to “burn” this excess energy? Let’s do some simple math to answer this question.


1. Calculate the excess energy Judy consumes from both of these foods:

a. Bagel: 350 kcal in larger bagel – 140 kcal in smaller bagel = 210 kcal extra

b. Coffee: 350 kcal in large coffee mocha – 45 kcal in small regular coffee = 305 kcal extra Total excess energy for these two larger portions = 515 kcal

2. Judy has started walking each day in an effort to lose weight. Judy currently weighs 200 lb. Based on her relatively low fitness level, Judy walks at a slow pace (approximately 2 miles per hour); it is estimated that walking at this pace expends 1.2 kcal per pound of body weight per hour. How long does Judy need to walk each day to expend 515 kcal?

a. First, calculate how much energy Judy expends if she walks for a full hour by multiplying her body weight by the energy cost of walking per hour = 1.2 kcal/lb body weight × 200 lb = 240 kcal.

 b. Next, you need to calculate how much energy she expends each minute she walks by dividing the energy cost of walking per hour by 60 minutes = 240 kcal/ hour ÷ 60 minutes/hour = 4 kcal/minute.

c. To determine how many minutes she would need to walk to expend 515 kcal, divide the total amount of energy she needs to expend by the energy cost of walking per minute = 515 kcal ÷ 4 kcal/minute = 128.75 minutes.

Thus, Judy would need to walk for approximately 104 minutes, or about 1 hour and 45 minutes, to expend the excess energy she consumes by eating the larger bagel and coffee. If she wanted to burn off all of the energy in her morning snack, she would have to walk even longer, especially if she enjoyed her bagel with cream cheese! Now use your own weight in these calculations to determine how much walking you would have to do if you consumed the same foods:

 a. 1.2 kcal/lb × (your weight in pounds) = ______ kcal/hour (If you walk at a brisk pace, use 2.4 kcal/lb.)

b. ______ kcal/hour ÷ 60 minutes/hour = ______ kcal/minute

c. 515 extra kcal in bagel and coffee ÷ ______ kcal/ minute = ______ minutes

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