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No-Sweat Weight Loss

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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WE'VE all heard the weight- loss mantra a million times: Burn more calories than you consume and you'll lose weight.

But what if you could follow the formula without working out?

Health experts say you can burn the calories off not by sweating, but by doing normal, everyday activities - like talking on the phone or showering.

The body naturally burns calories every minute, even when you sleep.

So for a week, I kept track of whatever I ate (calories in) and movements I made (calories out) for eight days.

I calculated the calories I worked off using, a Web site that lists every activity you can imagine - even harvesting wild rice from a canoe (202 per hour) and chasing livestock on horseback (245 per hour).

You may not realize it, but your average night's sleep of eight hours burns a whopping 461 calories.

Then there's making your bed (10 calories), brushing your teeth (4 calories), showering (82 calories), shaving your legs (20 calories), putting on your makeup (41 calories), and getting dressed (51 calories).

If you blow dry your hair, that's another 51 calories.

That's a total of 720 calories up in smoke, and your day is barely under way. (For more on how many calories you burn over the course of a day, see sidebar.)

Over the course of a week, I watched what I ate - everything added up to about 2,021 calories. Snacks ranged from a healthy apple (72 calories) to a strawberry Pop Tart (200 calories).

There was the day an Entenmann's sour cream pound cake crept into my house (220 calories), and the night my boyfriend and I went out for some cold sake at Haru (312).

But by the week's end I lost a little over a pound - even though I never set foot in the gym.

I should have been jumping for joy (8 calories a minute) - but not hitting the gym was an unexpected buzz kill. I started to dream about dumbbells and stationary bikes the way dieters fantasize about donuts.

I called Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and clinical dietitian at NYU Medical Center for her advice.

She pointed out that I didn't factor in my basal metabolic rate, which is the energy your body expels on a daily basis just to function.

But before I got excited about the fact that I'm burning even more calories than I realize, Heller reminded me that I can easily over- or underestimate how many calories I'm burning.

"While it's true that if you burn more calories than your body needs to get through the day, you will lose some weight, are you eating healthy foods?" she asked.

"Although walking and taking the subway stairs is a start, you need to make sure your muscles are regularly challenged to get the huge benefits from exercise, which include preventing heart disease, diabetes and cancer."

What's more, she added, exercise helps fight depression.

Truth is, I had been slipping into a funk without my usual feel-good endorphin kick.

It was clear I couldn't live without exercise. And with that, I'm off to the gym.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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