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Dear HG,

How accurate are the meters on gym equipment that tell you how many calories you've burned? I'm a little suspicious because all it asks you for is your weight and age and I imagine every body is different.

-Treadmill Trouble
Dear Treadmill Trouble,

That's a VERY good question.  And one that I've often wondered about. For starters, be VERY suspicious of any machine that spits out calorie-burning info without asking for your weight.  There's a good chance that machine assumes you weigh 150 or 160 lbs.  If you weigh less than that, you will burn fewer calories than the number stated, and if you weigh more, you'll burn more calories.  But even the machines that ask you to input your weight may not be so accurate.  Some experts say that cardio machines at the gym often overestimate how many calories you are burning by as much as 30% (but 10-15% is more likely).  Another factor that these machines don't account for is body fat.  A person who has 20% body fat will burn more than someone whose body fat is 30%.  It actually gets pretty complicated.  To play it safe and get a slightly more accurate count on calories burned, there are a few things you may want to do. First, you can enter a body weight that is a little lower than yours (you know, pretend you're at the DMV getting a new driver's license).  That way the machine will tell you that you burned fewer calories and will likely be more accurate.  Another thing you can do is add a few more minutes to your workout without assuming you're burning more calories.  Also, if a machine has handles, or anything else that can support you -- do NOT use them -- you won't burn as many calories if you do.  Hope this helps -- happy cardio-ing!

Dear Hungry Girl,

I'm tracking my calorie intake, and I'm wondering how accurate restaurant nutritionals are.  Some of them seem too low to me and I feel like I'm sabatoging myself by believing them. HELP!


-Digs Dining Out
Dear Digs,

Another accuracy question? What's going on here today!? Actually HG recently reported  on a news story that talked about how fast food restaurants were serving oversized portions. A result of this is that there are more calories and fat grams, etc., than their nutritional brochures and websites report.  This is a very real problem.  Unfortunately, this problem is likely NOT limited to fast food.  Think about it.  Every time you order a piece of grilled chicken at a restaurant like Chili's or T.G.I. Fridays, isn't it a different size.  And sometimes that baked potato is 30% larger or smaller than it was the last time, right?  These places don't measure their food every time, so you can't expect the nutritional info provided to be 100% accurate.  All you can do is your best. To me, that means ordering smart (no sauces or dressings -- or bring your own).  Weigh your food when possible, and overestimate what you're taking in.  Whenever I eat out, I always figure I've eaten about 100 calories more than I think I've eaten.  I think it's better to be safe than sorry.

Today, February 8th, is National Molasses Bar Day.  We still have yet to meet, hear about or taste a molasses bar.  Has anyone out there ever tried one?

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