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Energy balance

The state in which energy intake, in the form of food and beverages, matches the energy expended, primarily through basal metabolism and physical activity.

Positive energy balance

The state in which energy intake is greater than energy expended, generally resulting in weight gain.

Negative energy balance

The state in which energy intake is less than energy expended, resulting in weight loss.

Basal metabolism

The minimal amount of calories the body uses to support itself in a fasting state when resting and awake in a warm, quiet environment. Amounts to roughly 1 kcal per kilogram per hour for men and 0.9 kcal per kilogram per hour for women; these values are often referred to as basal metabolic rate (BMR)

Resting metabolism

The amount of calories the body uses when the person has not eaten in 4 hours and is resting and awake in a warm, quiet environment. Roughly 6% higher than basal metabolism due to less strict criteria for the test; often referred to as resting metabolic rate (RMR)

Lean body mass

Body weight minus fat storage weight equals this term. This includes organs such as the brain, muscles, and liver, as well as bone and blood and other body fluids.

Thermic effect of food (TEF)

The increase in metabolism that occurs during the digestion, absorption, and metabolism of energy-yielding nutrients. This represents 5 to 10% of calories consumed.


This term encompasses the ability of humans to regulate body temperature within narrow limits (thermoregulation). Two visible examples are fidgeting and shivering when cold.

Brown adipose tissue

A specialized form of adipose tissue that produces large amounts of heat by metabolizing energy-yielding nutrients without synthesizing much useful energy for the body. The unused energy is released as heat.

Direct calorimetry

A method of determining a body's energy use by measuring heat released from the body. An insulated chamber is usually used.

Indirect calorimetry

A method to measure energy use by the body by measuring oxygen uptake. Formulas are then used to convert this gas exchange value into energy value.

Body mass index (BMI)

Weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared; a value of 25 and above indicates overweight and a value of 30 and above indicates obesity.

Underwater weighing

A method of estimating total body fat by weighing the individual on a standard scale and then weighing him or her again submerged in water. The difference between the two weights is used to estimate total body volume.

Air displacement

A method for estimating body composition that makes use of the volume of space taken up by a body inside a small chamber.

Bioelectrical impedance

The method to estimate total body fat that uses a low-energy electrical current. The more fat storage a person has the more resistance (impedance) to electrical flow will be exhibited.

Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry

A highly accurate method of measuring body composition and bone mass and density using multiple low-energy x-rays.

Upper-body obesity

The type of obesity in which fat is stored primarily in the abdominal area; waist circumference is more 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women; closely associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Also known as android obesity.

Lower-body obesity

The type of obesity in which fat storage is primarily located in the buttocks and thigh area. Also known as gynoid or gynecoid obesity.

Set point

Often refers to the close regulation of body weight.


A region at the base of the brain that contains cells that play a role in the regulation of hunger, respiration, body temperature, and other body functions.


A hormone made by adipose tissue in proportion to total fat stores in the body that influences long-term regulation of fat mass. Also influences reproductive functions as well as other body processes such as the release of the hormone insulin.


Breaking the link between two or more behaviors that encourage overeating such as snacking while watching television.

Stimulus control

Altering the environment in order to minimize the stimuli for eating- for example, removing food from sight and storing them in kitchen cabinets.

Cognitive restructuring

Changing one's frame of mind regarding eating - for example, instead of using the excuse of a difficult day to overeat, take a relaxing walk with a friend.

Contingency management

Forming a plan of action to respond to a situation in which overeating is likely, such as when snacks are within one's arm at a party.


Tracking foods eaten and conditions affecting eating; actions are usually recorded in a diary, along with location, time and state of mind.

Relapse prevention

A series of strategies used to help prevent and cope with weight control lapses, such as recognizing high-risk situations and deciding beforehand on appropriate responses.


A group of medications that induce stimulation of the central nervous system and have other effects in the body. Abuse is linked to physical and psychological dependence.

Very-low calorie diet (VLCD)

Also known as protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) this diet allows a person 400 to 800 kcal per day, often in liquid form. Of this, 120 to 480 kcal is carbohydrate, and the rest is mostly high-quality protein.


The medical speciality focusing on the treatment of obesity.

Adjustable gastric banding

A restrictive procedure in which the opening from the esophagus to the stomach is reduced by a hollow gastric band.


Gastric-bypass surgery performed on the stomach to limit its volume to approximately 30 milliliters. Also refered to as stomach stapling.


A body mass index below 18.5. The cutoff is less precise than for obesity because this condition has been less studied.

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