I Just Want To Lose Weight!

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
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The main driving factor in starting or maintaining most “fitness” programs is related to unwanted pounds. Although the other related health benefits of regular exercise’stronger muscles, healthier heart and circulatory system and lower incidence of chronic diseases— are, of course, thought to be important, weight loss is the primary goal for most individuals contemplating a fitness “program”. But it should be understood that “weight loss” should not be confused with the REAL goal of FAT loss. Anyone can begin to lose weight by drastically curbing his or her caloric intake. In fact, a drastic reduction in caloric intake will cause the body to lose weight almost immediately. Some of the weight loss will, indeed, be fat BUT some of the loss will be lean body tissue, which will possibly lead to a permanently reduced metabolic rate (the rate at which an individual burns calories). This reduced metabolic rate due to “binge dieting” or “crash dieting” can cause more problems down the road since the body’s ability to “burn” calories naturally will be negatively affected by less LEAN tissue.

So what do we do? Well, the answer is much simpler than it seems. For example, significantly reducing just the fat in the “diet” is, generally, no more effective than reducing carbohydrates or proteins in the total diet unless it produces a reduction in TOTAL calories while still providing essential nutrients. Indeed, a recent research study showed that diets well within recommended ranges of fat intake (20 to 35%!) were no more likely to add additional pounds over the years (the study covered a 10 year period) than diets with lower levels of fat intake. Of course, diets toward the lower end of the dietary intake spectrum would result in less fat weight gain over time. Now, the study being discussed involved subjects from 6 different European countries and was part of a cancer and nutrition study, but, suffice it to say that unless activity levels are included in the analysis (i.e. “ How sedentary were the participants?”) it is somewhat difficult to eliminate fat as a possible culprit in unwanted weight gain. As usual with dieting, it becomes a question of common sense and moderation.

With this in mind, the real “culprit”, of course, is total calories that exceed activity levels. In other words, too much food (calories in) and too little exercise (calories out). No surprise there, right! So what is the answer to a successful weight loss program? Here are some techniques and suggestions that have a sufficient enough “data base” to be applicable and useful for everyone. First, reduce caloric intake by about 10%. This can be easily accomplished by significantly reducing or eliminating refines sugar and high-fructose corn syrup from the diet. This simple change can reduce caloric intake by the average American by nearly 500 calories per day! For adults, the empty calories provided by alcohol consumption can reduce this caloric intake even more. Second, reduce portion sizes—especially when eating out (Can you say “doggie bag?”). The “clean your plate” mind-set is not always the best way to go when the plate is brimming with extra calories. Eat until full and then STOP! Third, of course, is regular exercise. Just thirty minutes per day of moderate levels of exercise—brisk walking is a good example—will “burn”, on average, about 4500 calories per month. That alone is enough calories to drop nearly one and a half pounds per month. Added to the reasonable eating plan changes suggested above, you’re looking at about one and a half pounds per WEEK. Fourth, and perhaps most important, be patient. Significant weight gain does not happen overnight so don’t expect it to be solved overnight. A weekly goal of one to two pounds of fat weight is a reasonable and SUSTAINABLE goal. If possible, have a body fat analysis done on a regular basis to make sure that your weight loss is fat weight and not lean tissue. Fifth, include regular strength training to your exercise program to get back that lean body tissue helps to drive your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories). Remember that it is possible to lose five pound of fat weight and gain five pounds of lean tissue for a net zero loss of scale weight BUT you will be leaner, burn calories at a greater rate and you will probably find that your clothes fit better due to the slimming effect of the fat loss. The additional lean body tissue, if maintained, will also help you to continue to “burn” calories at a greater rate—forever! Lastly, maintain your good eating and exercise habits as a lifetime commitment to yourself and your family after you have reached your desired weight goal. With these important steps, you can take control of your life and your health. No surprise there either, right?

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for February 2010. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

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