November 24, 2008
By Tom Robinson, M.D
Permanent weight loss is undoubtedly the Grail quest of our age. Over 100 million Americans are over weight or obese, and all are at risk for, or already suffering from, the social, physical and medical consequences of this condition. Most of those afflicted try at some point to lose the their excess pounds, but the statistics show that, despite a $50 billion industry of fad diets, books, and miracle over-night weight loss pills, 95% of these people always gain their weight back.
Why, with all this “guaranteed” advice, is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off? The truth is, there is no secret. Whether we are willing to accept it or not, we all know what science has proven: The only way to achieve life-long weight loss is to live a fit lifestyle with healthy food choices and an appropriate amount of safe exercise.
The best food and exercise choices and the best amounsts may not be immediately apparent. The complete truth on these matters cannot be fully explained in one article, but an outline of the basic principles can.
Most over weight people live lifestyles that slow their metabolism and cause insulin resistance, loss of muscle mass, poor conditioning, and a metabolic shift from fat-burning to fat storage. Reversing the metabolism from fat storage to fat burning requires reversing the lifestyle. The essential principles are:
• This is the most important principle of all. You must have hope and believe that you can and will change to a healthy, fit lifestyle. Hope that we can and will succeed sustains us through times of doubt and frustration.
Get the body moving
• There are two important steps. First, muscle burns fat, so build a little (toning is usually enough).
• Second, active muscle burns excess sugar and fat and increases metabolism, making it easier to burn fat in the future, prevent muscle from being broken down, and help prevent fat from being regained. So build muscle and use it at least 30 minutes five days each week.
Make good food choices
• Your food choices can affect whether you put on fat or become fit.
• Choose the right kind of carbohydrates and eat the right amounts. Complex carbohydrates and high fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) are the best fuel for an active body, prevent muscle from being lost, and make burning fat easier
• Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are essential nutrients for an active, fat-burning metabolism. Intake of less than 140 grams of carbohydrates each day causes the metabolism to slow down and causes the body to break down muscle protein for fuel.
• The popular “Low Carb” diets lower carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams each day, causing some fat loss at the expense of muscle loss.
• Fats are important in the diet, but more than 10 grams of saturated fat each day can lead to heart disease and stroke. Choose mono and polyunsaturated fats and oils, such as fish, poultry, flaxseed oil, canola oil and olive oil.
Drink eight to twelve ounces of water ten minutes before every meal.
• Most people are at least mildly dehydrated. The body does not differentiate between hunger and thirst very well. Consequently, people are eating when they should be drinking.
• It takes ten to fifteen minutes after filling an empty stomach for it to be sensed by the brain as full. Thinking thirst first and drinking water will help control over-eating, cravings and hunger.
Eat six times each day
• The stomach empties every two to four hours, signaling the sensation of hunger. Eating two or less meals each day causes the body’s metabolism to slow down and hibernate.
• Drinking water and then eating three properly portioned meals each day, with small mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and mid-evening healthy snacks, decreases hunger and cravings and improves metabolism.
Accepting the truth about your body and rejecting the fad programs is the first step to attaining a fit body and mind. Talk to your doctor about these principles, and build nutrition and exercise plans that you enjoy. With the truth, you can and will succeed.