Fen-Phen, Slim Fast, DexaTrim, TrimSpa, South Beach, Atkins, The Zone, Weight Watchers, Low Fat, High Protein, Cardio, Weight Training, Pilates, and the list continues. Seems like everyone you talk to wants to lose at least 5 pounds, and little wonder why when there are an estimated 65% of Americans who are overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity” cites the contributing factors as an energy imbalance from too many calories and too little physical activity. Behavior and environment also play a part, in addition to physiological aspects such as genes and metabolism.
With this significant focus on losing weight where does one begin? Most can agree on the basics. “The Surgeon General’s Healthy Weight Advice for Consumers” recommends losing weight gradually at a rate of one-half to two pounds per week, and that the safest and most effective way to lose weight is to reduce calories and increase physical activity.
Hippocrates stated “Positive health requires a knowledge of man’s primary constitution and of the powers of various foods, both those natural to them and those resulting from human skill [such as processed foods]. But eating alone is not enough for health. There must also be exercise, of which the effects must likewise be known. The combination of these two things makes regimenâ€¦”
So it seems that it all really comes down to “calories in, calories out”. If you look at it as a mathematical equation it’s simple. Just burn more calories than you eat, right? But that’s not quite the case. If you eat fewer calories than your body requires then it can actually go into “starvation mode”. In this mode the body hoards all that you take in, and stores it away like a chipmunk storing up nuts for the winter. People who try this rapid weight loss method are really just losing water, and find that they pick up those pounds once more when they start eating again. They are also known to experience hair loss, racing heart, chest pains, the shakes, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, blood sugar imbalances, lethargy, kidney problems, bowel problems, and difficulty with concentration.
What really seems to be the key is to eat a balanced nutritious diet. Keep an eye on the calories, but also be aware of the fat, protein, sugar and sodium content in your food. Lower fat is good, because fat doesn’t really require any processing to store it in your body. Protein on the other hand takes quite a while to break down and therefore provides a sustained energy source. Protein is also used in your body’s process to build muscle. We’ll talk about this a bit more, later. Be aware of sugar! Sugar causes the production of insulin; insulin causes you to convert and store excess sugar as fat and also store excess fat as fat. This is why people get freaked out about carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are good for you though. Oatmeal, for instance, is the breakfast of champions and fat burners everywhere. As a complex carbohydrate rich in fiber, it keeps your insulin levels steady for an extended period of time as it breaks down, which prevents fat storage.
Another hint? Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating within 30 minutes to an hour from waking kick starts your metabolism. Continuing to eat small portions of high protein or fiber foods through out the day, every three hours or so, keeps your metabolism going, in turn burning more calories per day. But remember to watch your portionsâ€¦ It won’t do you any good if you eat a massive breakfast, a hearty lunch and a solid dinner along with your snacks!
Exercise is always a part of any balanced weight loss regimen. But what exercise is most effective? Glamour magazine recently presented a challenge to three trainers from Chicago, L.A. and New York. The challenge? Take a couple of slightly-out-shape women and train them for 8 weeks, and compare the results. The diet part was simple: eat a little less aiming for five small meals a day with a focus on whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy with lots of fruits and veggies. While no food was off limits they were encouraged to limit the “bad” stuff like bacon, chips, fries and candy bars. There was a face off between the age old standby cardio, and the newer wave strength training. Who won? Strength trainers who had spent 10 to 15 minutes doing cardio to warm up and then about 20 minutes of strength training with weights. These girls dropped an average of 8 pounds and 14 inches in 8 eight weeks! What’s the secret? For every pound of muscle you build your body burns up to 50 calories more a day, whether you’re working out or just sitting on your butt!
It takes burning or reducing 3500 calories to lose one pound of fat. If you follow the recommendations above you can achieve an optimal balanced combination for weight loss. In summary, be mindful of what and how much you eat. Kick start your metabolism with breakfast in the morning, and then eat small spaced out meals (like every three hours) through out the day to keep it going. Use anaerobic exercise to raise your basal metabolic rate to burn more calories through out the day. Lastly, don’t forget to breath and drink water!