Weight Loss Secrets

Near­ly every­one wants to lose a few pounds.  In many cas­es, more than just a few.

In fact, it’s been the­o­rized that if every­one who want­ed to lose an extra 10–20 pounds actu­al­ly lost the weight and kept it off, the cumu­la­tive dis­ap­pear­ance of body mass would desta­bi­lize the earth’s orbit and send the plan­et hurtling off into inter­stel­lar space.  (Actu­al­ly, no rep­utable physi­cist has the­o­rized that at all.  I just made it up myself.)

But con­trol of body weight is an impor­tant health and diet con­cern. And it’s a chal­leng­ing med­ical issue.

Many try to lose weight; few suc­ceed with­out dif­fi­cul­ty.  If that isn’t bad enough, there’s the noto­ri­ous rebound effect – once you’ve dropped a few pounds, the fat cells take their revenge and you may end up weigh­ing more than ever.

Don’t give up.

Over the past few years we’ve learned a lot about how the body main­tains its weight.  Though there are no mag­i­cal secrets to weight loss, you stand to ben­e­fit if you make use of the lat­est knowl­edge.  Here are some ques­tions and their answers to guide you along your path:

Is los­ing weight sim­ply a mat­ter of reduc­ing the calo­ries you con­sume and increas­ing those you expend in exer­cise? 

Yes.  Care­ful research shows that if you cut your calo­rie intake you’ll lose weight — regard­less of what mix­ture of foods you eat.  And if you lose weight, your lev­el of blood lipids and oth­er med­ical mark­ers of car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk will improve, too.  The key is to find a diet – any diet — you can stick with.

But not so fast.

Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the advice to sim­ply cut calo­ries to lose weight – though tech­ni­cal­ly it’s true – is about the most use­less diet advice you can get.  That’s because food and our rela­tion­ship to it is com­plex.

To begin with, you may have food-relat­ed prob­lems apart from your weight, such as poor diges­tion, bloat­ing, poor nutri­ent absorp­tion, errat­ic con­trol of blood sug­ar, slug­gish­ness, or food intol­er­ances or aller­gies.

Sec­ond­ly, there are social, cul­tur­al, emo­tion­al, and sen­so­r­i­al dimen­sions of food that can’t be ignored.

Third­ly, your body’s cells are pro­grammed for life in a food-scarce envi­ron­ment.  They want to store a back­up sup­ply of nutri­ents to ensure sur­vival in hard times.

You’ll only suc­ceed in long term weight loss if your strat­e­gy to cut calo­ries also address­es these oth­er issues.

What’s bet­ter – a low fat diet or a low-carb diet?

Either type of diet can help you lose weight.  And the pro­po­nents of both approach­es have plen­ty of research fod­der to help them make their sci­en­tif­ic argu­ment.

But I’ll stick my neck out here and vote for the low-car­bo­hy­drate approach to eat­ing.  That’s because the main cul­prits in the Amer­i­can diet are sug­ar, sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates, and foods derived from grain in gen­er­al.

Five rea­sons are:

  1. If you eat too much sug­ar, the cells of your body become desen­si­tized to insulin.  That wreaks meta­bol­ic and hor­mon­al hav­oc on your sys­tem.
  2. Intesti­nal bac­te­ria of the wrong kind feast on sug­ars and sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates, throw­ing off your inter­nal ecol­o­gy.
  3. Foods derived from grains, such as bread or pas­ta, pro­vide the build­ing blocks of pro-inflam­ma­to­ry mol­e­cules in your body.  If your diet is too grain-based, you’ll be pre­dis­posed to be in an inflamed state.  Inflam­ma­tion is at the root of mod­ern degen­er­a­tive dis­eases such as heart dis­ease, arthri­tis, and demen­tia.
  4. Many peo­ple are sen­si­tive to gluten, the major pro­tein of wheat and oth­er grains.
  5. Sug­ars and sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates are absorbed rapid­ly into your blood­stream, so it’s easy to gen­er­ate too high a peak in your blood sug­ar lev­el fol­lowed by a crash.

If you cut back on sug­ars and grains, your diet is bound to be low­er in car­bo­hy­drates.  Sure, you’ll still be con­sum­ing car­bo­hy­drates in the form of starchy roots and tubers (pota­toes, squash, and the like.)  But your total car­bo­hy­drate intake will prob­a­bly be low­er.

What about exer­cise as a part of los­ing weight?

Good idea.

One ben­e­fit of exer­cise is that you burn calo­ries.  For exam­ple, a 175-pounder walk­ing 3.5 miles per hour (a fast walk­ing pace, though slow for race-walk­ing) burns about 225 calo­ries per hour.  If you do that every day, it will make a sig­nif­i­cant long-term dif­fer­ence.

But there’s anoth­er impor­tant rea­son to exer­cise.  Mus­cle tis­sue has a high base­line meta­bol­ic rate, so build­ing mus­cle helps you lose weight.  Focus on types of exer­cise that build mus­cle, such as resis­tance train­ing, and the extra mus­cle will con­tin­ue to give you div­i­dends even when you’re not using it.

In addi­tion to high inten­si­ty exer­cise that will help you gain mus­cle, build in as much activ­i­ty through­out your day as pos­si­ble.  Stand at your desk instead of sit­ting.  Take the stairs instead of the esca­la­tor.  Park in the park­ing slot fur­thest from the store.  Take a walk at lunchtime.  These small habits, mul­ti­plied over the weeks and months, will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

Isn’t it hard to lose weight and keep it off?  Don’t most dieters even­tu­al­ly bal­loon back up again?

Extreme diet­ing to achieve rapid weight loss usu­al­ly doesn’t work.  Nor does a diet that relies on pecu­liar com­bi­na­tions of foods that won’t sus­tain you nutri­tion­al­ly in the long run.  If you lose weight with these types of strate­gies, there’s a good chance your suc­cess will be only tem­po­rary.

But the odds are good that with a sen­si­ble diet plan you can lose about 10% of your body weight and keep at least 5% of the weight off over the long run.

If you’re 40, 50, or more pounds over­weight, los­ing a mere 10% may not seem like much.  But it can be an effec­tive ini­tial goal to shoot for.

For one thing, the health val­ue of even a mod­est weight loss is tremen­dous.  Also, once you’ve proven to your­self you can lose the first 10%, you can con­tin­ue with your new health­i­er eat­ing habits to achieve your next weight-loss goal.

What about pro­tein pow­der shakes to help me lose weight?

They’re a good idea.

Meal replace­ment shakes don’t have mag­i­cal prop­er­ties to help you lose weight, but they can be used effec­tive­ly.  Find a high qual­i­ty pro­tein pow­der to mix into a shake and use it as a sub­sti­tute for one or even two meals a day.

One of the rea­sons this strat­e­gy works is that it’s easy to fol­low.  Research shows that peo­ple stick with a diet more con­sis­tent­ly if it struc­tures your eat­ing choic­es for you.

A sec­ond ben­e­fit to meal replace­ment shakes is that the extra pro­tein you con­sume will help build mus­cle.  The more mus­cle you’ve got, the high­er your base­line meta­bol­ic rate, and the eas­i­er it will be to con­tin­ue los­ing weight.

What about weight loss groups?

Group weight loss pro­grams are effec­tive.  There are two main rea­sons.

One rea­son is that any struc­tured approach to eat­ing is eas­i­er to fol­low and that makes it more like­ly that you’ll stick with it.

A sec­ond rea­son is the social sup­port.  You may be able to cre­ate your own social net­work for weight-loss sup­port by con­nect­ing with friends or fam­i­ly mem­bers who share your goals or who could serve as your cheer­ing sec­tion.  Weight-loss sup­port groups are an effec­tive alter­na­tive.

Now you know 90% of what you need to know to lose weight effec­tive­ly and keep it off.  The next steps are up to you:

  • Make a com­mit­ment to a rea­son­able weight loss goal.
  • Take small, con­sis­tent steps toward your goal.
  • Track your progress.
  • Cre­ate a sup­port net­work for your­self.
  • Reward your­self as you achieve mile­posts (and not with a brown­ie!)
  • Keep learn­ing more about nutri­tion and your own rela­tion­ship with food

Best wish­es.

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Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Sup­pers Pro­gram — social sup­port for those seek­ing a health­i­er diet

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.

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