To make a difference, change behavior, not diet
By SALLY ANDERSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000
When it comes to weight control, you will hear many theories and stories. With numerous gimmicks and fad diets being advertised in glamorous ways, it is easy to see how people can become hooked on the hope of quickly shedding inches and pounds. We are constantly viewing unrealistic models of thinness, people whose body fat probably was extremely low before they touted the success of diet and exercise programs.
Beware of messages that offer quick and easy solutions that speak in superlatives for weight loss: "With our product, you are guaranteed to lose 10 pounds in just 10 days." Ten pounds of what? It is impossible to lose 10 pounds of fat in 10 days. More than likely, you will lose mostly water, very important muscle tissue and a tiny bit of fat.
Weight loss is a huge business. More than 30,000 diets are listed with the Food and Drug Administration. Americans spend more than $50-billion a year on weight-loss products and services. Nonetheless, something is not working; the percentage of adult overweight men and women is increasing yearly, and more than 50 percent of American women are considered to be overweight. If just one magical diet truly accomplished permanent weight loss, all those other diets could be eliminated.
Many of us believe and indulge in "magic formulas" to lose weight. "Take this, try this, do this and poof!" Quickly you will be forever changed, and, as in the fairy tales, live happily ever after.
There are no magic formulas.
Your personal body weight is a result of many complex factors, beginning with genetics and the society in which you live. Physical activity, nutritional habits, metabolism and lifestyle patterns initiated in childhood and continued throughout the years all contribute to tendencies to gain or not to gain weight.
A successful candidate for long-term weight management is not one who goes on and off diets that negate safe, permanent weight loss. Losing weight does not do anyone much good unless it is kept off. It is necessary to look into the behavior that created the weight problem in the first place, then work on behavior modification.
One myth is that eating certain foods such as grapefruit will burn fat. Another is that eating certain foods in combination with others will cause the body to absorb fewer calories..
Here come more weight fallacies: Drinking a lot of water will help you get rid of fat faster. Water is essential to our bodies, and drinking water may make you feel more full and perhaps less hungry for the moment, but it will not speed up the removal of body fat.
"Do not eat after 8 p.m. if you want to lose weight." The problem is not the time; it is the additional calories you take in. If you have to eat a late dinner or snack and it is part of your routine food intake for the day and not additional calories tacked on at the end of the day, you will not mess up your plans for weight loss; your metabolism runs 24 hours a day.
Other "magic formulas" used in the attempt to lose weight are ingesting special "fat-burning" formulas, applying formula creams to the body, visiting spas for luxurious treatments to lose pounds and inches (do it for the pure luxury and relaxation, but not with expectations of permanent weight loss), using passive exercise such as vibrating belts and muscle stimulators (they can be used for rehabilitation, but no true loss of weight will occur).
Other misunderstood approaches to weight loss include spot reducing, over-the-counter diet pills, fasting and fad diets. Spot reducing is exercising a specific area on the body where you would like to lose fat. Working a specific muscle over and over will not stimulate the body to burn fat from that particular area. As an example, you could work your abdominals by doing 100 to 400 sit-ups a day and not lose the fat deposits from that specific "spot." Abdominal exercises will strengthen and increase the muscle tone for the abdomen but will not remove the "tummy roll."
The only way to eliminate fat deposits is through food control and exercise. When using energy through aerobic exercise, you will begin to deplete the stored fat throughout the body, not in one localized area where you may have been so diligently working.
Over-the-counter diet pills have been suggested as a means to lose weight. The basic pitch for this is that the drugs contain special chemicals that will curb your appetite and increase your metabolism. The negative side effects to diet pills, besides the fact that they can be addictive, include nervousness, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems and severe dehydration. I have met clients who thought fasting was the way to go to rid themselves of their unwanted weight gain. This is not the way to go! During fasting, most of the weight loss will be from loss of water and lean muscle tissue, the very thing you do not want to deplete for purposes of weight loss. As the metabolism begins to slow down, the loss of fat begins spiraling downward. When the body begins to lose valuable minerals and water, you can expect to encounter feelings of severe fatigue. To top it off, after going through all the discomforts of fasting, once you cease the fast, you can expect all the weight you may have lost to return, perhaps even more weight than was originally present.
Now we have herbal weight loss being introduced. The scary thing about these so-called remedies is that they haven't been officially tested. As with many other pills, they have the potential for side effects.
Fad diets have been on the market for years; many of them are reruns, just packaged a little differently. High-protein diets that severely restrict carbohydrates were popularized in the 1970s. These diets were popular because it appeared that people were losing weight at a rapid rate; however, the weight loss was mostly water loss. This type of a diet can deplete glycogen from the muscles and cause depletion of potassium and calcium and weakness in the muscles. Simple carbohydrates should be avoided, but complex carbohydrates are a good source of energy, provide much-needed vitamins and minerals and are high in fiber. On the other end of the spectrum are low-protein diets. Restricting the protein intake below levels that are recommended will cause a loss of muscle tissue, making it more difficult for the body to burn calories. In turn, that will lead to increased fat and weight gains.
If you are thinking about going on a diet program, ask yourself one question: "Can I remain on this diet for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, what happens when you go off the diet? The American Dietetic Association tells us that 90 percent of the people who lose 25 pounds or more on any diet gain back the weight they lost within a year.
- Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write to her in care of Seniority, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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