February 10, 2012

Ok, the holidays are over, you’ve over-indulged and now you’re paying the price.  You want to lose those extra pounds, but do you have a plan?

Are you going on a diet?  Cutting portion size?  Starving yourself?(!)

Here are my thoughts: I don’t approve of diets because unless you stay with the plan the weight comes back.  Cutting portion size is helpful.  Starving your self is actually destructive.  Why do I say destructive?  When people lose weight in this way they lose lean muscle mass.  The body composition is altered, usually with the result that the ratio of body fat to lean tissue mass is altered in the wrong direction.  The percentage of lean tissue mass is decreased.  So if you do this periodically (many people do this, its called yo-yo dieting) your percentage of body fat increases with each cycle.  Having extra adipose tissue (fat) on your body is unhealthy because fat cells secrete inflammatory chemicals.  High levels of inflammation in the body are associated with increased risk of stroke and heart attack.  This type of weight loss also slows down your metabolism, because your body thinks its going to starve, so it conserves calories.  So you can’t eat as much as you used to without gaining weight!

The only way to lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off involves exercise and a healthy diet.   Regular cardiovascular exercise increases your metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories, and is also heart protective.  As far as a healthy diet goes, well, let’s be grown-up here…junk food and fast food doesn’t have any place in a healthy diet, period, end of story.  It’s high in fat, high in calories, full of unhealthy chemicals and lacks much by way of nutrition.  The good news is that with a little planning each week you can eat healthy without too much fuss.  For example, Pacific and Imagine brand soups are full of healthy vegetables.  For variety add a bit of left-over chicken, a few whole-wheat croutons, and some fresh parsley (buy a whole roasted chicken, eat the legs with some steamed veggies the first night and save the breasts to cut up and add to soup or salads).  In general, a healthy diet involves eating 5 servings of vegetables per day and 2 – 3 servings of fruit.  A serving is half a cup, so you can easily achieve this with a large salad for lunch and a hot vegetable at dinner, and two or three snacks of fruit throughout the day.  A half an apple or banana is about 1/2 cup.  Eat only whole grains, they’re more nutritious than processed grains and I like to use an analogy with grains: time released medications break down slowly over time to keep a steady supply in your body…whole grains do the same thing.  This is important because any calories our bodies can’t use within 15 to 20 minutes of consumption are stored as FAT :-(.  An average woman should have only one serving of grains per day…I’m 5’6″ and consider myself average size.  A serving of grain is a slice of bread or a half cup of cooked grain or pasta.  An average man can have 2 servings because men metabolize food differently from women.  An average man is about 5’9″ to 5’10”.  Lean protein should be eaten two to three times per day, in servings of 3-6 ounces depending on sex and size.

In my practice I utilize a  bio-impedence analysis computer to measure body composition.  This helps my patients understand where their body composition is and where it needs to be.  Check this out: if you are > 10% over the recommended maximum body fat for your age, height and sex you are considered obese.  Yeah, that’s discouraging, but the good news is this is something you can control.


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