The majority who enter the ‘land of diet’ feel they’ve purchased a passport to starvation. The fact is, over 90% of dieters regain their lost weight within a year or two. Despite billions of dollars spent by millions of dieters, Americans weigh 5-10 pounds more than in past decades. Obesity has doubled. Sadly, many gain additional pounds after leaving the ‘land of diet’.
The yo-yo affect of dieting is frustrating and unhealthy. There is a ‘passport’ to better health—redeeming it involves an ongoing journey of lifestyle changes. To begin the journey it’s necessary to change the way we think about dieting. A diet should not be thought of as something we “go on” and “come off”, like a roller coaster ride. Rather, we need to embrace permanent, consistent lifestyle patterns. This incorporates a nutritious, balanced diet and daily exercise. (See 8 Weeks to Wellness under Services Offered). Most diets lack vital nutrients and are counterproductive. Research corroborates that underfeeding can cause our bodies to shift into survival mode, interpreting the lack of calories as famine. As water is lost, the metabolism slows (especially in sedentary individuals). This encourages less activity in order to conserve energy. In fasting, and many fad diets, up to 50% of weight loss comes from lean body mass. Water, minerals, and muscle are quickly lost and the electrolyte balance disturbed—this debilitates health and can even damage the heart. (It is not the scope or purpose of this article to discuss specific diets).
The American Heart Assn. advises a prudent approach to weight management for healthy adults. The guidelines deem 1 pound/week as a safe weight loss average. (Losing more than 2 pounds/week should be under the care of a physician). The recommendations advise women not to consume less than 1,200 calories/day and men not less than 1,500 calories/day while incorporating balanced moderation in the major food groups.
A healthy marriage of diet and exercise is the road to longevity and weight management. Multiple studies show combining exercise with a Mediterranean type diet reduces heart disease, cancer, stroke, hypertension, risk for diabetes, and boosts ‘good’ cholesterol. A healthy diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats like nuts and avocadoes, in moderation. Fresh, whole foods are nourishing and healing. If we find ourselves opening packages and containers every time we eat, a red flag should go up. Most of these foods are highly processed with high sugar/salt content and unhealthy fats. You will feel the rewards for choosing fruit over candy and carrots over potato chips, etc.
The open road to keeping those extra pounds off is exercise. Those who continue a nutritious diet with moderate exercise maintain healthy weight levels. Exercise (especially aerobic) completes what diet alone cannot do—it not only speeds up the metabolism during exercise, but also increases caloric burn at rest. A balanced exercise approach should include aerobics, resistance training and stretching. Our activity level is the most variable component of total energy expenditure. In the sedentary, it represents approx. 15% of daily caloric burn. The vigorously active can more than double this caloric expenditure, up to 35%. During aerobic exercise, (walking, biking, swimming, etc.) a beginner may expend calories at 10 times above their resting level, whereas an advanced exerciser may double this rate. Not a bad return in any case!
Exercise pays priceless dividends for longevity. Conversely, patterns that foster weight gain shortchange life. The famous Framingham study affirms every excess pound will shave one month off of lifespan. In contrast the Harvard alumni study asserts, every hour you exercise increases your life span by two hours. What contrasting probabilities!
The alternatives are profound. Wouldn’t you rather be healthy and able to play with your grandkids? It is never too late to make changes and receive positive pay-offs. It is simple to weave activity into your day—take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the back of the lot rather than compete for a front space. Take a quick walk from your desk to the drinking fountain hourly. Get off the bus one stop early. Dance while you’re doing dishes. Think joyful thoughts. The ways are endless.
You may say, “I eat healthy food, and am reasonably active–yet I stay stuck with unwanted weight. and lack energy.” Yes, there are multiple factors that influence our health and metabolism, including genetics. You may find some of Dr. Joseph Mercola’s advice extreme, yet Take Control of Your Health, gives sage counsel about nutrional typing. He, along with Dr. Ron Rosedale, see thousands in their clinics and report amazing success. Eating foods we thrive on makes a remarkable difference. What is one person’s food, may be another’s poison. Food journaling and noting reactions etc., can be revealing and rewarding. To preserve and prize your health is one of the best gifts to yourself and significant others.
As you explore the ‘land of health’ enjoy the journey and reap the benefits.