Archive for the 10 tenets of effective weight loss Category

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #7 – Exercise, exercise, exercise

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss with tags , , on February 20, 2008 by Dr. CJ

Exercise is clearly a beneficial element of a weight loss regimen.  As demonstrated in the image to the right, there are two mechanisms by which the balance of calories can be adjusted in your favor to trend towards weight loss: cut down on calories ingested or increase calories burned.  If that calorie balance is sufficiently in your favor, you should lose weight over time.

There is only so much you can do with diet; crash diets are uncomfortable and counterproductive to your weight loss goals.  The more effective and more healthy alternative is to increase physical activity. 

Exercise is often broken down into two types: cardio and strength trainingCardio is generally accepted as the obvious answer to burning off calories in an attempt to burn fat, lose weight, etc.  The general starting recommendation is to be active for 30 minutes a day most days of the week, activity that causes an increase in one’s heart rate.

Strength training (weight lifting), unfortunately, gets left out of most exercise regimens.  Read this post, and you should be convinced that strength training is a critically important element of a weight loss regimen.  It doesn’t have to be Arnold-caliber bodybuilding; a moderate weightlifting routine is sufficient. Weight-lifting can be an aerobic activity itself and contributes to increased lean body mass, which together can increase one’s basal metabolic rate for increased calorie burning throughout the day.

Tenets of Effective Weight Loss #6 – Track your food intake

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss with tags , on February 11, 2008 by Dr. CJ

As mentioned in a previous tenet, weight loss is simply about taking in fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis.  Your body has a resting metabolic rate of calorie consumption and also needs calories to perform the activities of your day.  Food intake is the fuel for your machine – your body. 

I recommend that you track all your food on a daily basis, for a couple reasons:

  • Monitor the number of calories you have eaten – does this coincide with what your weight is doing over time?
  • Be able to identify how certain foods affect your weight, e.g. water balance, so as not to get frustrated when you accidentally have a carb-heavy day.
  • Instill a sense of discipline regarding eating – you’re less likely to want to indulge in something if you force yourself to enter the nutritional information in your database.

There is a very easy-to-use online daily nutrition tracker called FitDay.  It has a large database of common food items and serving sizes including some brand-name products, but also allows you to customize food entries.  It also tracks many vitamins and minerals, and allows you to track your daily weight and analyze it in a graph format (an example below).

fitday11208.jpg

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #5 – Diet – Food as Fuel

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss, Diet with tags , , on January 19, 2008 by Dr. CJ

5) Think of food as fuel, not for pleasure

We’re all guilty of overeating because a particular dish was really tasty or it’s your favorite dish, etc. But, since access to food is not really an issue (i.e. you probably consider yourself overweight) there’s no need to treat any meal as if it were your last. Remember, 3500 Calories equals 1 pound, and “calories are calories” when talking about weight – it’s just a measurement of the heat content of food and your body doesn’t much care if it comes down your throat or through an IV. Where those calories come from does matter, but not for the purposes of long-term weight gain. 10,000 calories from chips and candy will put 3 pounds on your belly just like 10,000 calories from chicken and broccoli.

At meals, eat your reasonable-sized portion and save the rest. The key is to separate yourself from the pleasurable aspects of eating, getting the appropriate amounts of proteins/carbs/fats with a balanced supply of vitamins and nutrients.

By all means, you should enjoy your food. Our sense of taste protects us from unpalatable items, but it also gets us into trouble. There’s really no nutritious value of sugar-laden candy or soda. Same thing goes with excess fat, and yet fat contains the most dense calories (most calories per gram). Why is Black Angus beef so popular? Because it’s infiltrated with a lot of fat compared to other lines of steak – it basically comes from cows who were genetically engineered (OK, selected by breeding techniques) to develop steaks that are more “marbled” (aka, loaded with fat). Fat tastes good – ever try fat-free cheese?

My number one rule about diet is to avoid processed foods. Foods are not meant to be able to sit on a shelf for months (or even weeks) at a time. The shelf-life of food in supermarkets is made possible by preservatives. It’s unfortunate, but it s actually rather difficult to interpret the ingredient list on most foods these days or even figure out what is really inside a package. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient list, put it down.

Stick with produce. You may be familiar with the recommendation to shop the perimeter of the grocery store only. Once you venture into the aisles, you will be bombarded with “junk” (with a few exceptions, e.g. tuna, oatmeal, frozen produce). Here’s an interesting analysis of the health values of grocery store departments. Think about the typical grocery store layout – the majority of them are the same, and there’s a reason behind that. There’s a complicated psychology of grocery store layout with the intent of making customers spend more. I used to peruse the grocery store, walking each aisle, calculating my need for the things I saw, looking for my familiar food items, falling prey to other things that weren’t on my shopping list. Now that I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, I do a quick loop through the store and I’m done. That’s an unexpected time-saver, for sure. I know exactly what I need every time, and I don’t have to dodge shopping carts in aisles.

Select healthy foods –

1) Fruits

2) Vegetables

3) Lean meats – primarily chicken and fish

4) Complex carbohydrates – whole grains, oatmeal (not instant) , brown rice/pasta

The closer the food is to coming right from the ground (or plant) or off an animal (swimming or flying), the better it is for you.

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #4 – Must eat to lose weight

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss on December 29, 2007 by Dr. CJ

4) You must keep eating to lose weight

It is well established that food intake is critical to metabolism. If you drastically cut your calorie intake, your body will go into “starvation” mode, not knowing when it might next see food. It’s basically a version of hibernation, such that your body’s metabolism slows down relative to the reduction in calorie intake. As a consequence, you will not lose weight the way you want to. In fact, when your body is in “starvation” mode and needs to acquire energy, it will sacrifice both muscle and fat indiscriminately in order to provide the needed energy. There goes your much-needed lean body mass, but your body doesn’t know better when it desperately needs energy.

Weight management is actually a fairly simple concept:

Energy balance

Tip the scale to the left, you’ll gain weight; tip it to the right, you’ll lose weight. Sure, you can make weight control extremely complicated, but if you haven’t succeeded with the basics yet, why would you bother doing so? Keep it simple initially, until you learn how your body responds.

How many calories do you need in a day? Energy need is calculated as the sum of your energy use from activities performed throughout the day and the amount of energy used to maintain normal bodily functions (basal metabolic rate).

Calculate your BMR (or resting metabolic rate – RMR) at:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calrmr.htm

For a lot of esoteric information on calculation of BMR, go to:

http://www.unu.edu/unupress/food2/uid01e/uid01e00.htm#Contents

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #3 – Start at the grocery store

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss on December 3, 2007 by Dr. CJ

3) Start at the grocery store

Setting your mind on a few simple standards at the beginning will make a huge impact over time. You must first learn the types of foods that will optimize your fitness strategy. Food choice is a complicated topic, which can certainly not be mastered in a short period of time. Your preferences will certainly change as your knowledge base expands and as you discover what works for you.

Natural produce is certainly the most important component of a healthy diet. Artificial and/or processed foods should be avoided. There is increasing evidence that processed foods are harmful; after eating a “clean” diet for a long time, you will most certainly notice the negative effects of other processed foods.

Make a commitment to incorporate more fruits and vegetables slowly; you will likely find that you feel better by doing so, which will motivate you to make them a more important part of your diet.

“Shop the perimeter” – In general, the healthiest foods are along the outside edges of grocery stores. There’s a smattering of psychological basis for this layout (fresh food first, milk in rear of store to force people to walk past everything else to get an ‘essential’, snacks/treats at the final corner, and more). Essentially, stick with the produce, food items as unprocessed and unrefined as possible.

“If you don’t buy it, it won’t be in the house for you to eat.” Be smart in the grocery store – buy only what you need. You’ll cut your budget and cut your calorie intake by maintaining some discipline while shopping. My diet is usually pretty simple so I don’t need an extensive shopping list, but make sure you plan ahead before shopping so that you’re not making foolish decisions when in a hurry at the store.

Learn about healthy foods. I recommend World’s Healthiest Foods, which contains a wealth of information about foods containing the essential nutrients. The food list is especially helpful and informative.

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #2 – Have a fitness goal

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss on November 25, 2007 by Dr. CJ

2) Stay focused on a goal

Of first importance is to have a goal in mind, whether it be fat reduction, muscle gain, or fitting into those old clothes. It may be useful to find a picture of your ideal body appearance as a motivating factor. Your goal may change once you begin, or you may discover a new goal once you reach the first one. Be open to some change, but don’t give up on your goal if it seems unattainable once you begin.

This tenet also implies a long-term commitment. The word “diet” is usually used in the sense of a short-term change, such that after you change your eating habits to get to the point where you’re satisfied with your body, you may return to your original eating habits – the ones that got you to your unsatisfied state. You need to make lifestyle changes that you will sustain long-term in order to maintain the fitness level you desire.

The “diet” mentality is the reason that so many people are able to lose weight for a period of time, but then gain it back (and often more). Failure to maintain the changes that led to the initial success is incompatible with maintaining the improved fitness level.

There will be times when you feel that it would be easier to revert to your old ways, especially after realizing some progress. Sure, you can get back to that point with some renewed discipline, but you must recognize that it would be easier to stick with your plan and further your progress then to recover after a lapse in discipline.

In addition to whatever you visualize as the benefits to this new lifestyle, there will most certainly be other benefits that you had not thought of or imagined. Obviously, you could expect improvements in a number of health-related measures over time. Other benefits may involve social interactions (e.g. ability to participate in activities with others, appearing more attractive, etc.) and even financial situations (e.g. health insurance discounts, fewer healthcare visits, fewer medications).

10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #1 – Keep a record

Posted in 10 tenets of effective weight loss on November 22, 2007 by Dr. CJ

Nearly everyone wants to “lose weight” at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, it’s probably the most common New Year’s Resolution by a long shot, because it seems to be an unreachable ideal for so many. Weight loss is pretty simple, really: calories in vs. calories out. So, why is it not that simple in real life? We’re human. We have created all kinds of fluff in our lives that keeps us from doing the things that our body needs, fluff being things like work, meetings, organizations, hobbies, etc. We are animals (a sophisticated animal, mind you), and animals by their very nature are active, needing to seek out their own food and travel by means of their own bodies (not vehicles). Animals do not produce Kristy Kreme doughnuts, watch TV, or drink beer.

I’d like to outline some lessons I’ve learned regarding effective weight loss. They are my “tenets of effective weight loss” – a series of suggestions to guide your fitness plan, no matter what your goal. Let’s start:

1) Keep a record

As you start to make progress with weight loss, muscle gain, etc., you will no longer have your old self to compare to. It may get frustrating if you cannot detect some meaningful improvements in your body after all that hard work. The last thing you want is to get discouraged from continuing on your fitness plan, so make sure you have some way[s] to document progress. An Excel spreadsheet would be the ideal way to document these data over time, also providing the capability of displaying the data in graph form.

The simplest and most common measurement is weight. Invest in a user-friendly, accurate scale that will allow you to log your weight. Of course it gets more complicated: you may want to be able to measure down to the nearest 1/4 pound vs. accepting only whole numbers. There’s digital vs. analog scales, stand-up scales with rulers for measuring height built into them, scales with body fat calculators, etc. Don’t get hung up on any of these – just figure out what works best for you and be willing to adapt over time to meet your needs.

You may want to do specific body measurements, such as waist size or measuring biceps, thighs, chest, hips, etc. Get a cloth ruler and measure away.

You may want to calculate body fat percentage, with a caliper system. They are fairly accurate and affordable. I have a Slim Guide skin calipers that works well that I bought for $19.95. There are, of course, fancier methods for calculating body fat, but those require special equipment and facilities. Body fat reduction should be the ultimate goal for most people – it’s not just about weight loss, because you may be replacing fat with muscle and that won’t be reflected in your scale measurements.

Photographs are a very useful method for tracking progress. Sure, there are a million health-related reasons why we want to be fit, but we’re also fairly vane creatures who want to look good to others. By all means, do not get hung up on body image in a pathologic sense – despite what the media tells us, not everyone can or should look like celebrities/supermodels. Pictures taken at regular intervals can be a huge motivator, especially when the measurements may not be changing like you expect.

There will also be the real-life measurements, how well your clothes fit or what other people notice. These measures are perhaps the most rewarding when you are struggling to make a change. Keep a journal of these, as well.