January 2007

Forget Resolutions: A New Outlook on Weight Loss

Author: George K. Newell

It’s that time of year again, when there’s a feast waiting around every corner and too few hours in the day. Daylight is becoming a rare commodity, and the last thing on your mind is heading out for a walk. Americans have a lot to be thankful for; unfortunately, slim waistlines are not one of those things. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Census Bureau, over 65 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older are either overweight or obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher. To avoid becoming a statistic, you must take control.

As 2007 arrives many of us make a resolution to lose weight. Promising to increase physical activity and eat less can be difficult. Although the solution is simple, the process is not so easy. Some tools to help you establish and meet your weight loss goals are the BMI and resting metabolic rate (RMR) calculators. The BMI calculator is a great way to assess whether your weight is appropriate for your height. The RMR calculator helps you determine the minimum number of calories your body needs to maintain normal functions. (Calculate your numbers online at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi and www.24hourfitness.com/html/fitness/fit_calc/rest.)

The health benefits of a good diet are separate from the benefits of regular physical activity. The lack of either or both is responsible for an increase in body fat that we assume occurs naturally with aging.

We all know that once weight is gained, it’s hard to lose. To do so, you must create a negative energy balance, and that means burning more calories than you take in. This can be achieved without going hungry. Eating foods that are nutrient dense, such as fruits and vegetables, will help you achieve your goals. Also, foods that are high in protein and fiber will help keep you satisfied longer. Avoid foods with high amounts of fat. Fats in your diet won’t necessarily turn into fat stores in the body; but because they have so many calories per unit, (compared to carbohydrates and protein), they tend to trick us into taking in more calories in a smaller package. When it comes to losing weight, perception is important!

If you don’t bring the calories in, then you can’t put on weight. But if the weight is already there, don’t worry, there’s hope. Believe it or not, you’re a fat burning machine. Yes, you! As you take the time to read this article, your body is running on mostly fat. Fat is what keeps you alive while you’re busy taking it easy. So why are Americans so large? It’s because every pound of fat contains 3,500 calories—and that’s why increasing physical activity is so important.

Everyone knows that physical activity is our body’s outlet for calories, but where does the weight go when it is lost? Some people believe that it’s lost in sweat or given off as heat. The real answer is that calories are stored in between carbon molecules (carbon molecules make up fats and carbohydrates). Calories are lost when your body “chops up” the carbons for energy. Once they are broken apart, they have to be eliminated from the body. They are transported through the blood to the lungs where they are blown off as carbon dioxide. So, whenever you exhale, you’re losing weight!

George Newell holds an M.S. degree in exercise physiology, cardiac rehabilitation and adult fitness and is an ACSM® Exercise Specialist. For more information or for help with your weight loss plan, contact him at Palmetto Athletic Club located at 843 William Hilton Parkway, (843) 842-3222.

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