Friday, July 24, 2009

The Weight Loss Confusion

There seems to be and endless sea of weight loss products, pills, foods, clubs, books, and basic garbage everywhere you look. TV, Internet, radio, books, are just the beginning, so it's no wonder that people try them, fail, and give up. Weight loss is not as complicated as many of the so called "programs" or "diet plans" make them out to be, and if weight loss came in a bottle, the country would not be on the verge of an obesity epidemic. Basic knowledge can help you recognize the scams from the real deal. Here are some basic rules about weight loss:
Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, not a diet. The reason diets fail is because as soon as people go off the diet, the old habits come back, and so does the weight. The most successful "losers" did not follow any special diet. At the end of the day, it's all about the calories. It really doesn't matter if it's in the form of carbohydrates, fats, or protein, how they are combined, or what time of day, as long as they are balanced. Just remember the equation that more calories have to be burned than consumed. Managing weight and calories is just like managing your checking account; think of dieting as a "budget."
Never eliminate a basic food group. A "diet" that suggests eliminating or restricting dairy, carbs, certain colored foods, etc., is not a legitimate program. The food groups as designated by the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid supply all the nutrients required for a healthy metabolism. ( See for more info). By including all types of foods in the diet, not only are you getting balanced nutrition, it keeps meals from becoming boring.
Exercise is the only natural way to boost your metabolism. Metabolism refers to the way the body uses energy. Most of the products advertised do nothing to boost the metabolism. Even caffeine, though it is a stimulant, only increases your heart rate for a few hours. Side effects include insomnia and heart arrhythmia, which are counter productive to weight loss. Aerobic exercise is the best for boosting metabolism. Increasing muscle mass with strength training will increase your metabolism, as muscle requires more calories just to maintain itself. Alcohol slows the metabolism, so use moderation. Eating meals regularly keeps the metabolism working at an optimal level. When you skip meals, your body shifts into starvation mode, conserving energy.
Fat Free isn't always a good thing. Fat free cookies and such contain more sugars and salt to give flavor, but they don't provide satiety; satiety is the feeling of satisfaction from eating. Fats can provide satiety, one reason being is because they take longer to digest and provide more calories per gram than do sugars. 10% of your daily intake can be saturated fat, and 20% should be unsaturated fats, in the way of mono or polyunsaturated. They provide long lasting energy and essential fatty acids (nutrients to help maintain nerves, hormonal balance, and much more), and help ward of that hunger feeling. So eat that favorite cookie! Just remember to count the calories.
Get your ZZZZ's! How long you sleep may effect hormones that regulate appetite and weight. Sleeping only 4 - 5 hours a night, instead of the recommended 7 - 8, alters levels of the appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, leading to increased appetite. These hormonal changes combined with having more awake time for eating and feeling too tired to exercise all contribute to weight gain.
Make sure your sources of information are reliable. Always ask a nutrition professional for diet advice. Beware of the label "nutritionist," as there is no certification or definition of such. The label can be used quite freely. Chiropractors, vitamin sales people, health food store clerks can all refere to themselves as "nutritionists" thought they may not have any specialized education or certification in the field. A Registered Dietitian or Dietetic Technician are the only nutrition professionals educated and certified in accredited nutrition programs. Reliable and unbiased information generally comes from Universities, Govt. agencies, and health organizations.

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