By Mark William Lisky
According to many philosophies and religions, spring represents renewal and rebirth. It’s the time nature comes out of its long winter sleep with a flurry of activity. The most important activity for both plants and animals is to seek energy, be it from sunlight or food. Plants and animals have been dormant for the last few months, living off the energy supplies stored in either their body fat or in their roots.
Like nature, people also come out of their winter sleeps during springtime. Unlike nature, the majority of people haven’t been living off their stored energy supplies. In fact they’ve been adding to them. And now that summer is closing in fast, some of those folks who have put on extra pounds of stored energy (in the form of body-fat) are frantically looking for a way to lighten the load.
Others have been storing their energy supplies for decades of winters and now find themselves medically obese.
Whether you have gained a few pounds over the winter, or you have become obese, all is not lost. It’s said that “hope springs eternal” and that hope begins with dieting and exercise.
Both of these activities are recommended by every professional health organization in the country, although their immense value is still not realized by the most of the public. However, before anyone begins a personal spring renewal program, they need to learn the facts in order to choose the right path.
Good Fat, Bad Fat
Any diet for reducing stores of energy needs to focus on losing non-essential body fat called adipose tissue, not overall bodyweight. Our total body weight consists of bones, muscle, fat, water, etc. We need it all to be healthy. Even when it comes to adipose tissue, we need to have a certain amount because some fat is “essential.” Essential body fat is kept in bone marrow, organs and the fat abundant tissue in the central nervous system. Essential body fat is also needed for other functions including insulating the skin, protecting cells and organs from trauma and providing a reserve supply of energy in case of an emergency.
Initial Weight Loss vs. Real Weight Loss
Understanding that the body is made up of different cells that have mass is why some of the initial weight loss on most diets is water (up to five to seven pounds), not adipose tissue. Initial water loss happens because when a person starts a diet, especially ones that are severely calorie restrictive like the South Beach Diet, the brain throws a fit. The principle fuel source for the brain is the simple sugar glucose. The body converts the sugars and starches you eat into a stored form of glucose and initially hides it in your muscles and liver for safekeeping.
When you go on a diet that drastically cuts calories without an adaptation period, the brain’s fuel supply is compromised. Cells in the brain are unique in that they burn up nearly all of the fuel almost the moment it arrives. This requires an uninterrupted flow of glucose. It’s like the brain cells are always living on the edge. In order to keep the fuel coming from the pump, the brain seeks it out in the supply stored in the muscles.
When the body stores converted sugars in the muscles, they’re attached to a water molecule. When the stored sugars are released to keep the brain from freaking out (this is why people get cranky when they start a diet), water is also released. The end result is loss of water weight, not adipose tissue. All the water weight will return the second the diet ends.
All Diets Do Work
It is a fact that all diet programs work, at least for a short while. It has been shown in research that within one year of starting a new diet, 99 percent of the people using the diet gain any weight that was lost back. Dramatic short-lived results is one reason or “secret” that authors of fad diet books tend to use titles such as, “Lose Thirty Pounds In Thirty Days”
They know from research that anyone can lose thirty pounds in thirty days if they diet. They also know that the thirty pounds lost will come right back. That’s why many diet books usually do not mention what do six months from the start of the diet. Also if the fad diet is unpleasantly frugal or Spartan, the likelihood of using it year-round is not great. If a person is going to choose a diet program, it needs to be one that not only helps lose non-essential adipose tissue, but one that keeps it off year after year.
With so many views on dieting, it may prove wise to revisit some schools of thought. First is the “Mediterranean” diet. This diet is based on research from the 60s, focusing on the eating patterns of countries in the Mediterranean. This diet includes high intakes of fresh vegetables, nuts, olive oils, olives, fish, lamb, cheese and lots of wine with some complex breads. Studies show that this diet is very effective for weight loss. Also, this diet has been proven in research to improve the condition of patients with heart disease.
Another is the “Paleolithic” diet first proposed by Dr. S. Boyd Eaton M.D. In 1988 and is based on what humans ate before the development of agriculture. Data for the diet was provided by research on modern-day hunter-gatherers. The ratio between animal calories to plant calories in hunter-gatherer cultures is about 65 percent to 35 percent respectively. The Paleolithic diet emphasizes meats from grass-fed animals or wild game, free-range poultry, seasonal fruits, raw nuts, raw seeds and lots of fresh leafy vegetables with no dairy, breads or potatoes.
Since its first release, several other diets have followed the “Paleo” line of reasoning. These types of diets, like the Mediterranean diet, are really based on changing long term eating patterns and lifestyles. To succeed in either of these styles, it’s recommended to slowly replace the common foods a person may eat like breads and pastas with more vegetables and salads.
The next school of thought is the “High Protein/Fat Low Carbohydrate” diets. These are a group of diets that began appearing in the 1990s including, Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, the Sugar Busters and Protein Power to name a few. All of these diets are based on a high intake of protein and fat and a low intake of sugars and carbohydrates.
The reasoning behind these approaches is that eating large amount of carbohydrates, provoke a hunger response, which encourages overeating. Also, overeating carbohydrates causes the release of large amounts of the storage hormone insulin, resulting in body fat weight gains.
These diets also trigger a process called “ketosis” which may help the body to burn adipose tissue. From observations, these diets have been shown to work. However rapid weight loss also causes the loss of lean muscle mass along with adipose tissue. Research has shown that people following Dr. Atkins diet, for example, lose up to 50 percent of their lean muscle mass. Constant loss of lean muscle mass has been shown in research to promote accelerated cell aging.
In order to be successful at choosing your approach to healthy eating, it is true that you are what you eat. When crafting your diet, find one that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it you will quit. Think long term. Pay attention to the results you’re experiencing. Learn what works and what doesn’t.
The Skinny on Exercise
If, along with dieting, a person wants to add exercise to their program, daily activities such as shopping or doing the laundry simple won’t do. A person needs to kick it up a bit. More challenging daily aerobic activities or “cardio” activities like pushing a lawnmower or biking to the store will do. All types of physical activity help as long as they are performed at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Walking is another great activity. Begin your program with brisk 15-minute walks, four to five times a week. When you feel ready, add 10 minutes to the walks. Eventually, try working up to 45-60 minute walks. This increase should happen over weeks, not days. When performing any aerobic activity, increases in intensity need to gradual in order for the body to adapt, just like dieting.
Besides an aerobic activity, strengthening muscles by lifting weight at least two days a week should be mandatory. Not only does strength training improve your overall sense of well being, it helps maintain lean muscle mass while dieting. This is extremely important to maintain health. A strength training program should work all the major muscle groups of your body – legs, hips, back, chest and abdomen. One exercise per body part is all that is necessary. A strength training program to accompany a diet shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes, tops.
So, as spring is here with summer coming, it is a perfect time to renew your health by losing weight and getting stronger. So, spring into your new diet and exercise routine with commitment, compliance and consistency.
Mark William Lisky is a personal fitness advisor. Mark can be reached at (732) 933-9070 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.