to be thin started as a teenager. Looking back, my weight
was probably just fine, thank you, but I felt pressured
by others to change. My first diet experience was the then
popular low-carbohydrate diet (eat all the bacon and shrimp
you want, just stay away from those enemy starches). I didn't
realize that my prompt weight gain afterwards was my body's
reaction to the diet.
I tried a low-calorie diet. This involved eating 600 calories
for the first three days, 900 for four days, and 1200 for
a week. Then the cycle started all over again. You are supposed
to lose 10 pounds during three weeks and keep it off. I
lost ten pounds all right, but promptly gained back 20 pounds
in the next couple of months.
up on dieting, and decided I was a lazy, undisciplined,
overweight failure. I bought some larger clothes and labelled
yet another box of clothes on my shelf for the weight I
hoped to return to some day. (I have a dear friend who says
"Some reward for losing weight - a box of half-dead
Body's Response to Food Shortage
my failure to lose weight the result of a lack of willpower?
NO! I discovered the book "How to Lower Your Fat Thermostat"
by Dennis Remington M.D. of the Brigham Young University.
Medical science has at last figured out why dieting doesn't
work! It seems the body has a very complex reaction to food
shortage (ie. dieting), which includes:
could overcome such overwhelming resistance from the body
when trying to lose weight? But wait, it gets even worse.
While these factors will normalize when the dieting stops,
there is one that will not. The most significant change
resulting from dieting can last for years, perhaps forever:
the increase in the body's FAT-LEVEL THERMOSTAT, or SETPOINT.
is the part of the brain which keeps the body at a constant
weight, just like a thermostat keeps the house at a constant
temperature. No matter what some people eat (within reason),
the thin ones stay thin and the plump ones stay plump --
until they start to diet, and then they get even plumper.
Because starvation was a part of human history, the brain
has instinctive mechanisms to fight it, and that is to increase
the setpoint for the body's fat storage at the earliest
chance after a famine (or diet).
on how serious and long the "famine" was, the
body will add on a number of pounds and then keep its weight
at the new level. In my case, that represented about ten
pounds of extra weight for every serious diet!
is one solution for the setpoint dilemma, and only one --
the E word: EXERCISE! Exercise works because it:
history fits with this pattern: the only time
I lost weight, I ate the same as before but
started folk-dancing and began daily aerobic
and nutrition expert Charlene Prickett emphasizes the importance
of exercise and a balanced low-fat (but not skimpy) diet
for fitness and weight loss.
need to do three aerobic sessions weekly just to maintain
fitness," she says. "To improve fitness (and really
reduce bodyfat), you need to aim at 4-7 sessions weekly."
Most exercise experts recommend thirty to forty-five minute
sessions for maximum benefits.
encourages doing a variety of fitness activities, and the
best ones for reducing excess bodyfat are "aerobic"
(sustained high heart rate activity that substantially increases
oxygen consumption). She suggests your aerobic workout should
be as intense as is comfortable for you. "Whether you
take longer to do it at lower intensity or get it over quickly
at higher intensity doesn't matter in terms of fat loss."
DOES matter in terms of fitness, however. "Intense
exercise produces greater cardiovascular fitness with more
improvement in the heart, lungs and circulatory system."
nutrition, Prickett emphasizes regular meals and a low-fat
foods. Healthy eating is something she had to learn; she
was raised on foods that were almost all deep-fried or loaded
with sugar. It wasn't until after she was married that she
began to give serious consideration to her diet. Dietary
changes have been introduced gradually over the years. Health
foods and calorie counting are not her style, but she definitely
steers away from fats, which contain "more than twice
the energy of a gram of carbohydrate or protein." Also,
"the body converts dietary fat to body fat easily,
requiring only three calories per 100 calories of fat consumed."
to a diet that has more proteins (such as grains, small
amounts of low fat meats and fish) and complex carbohydrates
(such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables)
will make the body work harder for every calorie eaten.
As a result, you will be less hungry than eating calories
from fat, and will be getting much more nutrition than fats
provide -- you want to be healthy as well as slim. By eating
a low-fat diet, you can eat the same number of calories
and still lose weight.
stresses the importance of eating at least three times each
day. Research shows that if you eat three meals and two
snacks totalling 1500 calories, you burn more calories than
if you skip meals and eat just one large dinner of 1500
calories. This is because when you eat smaller meals the
body's activity is more paced with caloric intake, and also
because food digestion itself burns fat. Also, a special
kind of fat called "brown fat" will burn up calories
every time you eat.
reason to eat more often is that the brain can sense when
not enough calories have been absorbed through the day,
and automatically increases your appetite so that you tend
to eat too quickly and too much for supper, then continue
wanting to snack throughout the evening.
your metabolism slows during the evening, it will burn less
of any food you eat during that time. Try to have all your
meals before evening, and keep your supper the smallest
one of the day.
important thing about food intake is not dieting, or counting
calories, or trying to lose a lot of weight quickly, but
rather eating smaller, regular meals, focusing on foods
lower in fat, and following your body's natural hunger patterns
(if you're hungry mid-afternoon, have a healthy snack).
myself, the greatest challenge was getting into a regular
exercise routine. For many women, finding the time to exercise
seems an impossible goal. But what I've found is that by
spending time each day exercising, I feel fit, move faster,
think better, require less sleep, and can accomplish more
during the day than before. Regular exercise doesn't take
away time -- it makes you so much more efficient that you
have more time! Late afternoons were once a waste, because
of my daily energy slump. Now I know I need a healthy snack
during the afternoon if I get hungry. Also, if I exercise
mid-afternoon, my metabolism will stay revved. I feel better,
AND burn more calories.
working on it. At least I'm moving in the right direction
now, and I'm seeing visible progress. This time I'm going
to succeed, and guess what -- I WON'T be dieting for Christmas!
Laurie Bennie is a free-lance writer who
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org