As the dieting phenomenon grows, with a new "diet guru" announcing "THE SOLUTION" almost weekly, so do the waste lines of America expand. Obesity is now a strong and gaining second to cigarettes as a preventable cause of death or disease. The term diet seems to have taken on a whole new meaning, moving from panacea, and becoming more and more a pariah.
What I'm going to do is reiterate some nutritional basics to try to demystify, some of the confusion out there.
There are two approaches to weight management. The first is the "magic theory" which is very enticing because it requires absolutely no responsibility. You simply follow the system and the system tells you what to do. There's no thinking involved (you just put up with it). If you're not successful, it's your fault because you're not a good "dieter?" This magic
Theory incorporates such tricks as restricted calories, diets, elimination of food groups, pills, hypnosis, prepackaged meals, creams and even massage. This magic theory has left millions in despair and hopelessness in their never ending quest to be thin.
The second approach is the Fitness Approach.
There is a quiet methodical fitness industry educating millions (without all the advertising dollars) to achieve long term lifestyle changes and achieving weight management for life. Long-term weight management must include productive exercise, proper nutrition and positive motivation. From a basic physiologic standpoint I will explain the interrelationship and delicate balance between food and exercise.
First we need to understand body composition (the% of body fat vs. lean mass) in relation to your body weight. Here are some general guidelines and ranges for body fat. For women, the range up to age 30 is 14 to 21%, from 30 to 50 it is 15 to 23% and from 50 up it is 16 to 25%. Again, it is desirable to be below the upper limit, and a woman near the lower limit would be lean. For men up to about age 30, 9 to 15% is a good range. From age 30 to 50, 11 to 17% is a good range and from age 50 and up, 12 to 19%. A person should try to stay below the upper limits given and a person at the lower limit would be described as lean.
Extra fat in the abdomen is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, early heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Smoking and too much alcohol increase abdominal fat and the risk for diseases related to obesity. That is why I prioritize the abdominal measurement. (Ask me anytime, I have my fat calipers at hand at all times.)
The healthiest and most effective way to decrease body fat is through a slight negative energy balance where caloric spending slightly exceeds caloric intake. In order to determine what your caloric intake should be we need to find what your Basal Metabolic Rate is. BMR is the minimum amount of calories required for vital body functions during relaxed, reclined and waking states. There are a few different calculations for this (complicated and long winded) or you can go to my web sites nutrition page [http://www.vitalsignsfitness.com/nutrition.html]
where the calculations will be done for you .. After you determine your BMR, you must factor in your activity level. Basically you burn 100 -300 calories for every hour of exercise (depending on intensity).
The more lean muscle tissue you have the higher your BMR, which could be up to a 15% faster. Restrictive, low calorie dieting can cause your BMR to drop by as much as 20%. People living in tropical or very cold environments generally have BMR's 5-20% higher than those living in more temperate climates. Athletes have higher BMRs than most.
When caloric intake goes below BMR, as in commercial weight loss programs, the body will 1) Store even more body fat to fend of the perceived threat of starvation. 2) Slow down metabolism to reduce energy requirements. 3) Burn muscle to reduce energy requirements. 4) Perceive starvation and create a slower survival metabolism.
The Nutritional Insight calculator at http://www.fitday.com will calculate for you, what your BMR caloric needs are then also add on your activities so you know exactly what your caloric needs for each day are. Plus if you want to make any changes in your body composition it will tell you exactly how many calories to eat and give you a break down of a balanced diet including optimal daily intake of protein, fats, and carbohydrate. From there you can enter the foods you eat and with each food you enter the site will give you a break down of carbs, fats, and proteins plus nutrients and caloric count. It will also give you a more detailed break down of your activities. The more you use this site the better you will understand food how it breaks down and how it supplies your daily required nutrients.
Nutritional insight will help you balance protein, fats, and carbohydrates for each meal based on your current body weight, exercise habits, and desired body weight goals. Realistically we're all just trying to stay trim and healthy which means a balanced diet, small meals, not letting yourself get too hungry or too full. The more we learn and understand about the interrelationship between food, exercise the more empowered and capable of rational decision making we will be for our permanently successful health and fitness lifestyle and ongoing weight management.