How old would you be, if you had no idea how old you really were?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Extending Our Stay on the Planet - Part 3 Unloading Extra Pounds

We want to stay on the planet for many more exciting years. We've got an intense desire to be around when those grandkids graduate from college and we're pretty good at adapting to the changes that lurk beyond every bend in the road. Does that guarantee we get to watch that kid throw his or her cap in air? We know better. No guarantees. But we are going to take reasonable steps to tip the scales in our favor.

And it's that bathroom scale, the one we climbed onto this morning, that we need to tip in our favor. Carrying too much weight, will shorten our life span. Too much weight is too much fat and too much fat means big-time health risks, that can include heart and blood pressure problems, muscular skeletal problems, breathing problems, self esteem problems and on and on.

So here's my take on getting skinny and staying there. If you want to lose weight you need to do three basic things.
  1. Eat less fat
  2. Eat less sugar
  3. Shake your bootie
How you do that? Well you could go on a diet. There are lots and lots of diets. You could try a grapefruit or sauerkraut diet or you could eat lots of paper tasting rice cakes. You could live exclusively on magic protein powders that you mix with water. You could try the Atkins diet, or the South Beach diet, or sign up for Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig, for a price, will deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to your doorstep. Dr. Phil who knows exactly what to do about everything, will sell you his book The Ultimate Weight Solution. I found a list of 24 diets and diet descriptions at a site called Evaluate the Latest Diets. Check it out.

Do diets work? Sure they do. Stick to the plan and you will lose weight. So what's the problem? The problem is: after the weight comes off and the diet is done, the weight comes back and the cycle repeats.

What works better? Life style changes or, diet and life style changes, works better. Say, every day before you go to bed you have a 300 calorie bowl of ice cream, but one day you say, "Hey, I'm going to stop eating that bowl of ice cream at night." And you actually do stop. That's more like a life style change than a diet. Your routine doesn't include ice cream at night anymore. The result, if you keep the same eating pattern, except for the ice cream, and continue the same activity or exercise patterns, could be a weight loss of about 30 lbs in a year.

Weight gain or loss is a matter of calories consumed balanced by calories burned. So to lose weight you can consume fewer calories (eat less) or burn more calories (more activity/exercise) or both. That works. But if you want to keep the weight off you need an approach that you can literally use for the rest of you life.

The Old Salt approach works like this.

Fat = calories. I know I can reduce the amount of fat in my diet. I used to eat a steak about once a week. A really fine, nicely marbled steak, tastes great but has lots of fat, fat that I don't need. Now I have a steak about once a month, and lately, especially when the steak is a big 6 to 8 ounce piece, my wife and I split one steak.

Sugar = calories. I'm the guy in the ice cream example. After heart surgery, I had no appetite, everything tasted bad. But I could eat ice cream, and I did. Gradually my appetite returned, and two years later I was still eating ice cream and everything else in sight. Gradually I had gained about 25 to 30 lbs. Now I've almost stopped eating ice cream. Sometime in February I stopped keeping ice cream in the fridge. Gradually and slowly I'm loosing weight.

Both the steak and the ice cream are life style changes I can maintain. Much easier (for me) than dieting and counting calories. Weight loss will be slower than dieting, but more likely to be permanent.

Walking or running or bicycling, or just working at a job that requires a high level or activity are ways to shake your bootie and keep burning those calories. Maintaining an increased activity level, over an extended period of time, will change the amount of calories burned, and, assuming you don't increase your intake, will result in a weight loss.

So life style changes work for me, but not everyone is like me. I know that different approaches work for different people. Some folks, like my friend Joel, do very well with a very systematic, diet. Joel keeps records of what he eats on a daily basis and carefully limits both calories and sodium. He also keeps track of his workouts. And he is losing weight. Joel's blog has his daily records and lots of other interesting information.

So find an approach that works for you. If you love diets, go for it, but remember that to keep the weight off, to keep on wearing those new skinny clothes, you will need to make life style changes that impact both calories consumed and calories burned.

Coming Soon - - Muscle Mass . . . (A religious service for weight lifters???)

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