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Step by Step: Weight loss attainable with the right diet and exercise regimen

Bob Cole, 72, demonstrates a squat, while Susie Savage, 64, demonstrates a side leg lift in St. Petersburg.


Bob Cole, 72, demonstrates a squat, while Susie Savage, 64, demonstrates a side leg lift in St. Petersburg.

Anyone exploring how to lose weight has already heard the story: "It's all about input vs. output, eating less calories and burning more calories."

However, many people still prefer going the diet route, searching for the illusive quick fix. They fail to realize that the fundamentals of nutrition are often compromised in favor of a "one size fits all" approach to weight loss. With more than 30,000 diet plans available nationally and $50-billion being spent annually on diet programs and products, it seems losing weight has become the great American obsession.

If you really want to lose weight, you need to recognize the difference between the temporary weight loss that can accompany diets and the permanent weight control that can come from a long-term commitment to changing lifestyle habits that have contributed to the weight problem. "There is no one size fits all approach to weight loss," says John Bagnule, nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Mass. "The reasons we carry excess weight depend upon our culture, our habits, our genes and our psyches. Only by examining both the physical and psychological reasons can you find what works for you".

Diets aren't the answer

You may be introduced to diets claiming you can lose 10 to 20 pounds in a week. Though you may temporarily lose weight on those extremely restrictive diets, the weight loss cannot be maintained. You may be surprised to learn that the weight you are losing is not so much excess fat as it is water, muscle mass and a little fat. And you don't want to lose muscle mass because that's what burns up the calories.

Research shows that 95 percent of people attempting to lose weight by dieting regain all or more of the lost weight within two to three years. The big threat to losing weight is not so much losing the pounds as it is keeping them off. Can you live on the diet for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, you can count on the lost weight returning.

It's important for your health and fitness to retain healthy eating habits while you are trying to lose weight and that will require most people to make lifestyle behavior changes. It will take the average person at least six months to make a change in lifestyle habits that have contributed to the weight problem.

Metabolism matters

Your metabolism is constantly on the go, converting the food you eat into the energy you need to live. "Your metabolic rate depends on three things: your resting metabolic rate, how much you move and what and how often you eat," says Polly deMille, a registered nurse and exercise physiologist at the Women's Sports Medicine Center at the Weill Cornell-affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "To increase your metabolic rate, you have to move more, eat wisely and space your food appropriately."

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Write to Sally Anderson, a trainer, in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Squat and Side Leg Lift: Works the lower body: gluteals, quadriceps (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of thighs) and outer thighs. It also is a good balance exercise. Begin in a standing position with feet about shoulder-width apart. Holding weights in your hands with palms facing inward, bend knees while lowering your hips as if you were sitting in a chair, not allowing knees to go beyond toes. Straighten legs and slowly lift right leg to the side, pause, then lower leg as you bend knees into a squat. Repeat eight to 10 times, alternating legs. Tip: Contracting abdominals while lifting the leg helps in balance control.

Concentration Curl: Targets the biceps (front of upper arm). Sitting in a chair, with feet shoulder-width apart, hold one weight in your right hand. Place elbow on right thigh with lower arm extended downward. Keeping elbow on thigh, slowly bring lower arm toward opposite shoulder. Lower arm to original position and repeat eight to 10 times with each arm. Tip: Do not let wrist roll inward, and make the movement slow and controlled.

Abdominal Crunch: Strengthens the core. Lying on back with lower legs parallel to the floor, lightly place hands behind head with elbows slightly curved for neck support. While contracting abdominals, lift head, shoulders and upper back off the floor, hold for two slow counts, then lower for two counts. Repeat eight to 10 times. Tip: Never pull on the neck; feel the lifting from the abs not the neck. Do not allow chin to fall on neck.

Three common weight-loss myths

1 Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight. "When you become stressed or starve the body, you are setting yourself up to make poor food choices. You can't let the body get hypoglycemic by not eating when you're truly hungry. You need to eat small portions throughout the day so you do not make poor choices when you are starving for nutrition," says Dr. Eva Ritvo, a psychiatrist at the University of Miami's Mount Sinai Medical Center.

2 Carbs are a no-no if you want to lose weight. Carbohydrates do not make you fat. Excess calories from any food source will cause weight gain. Complex carbohydrates are low-fat foods our bodies need to fight off diseases. The fiber, antioxidants and isoflavones in them play an essential role in combating cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and heart disease. The brain's primary source of fuel comes from carbohydrates that have been converted into glucose. Recent research shows that if the intake of carbs is reduced

too much it may reduce cognitive function, weakening the memory process. "To stay sharp, stick with healthy carbs such as whole grains and eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies," says Dr. James Joseph, a physiologist at the USDA's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

3 Eating after 8 p.m. causes you to gain weight. It really does not matter what time of day you eat. Whether you gain, lose or maintain your weight is dependent upon what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do. Your body will store those extra calories as fat, regardless of the time you choose to eat.

Tips for weight-loss success

Change your psychological responses. The American Cancer Society says that "waiting out the urge to eat — usually just 10 to 15 minutes — can be a simple psychological change that makes a significant difference."

Slow weight loss. Gradual and slow is the way to go. It is recommended to only lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. Since 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, reducing your daily intake of food by 500 calories for seven days will result in a 1-pound weight loss. If you were to lose 1 pound a week, you would losing 52 pounds a year. This may seem slow, but it is safe and much more effective than playing the on and off "diet game."

Read food labels. Reading the fine print can help you make better food choices. Check out the serving size and be aware that if you eat double the serving size, you need to double all the other food values. Our bodies need some fat but you need to be selective in the fats you choose. No more than 30 percent of daily calories should come from fat. Trans fats and saturated fats should be kept to a minimum as they are "bad fats" that clog arteries.

Write what you eat. Keep a record of your food patterns.

Get moving. An important key to weight loss is to move more, not necessarily faster or harder, three to five times a week, gradually building up to an hour a day five to six days a week. And be sure to include strength conditioning exercises, as they will help prevent the loss of muscle that is needed for burning calories.

Chat with a dietitian. A registered dietitian is a good contact for individualized weight loss.

Step by Step: Weight loss attainable with the right diet and exercise regimen 06/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 22, 2009 4:30am]
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