By R. Friedman
Many diet plans are counterproductive to weight management. Too often they encourage dieters to concentrate on counting calories and neglect the role of exercise. This is a mistake. Less than five percent of dieters lose weight and keep it off.
Quick diet plans fool your body into thinking it’s starving, so it slows down metabolism in order to conserve fat. Consequently, you lose a lot of water, some fat, and a disproportionate amount of muscle. Since fat can only be burned by active muscle tissue, this type of dieting actually helps deplete a valuable fat-burning resource. Fat cells, also, never die. They just shrink.
When you stop starving yourself, those shrunken fat cells start sucking up all that fat real fast and you gain back more fat than ever and the proportion for active, fat-burning muscles will be lower than ever.
Fortunately, exercise counteracts this diet-related decrease in metabolism. It also contributes to the negative calorie balance necessary to bring your body composition (proportion of fat) back to normal. Don’t be discouraged by charts that show how many calories various forms of exercise burn off. It’s an easy excuse to justify inactivity or downright laziness. Remember: that extra fat was probably accumulated over a long period of time. It should be taken off in the same manner, no more than two pounds per week. The cumulative effects of exercise over a period of time can be very significant.
For example, one pound of fat equals 3500 calories. To lose that pound, you must eat less, exercise more, or do a combination of both. You could lose that pound of fat in about 23 days by jogging 30 minutes at five miles per hour every other day. Or, you could eliminate 150 calories (one can of soda) each day, for the same period of time.
But there’s an even better way. By combining the jogging and cutting out 300 calories each day, the pound will be lost in just 7 days. In six months, that means a loss of 26 pounds; in a year, 52 pounds. Not too shabby. The point is, that except for very obese people, vigorous exercise, plus a slight modification of diet (less fat and sugar), can usually take care of excess weight (fat) problems.
More importantly, when exercising, weight is taken off slowly while the amount of active, fat-burning muscle tissue is increasing. This process will help the body sustain a more reasonable body composition at any age.
Remember that there is no substitute for good nutrition. It should always complement your total body fitness program.
©Copyright Jewish Diabetes Association. Last updated June 2017