Avoid the Diet Rollercoaster

Years ago USA Today featured the dietary struggle of three American women. These sisters, who have fought obesity for most of their lives, represent millions of American women. In a desperate attempt to make progress in their fight against obesity, the sisters created a website, as a support system for each other and to help other women facing a similar challenge.

Each year millions of Americans resolve to lose weight. As we demonstrate by using the example of the three women, most do not understand the basic biomechanical and food processing functions of the human body. In most cases, these ill-conceived goals lead to more complex health problems and place the participant on a diet "roller-coaster."

Diet roller-coastering consists of periods where the individual adheres rigorously to a near starvation diet. This is usually followed some time later by a period of binge eating, as the person gives up on the program. Undoubtably, the individual views the experience negatively. The perceived failure generally leads to greater frustration and erodes the self-confidence of the participant.

Typically, the individual not only regains the weight temporarily shed during the starvation phase, but adds more fat pounds as a result. People who begin these programs usually end up with a higher percentage of body fat, and more unwanted weight, than they had before they started the process. Most importantly, the starvation to binge-eating cycle damages internal organs and bones.

ClearHealth reviewed the sisters' website and analzed information about the history of these three women. The first principle in safe, effective weight loss states there is no easy way to shed unwanted pounds. The best strategy is to begin, and maintain, a lifelong nutritional and exercise program dedicated to not gaining excessive body fat in the first place. Put simply, we cannot starve our way to fitness. We are unaware of a diet on the market today that, by itself, will lead to a properly balanced body or an optimally healthy individual. Most people use the word "diet" to refer to a reduction in caloric intake or a strict regime of food consumption. Yet the word "diet" means simply "to eat." And, we cannot "eat" our way to fitness. A healthy and fit lifestyle requires regular exercise — as well as a properly balanced diet!

If you are one of the millions of Americans who desire to lose body fat this year, you must first start by gaining weight. Here's why:

Weight Loss Summary
We collected the following information from 3fatchicks.com: Each of the women began their program weighing approximately 250lbs. After nine months of dieting, all reported they had dropped close to 50lbs. Assuming a linear rate of weight reduction, we chart their progress in Table 1.
Table 1
Table 1 Explanation
Since one pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories, simple math illustrates the three women consumed on average 729 calories per day less than they needed over the nine month period. This is "starvation dieting."

Nutritionists believe a normal, active female should consume between 1,800 and 2,200 calories per day. This is a rough estimate and varies based on the genetics, environment, age, and personal characteristics of the individual. We assume these women, in their unhealthy and sedentary conditions, should have been consuming approximately 1,500 calories per day. Based on the weight loss rate listed in Table 1, these women actually consumed about 750 calories per day. This is insufficient for a healthy lifestyle. Thus, they took a seat on the diet roller-coaster.

Resolving the Weight Loss Challenge
Humans cannot safely lose body fat by dieting alone. Proper nutritional programming must be combined with exercise to accomplish effective body fat reduction. In the 3fatchicks.com scenario, we estimate the "ideal" body weight for these women to be approximately 130lbs.

This suggests each woman at her present weight of 250lbs. would have an excess of 875,000 fat calories on her body. A healthy 130lb. woman should maintain no more than 25 percent of fat on her body. Therefore, each of these women need to lose approximately 150lbs. of fat — over one half million calories.

The reason starvation dieting does not work is the body is efficient — it adapts. If an individual should intake approximately 1,800 calories per day, yet eats only half this amount, the body slows down. In essence, the body conserves energy. The basal metabolic rate will drop to a point where it is in equilibrium with the daily intake of food. This is why so many people who begin working out testify to their new found energy. As they exercise more. they generally eat more. The body reacts by becoming more energized.

For the women at 3fatchicks.com, they must maintain their starvation diet for 2.1 years to reach their target of 130lbs. This cannot happen. They would first become sick. As such, they fall off the roller-coaster and begin to regain lost body fat. Here's the perplexing part. The individual might not eat that much more per day. In many cases, they still eat less than they did before beginning their last diet. Yet, as the body had been starving, it replenishes the lost weight rapidly — and, as a first priority. The resulting effect is the person ends up with more body fat, is more frustrated, and sadly, is more disappointed in themselves for the failure. What they do not understand is that they did not fail — they just used the wrong strategy.

Here's another example: Let's assume a person tries to lose weight more slowly by eating 100 calories less per day. They might be able to continue the "starvation diet" without the body adapting and slowing down. Even if such a situation were possible, a women similar to the individuals at 3fatchicks.com would have to maintain the diet for 14.5 years. It is unlikely someone could maintain this program for this period of time.

Lifting Weights equals More MuscleThe solution is for the overweight individual to ignite the body's natural metabolism. This occurs most efficiently through exercise. Weight training is a great place to start. By developing more muscle, one increases the body's ability to use calories. When involved in an exercise program based on weight training, one burns calories not only during the activity, but most importantly, at a significantly higher rate once the exercise period is over.

Aerobic exercise is great, but if an individual participates in an aerobic-only program, the body quickly becomes efficient. The individual must continually challenge the body to do more throughout the program. This requires the participant to continue increasing the activity level.

If a person begins their program with a fifteen minute walk each day, they must add more after a week or two. A person eventually ends up walking three-to-four hours per day to obtain their desired results. As a result, people generally drop out of aerobic-only programs. The time demand simply become too great. As we try to balance time for family, work, and hobbies, we have less time for exercise.

To lose weight effectively, one must participate in a combination aerobic and muscle-gaining activity. As muscle is more dense, and thus heavier, than body fat, a person on such a program will first gain pounds. The participant must be cautioned not to watch the scale — they need to focus on their body instead. The most common result of the aerobic, muscle-gain program is a reshaping of the body. This is usually accompanied by initial weight gain as the person develops more muscle.

This scares many women. They believe falsely that the initial muscle gain will make them bulky. They believe they will continue to gain muscle indefinitely. This is unlikely. Women are not genetically-disposed nor do they have sufficient testosterone to make large gains in muscle mass. What occurs is the participant begins to "tone up." This is good. One must recognize there is a difference between good weight gain, i.e., muscle, vs. bad weight gain, i.e., body fat.

In sum, gain weight by adding muscle when making your next (and final) attempt to lose unwanted, and unhealthy, pounds of body fat. The important thing to remember is never take a ride on the diet roller-coaster.

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Save Your Money!
Although many people pay more than a third extra for organic food due to their belief that these food have more nutritional value than food grown with pesticides and chemicals, research by Dr Susanne Bugel and colleagues from the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, shows there is no clear evidence to support this.

This new research, published in the latest issue of the Society of Chemical Industry's (SCI) Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, suggests that organic foods ARE NOT healthier than food grown with the use of pesticides and chemicals. Save your money. Buy locally where possible, but don't go overboard on expensive organic foods.
We Eat What We See
Professor Brian Wansink believes it is nearly impossible for us to ignore the clarion call of the candy jar, the beckoning of the buffet or the summons of the snack cupboard.

The Cornell Food and Brand Lab researcher says, "We believe we have all the free will in the world. We believe we overeat if the food is good or if we're really hungry. In reality, those are two of the last things that determine how much we eat. Visibility and convenience are what really influences our eating."

"Something that's very visible, every time we see it we have to make a decision. Do I want to eat that? Do I not want to eat that? Do I want that candy on my desk, or do I not want it? We can say no 27 times, but if it's visible, the 28th or 29th time, we start saying, 'Maybe.' By time 30, 31, we start saying, 'What the heck? I'm hungry,' " Wansink reports.

Will eating a calorie of fat make you fatter than eating a calorie of carbohydrate?
Studies show that a fat calorie causes the same weight gain as a carbohydrate calorie. Long-term studies where people randomly ate a high-fat/low-carb diet or low-fat/high-carb diet have shown that based on what you put into your mouth, the source of the calories is really not important.

On the other hand, people who eat more trans fat seem to gain more weight, even when the total calories are the same. And, trans fat is particularly harmful with regard to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In addition, high intake of refined starch and sugar is related to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, whereas high-fiber whole-grain carbohydrates are related to a lower risk.

You'll eat more if you're eating:
  • "family style" with the serving bowls on the table.
  • directly from the bag or carton.
  • on a bigger plate or from a bigger container.
  • in front of the television, in the car, with friends.
"When it comes down to it, we're efficient people. We want something that's convenient. And if it's fruit or vegetables that's a whole lot more convenient than that cake that's wrapped up in the freezer, guess what's for snack today? Fruits and vegetables."

The ClearHealth total fitness program helps individuals acheive mental clarity, end addictions, reduce stress, eat a balanced diet and develop a fun way to get to wellness.

Metabolism Calculator Many of us sit at a desk or behind a computer all day. While our fingers may travel many miles, our bodies can become sedentary.

Inefficient blood flow prevents needed oxygen from getting to the brain and other vital organs. People can become lethargic. The human spirit demands much more. Try our Metabolism Calculator by clicking here.

ClearHealth has been a leader in addiction research, nutrition and exercise physiology, specializing in women's health, for over 20 years. Scott Goold, director and a Community Addiction Recovery Specialist (CARS), originally began his work developing Clear Health programs for athletes.

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