Sunday, May 9, 2010

Exercise Part V: Exercise and Weight Loss

I am often consulted about diets and weight loss. I witness a blinding array of dietary approaches to weight loss and, alas, have discovered that most simply don't work! Yes, that's right, diets if they work at all, tend to be short term solutions at best. People can usually rally their will to restrict their intake and lose for awhile but, inevitably, without a more basice lifestyle change, the pounds slowly creep back over weeks or months.

So, if you are overweight (over 63% of American's are obese or overweight), and want to shed pounds what is the answer? It's actually very simple. The basic concept is "calories in-- calories out". One merely needs to slightly reduce the number of calories consumed per day and burn additional calories over what has been your past pattern, such that a "deficit" is created between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories burned.

If this idea seems rediculously simple, it is but, apart from bariatric surgery, or the rare case of a life-changing epiphany, a simple commitment to combining exercise with moderate caloric restriction is the secret to losing and maintaining weight.

Let me provide an example of how this might work in practice: Let's say, you are 10 to 15 pounds heavier than you want to be and have been having trouble losing it. How should you approach it? First, decide a couple of items typically consumed in a day that you can manage to leave aside that would amount to between 250 and 500 calories. Let's say you decide to give up one soft drink, or one Starbucks flavored coffee or Latte plus the bag of chips that you usually have for lunch; or that you give up the piece of pie or cake that you have with dinner. That's it. It's just that simple. Otherwise, just continue with the diet that you are accustomed to.

Then, with your exercise program that you have committed to (30 to 45 minutes five days a week in the "aerobic zone"), you are burning an extra 300 to 500 calories. At the high end of this scheme, you would have a "1000 calorie deficit" (the 500 fewer calories you take in and the 500 extra calories that you are burning). This would take you towards a faster weight loss and at the low end (250 fewer in and 300 burned) to a 550 calorie deficit. The latter plan would likely result in a one or two pound per week loss and the former a 2 to 4 pound loss.

This is not an exact science and, since everyone is different, daily flexibility and adjustment is required. Therefore a daily or every other day weigh in is essential. If the weight is not trending in the right direction, an adjustment is made, either in cutting out a few more calories from somewhere or increasing the duration or effort level of your exercise. This is the fine tuning that is the ultimate secret to the success of this approach. And this regular adjustment process should continue indefinitely. This daily/every other day weigh in serves to reinforce your program and remind you of your commitment to maintaining fitness and weight control.

So, there you have it. The exotic Smith plan for exercise and weight loss, otherwise known as the "Anti Diet Plan".

Your comments and dissenting opinions are always welcome...

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