Posts Tagged ‘Weight loss tips’

Overeating leads to — more overeating

January 17, 2009

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Several lines of research describe mechanisms in our bodies that cause a vicious cycle, so that when we overeat we are much more likely to continue to overeat. These mechanisms involve our biological clock, insulin metabolism, and nerve endings in the stomach.  Even drinking too much water with a meal (especially ice water) can  accelerate the problem.  For more details, see this NPR story.

If you want to do only one thing to counteract your tendency to overeat, simply keep a journal and write down everything you put in your mouth.   Food diaries or journals have been shown again and again to be effective tools in weight management.  See these sites for more on food diaries (here and here).

For more information on avoiding overeating, see here.

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Looking your best in 2009

January 1, 2009

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For my first post in 2009, I am passing along to you a sure-fire 9-step program to help you lose weight and/or accept yourself. It is straight from the January 5 issue of The New Yorker (by Amy Ozols):

People say that obesity is an epidemic in America, but I’m determined not to become part of the problem. That’s why I’ve spent years perfecting the secret to a trim and attractive physique. My foolproof system involves just nine easy steps.

Step 1: Avoid what psychologists refer to as “emotional eating.” This is hard, because many people have a tendency to experience emotions. To solve this problem, consume increasing dosages of psychotropic medications until you cease to feel emotions of any kind.

Step 2: Visualize yourself as a thin person. This is very important, because the body often takes its signals from the brain. Each time you take a bite of food, imagine that you are a thin person taking a bite of food, chewing the food, then spitting the food into a napkin, then tucking the napkin into your backpack or purse. After you’re done visualizing these things, start doing them.

Step 3: Get rid of your “fat clothes.” Keeping your closet stocked with unflattering garments will only distract you from your quest for a slender body. To complete this step, shred or burn everything in your closet, including any hangers or shelving that a fat person may have touched. Refrain from donating anything to charity, as this could cause underprivileged people to become obese, which would be unsavory and possibly even illegal.

Step 4: Refrain from consuming food.

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.

Step 6: Drink plenty of water. As you’ve probably heard, water functions as a natural lubricant in the body, flushing toxins and fat cells from the digestive tract. Water is also a delicious replacement for higher-fat liquids, such as milk. Try pouring water on your cereal or in your coffee. If you’re a baby, try pouring water into your mother’s breasts.

Step 7: Buy a pet. Having a pet will force you to take walks, which are a form of exercise. This is true unless you make the mistake that I made, which was buying an iguana. Iguanas walk very slowly and smell strongly of turds. I really cannot dissuade you strongly enough from buying an iguana.

Step 8: Vigorous sexual intercourse burns up to two hundred calories per hour. Therefore, if you are not currently promiscuous, it is essential that you begin “boning” immediately. Start by having sex with every person you know. Then have sex with numerous people you have never met. Continue doing this until you are thin.

Step 9: Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best. And, if the going gets tough, remind yourself: every person is beautiful on the inside, provided that they are also extremely attractive on the outside.

Exercise — who needs it?

June 6, 2008

There has been a lot of controversy about the role of exercise in weight management. The old conventional wisdom has been that, to maintain weight, one needs to balance calories in with calories out, and that exercise is the way to boost the “out” side of the equation. That is still basically true, except we now know that it takes a lot of exercise to counterbalance a large intake of calories, and our bodies are real good at seeing that we eat more to fuel the extra exercise. Most research shows that the amount of exercise that improves our general physical and mental health (like 2 hours of moderate-intensity walking per week) is simply not sufficient to affect weight very much.

The fact that exercise had been oversold as a weight-loss aid has led to some very cynical articles claiming that exercise is practically useless for weight management (such as this and this). But these articles overlook two important facts:

1.) Thousands of reports of people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off reveal that exercise is a key reason for their success. Many of these reports are featured on the National Weight Control Registry website (nwcr.ws), which tracks people who have been successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Here is how the co-author of the website summarizes the role of exercise:

The key [according to James Hill] is exercise. ‘Activity becomes the driver; food restriction doesn’t do it. The idea that for the rest of your life you’re going to be hungry all the time – that’s just silly.’ People in the registry get an average of an hour of physical activity every day, with some exercising for as much as 90 minutes a day. They also keep the fat in their diet relatively low, at about 25 percent of their calorie intake. Nearly all of them eat breakfast every day, and they weigh themselves regularly. ‘They tell us two things,’ Hill says. ‘The quality of life is higher – life is better than it was before.’ And ‘they get to the point with physical activity where they don’t say they love it, but they say “It’s part of my life.” … I think you pay the price for having been obese and you have to do a lot of activity to make up for that.’

2.) There is a very important form of activity that is technically not exercise, but is crucial in determining our ability to lose or maintain weight. It is “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” or NEAT, and it accounts for a very significant proportion of our energy output. An excerpt from Weight Management for Your Life summarizes this research:

Research at the Mayo Clinic by James Levine, MD, has clearly shown that the more we move throughout the day, the more weight we lose (or don’t gain). He calls this kind of movement NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. For most of us, NEAT accounts for far more of our daily calorie expenditure than formal exercise does (even fidgeting uses calories!). Levine found that thin people are on their feet an average of 2.5 more hours a day than their overweight counterparts. NEAT is responsible for between 20 percent (in very sedentary “couch potatoes”) and 50 percent of our total daily energy expenditure. Most of the rest of our energy expenditure is due to “basal metabolism” (calories used when we are at complete rest) which accounts for up to 60 percent; and “thermic effect of food” (digestion, absorption, storage) which accounts for 10 to 15 percent. Levine discovered that our individual NEAT level is largely biologically determined (possibly genetically) and that people with a naturally low level can be taught to increase their “non-exercise activity.” He recommends that we aim for 40 percent NEAT by changing the way we work, such as standing while working and walking around during meetings and while on the phone. He uses a treadmill going very slowly (1 mph) throughout the day (a “walking workstation”); this kind of easy activity doubles our metabolic rate and uses an extra 100 calories per hour (compared to sitting). This would be a great way to watch TV!

What is the take-home message from all this?

First, be wary of articles, even from prestigious sources, that take an extreme view. Life is never so simple, and weight management is especially complicated and multi-faceted.

Second, how active we are (whether through formal exercise or NEAT) has a major effect on our health and our weight: the less sedentary the better.

Finally, what and how much we eat is just as important as exercise and activity.

Please let me know what your experience with exercise and non-exercise activity has been.