Friday, December 30, 2011

Get Your Facts in Gear for 2012

It is almost January 1 - do you know what that means?  New Year's Resolutions.  For most people, this means a time for weight loss, hitting the gym, and the out with the old, in with the new mentality.  After all- the typical 'I'll start my diet on Monday' phrase probably turned into 'I'll start my diet in January' during the holidays. 

In reality, most people, including myself, want a quick fix. The result is getting caught up in all of the popular fad diets and temporary weight-loss eating programs.  The problem is exactly what I mean when I say temporary.  These crazy eating habits and weight loss ideas will work for a short time- but I can almost predict that one cannot maintain it and end up gaining the weight back.

Let's start with the facts of exercise.  Have you ever started a workout program and not lost weight?  Have you seen people at the gym religiously and not seen a pound melt off of them?  Doesn’t exercise make you lose weight?  It should, right?

Fact 1:  Exercise burns calories.  While this is a fact, most people overestimate how much they actually burn.  You can be safe to assume about 100 calories burned every 10 minutes of moderate to intense cardiovascular activity (speed walking, jogging, elliptical training).  So- A 30 minute workout would typically burn 300 calories, 45 minutes is 450 calories and a whole hour would be 600 calories.  Strength training does not burn as many calories during the actual workout, just about 200-300 calories for a moderate hour of training.  However, strength training does increase your metabolism throughout the day- you may have heard, muscle burns more calories than fat, so having good muscle tone will help with weight maintenance.  Be aware that the caloric burning tool found on just about every workout machine at the gym is usually inaccurate to calculate your individual calories burned.  A better, more accurate choice could be investing in something like the Body Bugg.

Fact 2: Exercise is good for your heart.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that every person get at least 60-90 minutes of moderate to intense activity most days of the week to prevent illness and disease.  Exercise can help to lower blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol levels (LDL), increase good cholesterol levels (HDL) and improve blood glucose numbers.  If your crunched in the time zone, start with trying to get in at least 30 minutes each day.  Plus, it (naturally) helps you feel more energized all day!  Who needs coffee :)

Fact 3: Exercise makes you hungrier.  Because exercise stimulates your metabolism, it also increases appetite for most people.  If you think about it, you burned calories off so your body naturally wants to eat them back.  However, if your goal is weight loss, the deficit of calories from exercise needs to stay a deficit!  Herein is where the (your) main problem lies…
Thought 1: “I exercised today so I can eat that cookie!  I already burned it off!” (7 cookies later)
Thought 2: “My metabolism must be speeding up from working out…I can finally eat more!”
Thought 3: “I can eat whatever I want.  After all, I work out.”

Can you maybe see why some people have trouble losing weight?  It’s pretty simple really.  If you eat back the calories you burned off no deficit will remain.  For example, say you power walk 45 minutes on the treadmill and you follow that up with a breakfast of a tall low-fat latte and a regular bran muffin from the local coffee shop. All sounds healthy right?  In this case you burned 450 calories, but then ate about 525 calories (typical muffins from a coffee shop hold a powered amount of hidden calories!)  So you are now in the plus category instead of a deficit.

The answer to all this is NUTRITION. You have to watch what you eat, even when you start exercising.  I have a couple numbers to throw out at you.  Weight loss and maintenance comes from seventy percent diet, and only 30% from exercise.  I'm not discounting the importance of exercise, just trying to put it in perspective. Did I burst your resolution bubble?

It is all about moderation, focusing on eating small meals often throughout the day and having a whole grain carbohydrate/fruit and a lean protein/healthy fat at each meal and snack.  Then pile up on non-starchy vegetables as they make you feel full without many calories because of their fiber and water content.

Create a plan of healthy eating known as the “80/20 Rule”.  Eighty percent of the time, focus on eating for health including lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.  The other twenty percent of the time (about 2 meals each week) you can eat for pleasure- hello Mexican buffet.  I've missed you. The key is that the majority of the time you are eating healthy and eating higher calorie foods in moderation.

No food is a bad. Some are just better than others :)

And remember, if you are trying to create a deficit to provoke weight loss…you might be a little hungry.  Try to eat until you are “not hungry” instead of “full”.  Eventually your stomach will adapt and you will not feel as hungry.  It may not be a piece of cake, but totally do-able.

Happy New Year! If you have additional questions you can email me at

Amber Massey RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

No comments:

Post a Comment