If you’re like most Americans, you have probably been on a diet or two during the course of your lifetime. Also like most Americans, you probably saw some short-term positive results, only to have the lost pounds eventually return, and bring along a few additional friends with them!
The simple truth is that going on a diet without making permanent changes in your eating habits and daily activity levels will never work for the long term. Our society has been conditioned not only to want, but to expect everything in as short amount of time as possible, and with minimal effort and inconvenience. Fast food, express oil changes, instant messaging, high speed Internet access; all designed to cater to our expectations of instantaneous results with little-to-no effort on our parts.
This is the very reason why the diet industry is such a lucrative one in our society; they are selling you your dreams, with no return on your investment. They are banking on the fact that you are lazy and undisciplined, and to add insult to injury they are constantly bombarding you with misinformation in regards to health and weight loss. That is my intention with this article… to give you the skinny on fat loss, and to help you make more informed, healthy lifestyle choices, and most importantly… change!
I realize that most of you are probably not as interested in physiology as I am, but a basic understanding of how our bodies work is necessary if we are to be successful in achieving our weight loss goals and to live truly healthier, stronger, and more independent lives.
Here is the reason that conventional and “crash diets” do not make lasting changes and improvements in our overall physique and well being and may in fact be detrimental to our bodies in the long term. Each of us has what is known as a “Resting Metabolic Rate.” This is the total amount of calories that is needed for us to continue to exist in our present condition and weight.
There are several variables that dictate what this number will be, of these, body mass index (the amount of lean and fat tissue that your body is comprised of) is the most influential, and controllable. Remember this: each pound of lean muscle burns between 35-50 calories per day, while at rest.
Example: A 29-year-old woman weighing 180 lbs. at 5’6″ has a resting metabolic rate of about 1,601. That is the amount of calories that are required for her body’s basic needs on a daily basis for her to live and stay as she is. These calories are applied toward food digestion, heart beat, breathing, and daily activities. When she diets, she restricts the amount of calories that she takes in on a daily basis. Physiologically here is what happens:
When the human body is faced with a shortage in calories it goes into “starvation made.” This is our body’s method of self preservation; the natural response is to conserve fat in fear that eventually there may be no food at all, as a result of the apparent shortage now being experienced. This response came in handy for the nomadic progenitors of our race while trying to survive famine and food shortages. However, it can work against us in our attempts at weight loss.
If this caloric deficit is maintained for a couple of days the body will begin to adapt to these new conditions, how does it do this? It begins to break down the tissue that requires the most calories to maintain itself… that’s right, muscle! Remember we said that each pound of muscle uses up to 50 calories per day? In the face of this restriction in the available amount of calories the body’s first line of defense is to get rid of that which consumes the most.
As muscle tissue is broken down for additional fuel, nitrogen and other by-products are released into your blood stream, your body releases water that had been being stored to wash these contaminates out of your system which causes a reduction in water weight in addition to the shed muscle mass which all adds up to a notable change on the scale. Though this may seem to be cause for celebration, you have actually just moved yourself further away from your actual goal!
Muscle loss is nothing to celebrate, and the water weight will be regained as soon as you have something to drink. Muscle is the MOST metabolically active tissue that there is in your body, and any loss or reduction will lower your metabolism. To make this clear, the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories are being burned, even while you are asleep!
As you loose muscle mass, you diminish your body’s ability to burn calories efficiently. If a dieter loses 30 lbs. in total, only about 15 lbs. of that is actual fat. 5 lbs. is probably water, and the other 10 lbs. are muscle. Suppose each pound of muscle had been able to remain, burning 35-50 calories a day on its own; together those 10 lbs. of muscle would have incinerated 350-500 calories each and every day!
With this muscle now gone, the dieter must consume up to 500 fewer calories per day in order to maintain that weight loss. As a result, her resting metabolic rate has dropped down to between 1101-1251 calories per day. What do you think will happen when she gets off of the diet and resumes consuming 1,601+ calories daily? She will gain 1 pound of fat weekly!
There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat. If our 2- year-old female consumes 1,601 calories a day (which is a modest number considering most of us consume upwards of 2000), keeping in mind that as a result of her muscle loss that she is unaware of, her new daily requirement is 1,100 calories; she will be in excess by 500 calories daily! 500 calories a day times 7 days a week equals 3,500 excess calories, which equals one pound of fat… per week!
A healthy diet with with long-term success in mind is designed to keep your metabolism in high gear with 4-6 smaller meals per day. Always eat within 3 hours of waking up” this switches your metabolism “on” for the day, since you haven’t eaten in 6-8 hours while sleeping. After not eating for about 3 hours, the body begins to resume that starvation mode that we discussed earlier.
Essentially, the body must be trained to be assured that there is adequate food supply available. This is done by eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Once this is accomplished the body no longer feels the need to store fat, and begin to release fat that has been stored to be burned for fuel.
Here is the formula for you to figure out what your own resting metabolic rate (RMR) is:
Males: RMR = 66 + (5 x height) + (13.8 x weight) – (6.8 x age)
Females: RMR = 655 + (1.8 x height) + (9.6 x weight) – (4.7 x age)
Convert height from inches to centimeters (1 inch = 2.5 centimeters)
Convert weight from pounds to kilograms (2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram, divide body weight in pounds by 2.2)
Age expressed in years