Proven & Effective Weight Control

by Sheila Barnswell, B.Sc, R.N.C. R.D.H.

Today more people are concerned about losing weight than ever before. Some for aesthetic reasons and others because of health problems. Medical research has revealed that obesity can and often does contribute to chronic maladies, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The benefits of keeping fit are well known, but keeping fit is often not easy, given the demand we face from day to day, and also the variety of food choices available to us.

The people of this century engage in less physically demanding occupations and consume more rich calories and fewer high fiber foods, than did our grand-parents. This lack of exercise combined with refined food, leads to storage of calories in the form of unsightly body fat. The solution, as most overweight people see it, is to try to rectify the situation with fad or starvation diets. The problem however is not so much in the amount of food eaten, but the types of food. We don't eat enough health fats and oils, fibrous fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or legumes. We are motivated to eat strictly by the sight and taste of food. We eat too many saturated fats, sugar, protein and foods, with the fiber and nutrient removed — what nutritionists call "empty calorie foods".

Starvation Diets Don't Work

The first step towards effective weight control is learning about nutrition. Low calorie diets are doomed to failure by the physiology of the body. When calories are restricted, the body interprets this as starvation, and goes into a starvation state; it tries to conserve energy by burning less calories. As soon as the dieter returns to normal eating, the body starts to store the extra calories in preparation for the next starvation. This results in the dieter gaining all the weight which was lost plus more. People who practise this weight-loss pattern, have really lost hundreds of pounds over the years, but still remain overweight. Why? Because the weight loss on calorie-restricted diets is mostly water and protein from muscle. The dieter on such a diet also feels tired, fatigue, weak and sick because of loss of essential nutrients. The only proven effective way to weight control is through a change in one's lifestyle.

Change has to be slow and gradual. Behaviour that leads to ill health and overweight has to be replaced by habits that promote activity and vibrant health. One should not concentrate on losing weight, but instead on developing good health. In doing this, one will begin to feel more alive, have less illnesses, and gain vibrant health. One of the side effects, or benefits of cultivating healthy habits, will be loss of excess weight.

Good health is a lifetime affair, once one begins to enjoy the benefits of good health, the process becomes easier. The key is to take each step slowly, set attainable short term goals, (by making an effort to reduce your intake of unhealthy food,) then built up a regular exercise routine; I strongly recommend that one seeks professional guidance.

How to Increase the Body's Fat — Burning Ability

Research in the area of sport medicine has led to a better understanding of the body's weight regulation mechanism.

There is a part of the brain on the base known as the hypothalamus.

This area of the brain is the automatic nerve regulator which in turn regulates the body weight and metabolism. This control sets the body's weight at a "set point". If calorie intake increases, the mechanism works similarly to a thermostat, and alerts the body to burn off excess calories. If calories are too low, the body turns the thermostat to burn less calories.

Some factors that can affect the set point are: activity level, the amount of body fat, and calorie intake. The best way to raise one's set point is by regular aerobic type activity (walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance — low impact is best). The activity should be done for at least 15 – 30 minutes at your target heart rate 200 minus your age times 60% if you are just starting out on exercise, 200 minus your age times 70% if you have exercised before and 200 minus your age times 85% if you are an advanced exerciser for at least three times each week. Regular exercise will raise your set point, and result in fat loss and a feeling of well being. This is the only proven effective way to weight control.

Sheila McKenzie-Barnswell is a Nutritional and Wellness Consultant and also a Registered Dental Hygienist and the Editor of the Lifestyle and Wellness Newspaper.

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