Is Weight Loss or a Diet Part of Your Resolutions?

Most of us, in one year or another, have made a New Year’s resolution to eat better and exercise more to ultimately lose weight or get in better shape. By February, the vast majority of these plans have been derailed for various reasons. For busy parents, it can be particularly difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan and workout schedule. As is the case for many moms (and dads), their plans come last in the crazy schedules and routines. To get a different perspective, take a look at this article from Julie Hammerstein, CN.

Healthy Weight: Don’t Let the Scale Determine Your Calories

Watching your food intake is critical to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.  If you eat more food than you burn – whether through exercise or normal body functions – you will store unused calories as fat.

This is just normal physiology:  Match your caloric intake with your energy output. Seems simple, right?  Just cut calories and exercise more and the weight will come off! So, why isn’t this working for you? You’re eating less, exercising more, but the scale won’t budge.

Part of the problem is that you may be cutting too many calories.  If you’re eating less than what your body needs to function, your body will slow down to meet your caloric intake. You see, we all have something called a basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories consumed and metabolized at a normal resting state over a 24-hour period.

So, if you just sit and do nothing all day, your body only needs enough fuel to support low-energy activities such as breathing, digestion, elimination and other bodily functions. If you get up and start tidying up the house, your body then needs additional fuel to support these ‘medium-energy’ activities.  Then if you exercise or perform manual labor, you require more fuel to support these ‘high-energy’ activities.

This is matching your caloric intake with your energy output.

The problem is that most people don’t know the amount of calories their body burns at rest.  So when you start dieting, you pick a calorie count based on previous diets, or a generic number based on age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity.

The problem with these methods is that they don’t look at your unique physiology – specifically, your muscle mass.  The basal metabolic rate is based on lean body tissue, or muscle.  Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, a person with more muscle is going to have a higher basal metabolic rate.

For example, you have two people standing next to each other – both 40, female, 5’4” and 135 lbs. You may decide from these parameters that they need a 1,300-calorie diet to lose weight.  But if you were to look closer, you’d find that one woman’s 135 lbs. is made of muscle, whereas the other woman’s 135 lbs. is made of fat.

This is a very important distinction.

If we were to test their basal metabolic rate, we may find that the woman with more muscle burns 1,500 calories at rest, whereas, the woman with more body fat burns 1,300 calories at rest.

If we stuck with the generic parameters and fed them both a 1,300-calorie diet, the woman with more muscle would be eating LESS than what her body needs to perform normal body functions.  As a survival mechanism, this woman’s metabolism would slow down to meet the 1,300-calorie diet.  This then slows down the rate at which she burns fat to lose weight.

In order to lose weight effectively and foster a healthy metabolism, it’s best to know your individual basal metabolic rate.

Many health specialists have machines that measure your exact muscle mass through Bio-Impedance Analysis, commonly known as B.I.A.  This is a method of assessing your body composition, which is the ratio between fat and lean body mass.

This analysis sets your specific caloric intake, by determining your BMR and measuring it against your level of physical activity.  With this information, you can now eat the proper amount of calories to burn fat, maintain (or gain) muscle, and improve your overall metabolism.

The B.I.A. is also a more effective way to measure your progress than simply watching the scale.  When you stand on a typical scale, it measures your total body weight.  So if your weight goes up or stays the same, you think your eating plan is failing you. If your weight goes down, you believe you’re on track.

What the scale doesn’t measure is how this weight is dispersed in your body. Remember, your body composition includes fat and muscle, with muscle weighing more than fat.  So sometimes the number on the scale may reflect a loss or gain in muscle rather than a loss or gain in fat.

Here’s an example.

If you lose weight on the scale, and then test your B.I.A. and see that you’ve lost muscle and gained fat, this is an undesirable result.  If you gain weight on the scale, and then do your B.I.A. to find that you’ve LOST body fat and GAINED muscle, this is an ideal scenario!  If you’d simply measured your weight on the scale and seen that you’d gained weight, you’d think your ‘diet’ wasn’t working and so you’d cut more calories… and, we know where that leads.

If you want a healthy weight, make sure you’re eating the proper amount of calories for your specific metabolism.  You can increase your metabolism (to have a higher basal metabolic rate, thus affording you more calories) by adding resistance exercises such as power yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, sculpting or swimming. In addition, eat small meals every 3-4 hours to prevent low blood sugar resulting in muscle depletion, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get high-density nutrition through low-density calories.

If you’d like to know more about your personal BMR and body composition, you can Google practitioners in your area who use the B.I.A system.

 

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