Diet, exercise, health, and weight loss

A square. Stop thinking about diets, diets, diets, fad diets, fad diets, celebrity diets, diet pills, diet plans, diet programs … ad nauseam … literally!

A diet is simply what you eat! Your diet may consist of chocolate donuts or alfalfa sprouts, but most “Diets” with a capital “D” will not release it. Instead, they lock you in a cage. Eat anything other than what they prescribe and you will be a failure … at least, that’s how you read their literature.

Of course, what we eat and when we eat it can play a role in losing or gaining weight. Even where we eat can be a factor. Did you ever eat too much at Grandma’s on Thanksgiving? Have. How about that cocktail where you walked over to the snack trays and had one more drink because someone offered it to you? Okay, for me it would be sitting at the bar ordering one more beer (light, of course) because the game is not over yet. Oh yeah, hand me the chips.


Let’s eat healthy and live healthy, okay, Sister Mary Fides, healthy. I know. It’s an adverb.


If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight. Proven scientific fact. No ifs, ands, or buts. Although we are all different and our bodies shuffle and store calorie amounts a little differently than our neighbors’ bodies, we can all contribute to weight loss by eating fewer calories or burning more calories … or both.

You have already found that using both techniques simultaneously will be more effective than trying to achieve successful weight loss with just one.

I’m going to assume that the reason you want to lose weight is to improve your quality of life. You are concerned about your health. Having excess fat can contribute to major and minor health problems. Yes, you honestly think it would be great to lose weight, but you don’t want to be miserable, and neither do the people around you.

By the way, I said more fat, rather than overweight, because healthy people can weigh more than the graphs and tables say they should. The weight itself is not the problem. It’s the fat that paralyzes and kills people, so I was only making a point. According to the charts, when he was in the best physical condition of his life, Arnold Schwarzenegger was “overweight”, but I doubt he was “fat.”


First, if not at first, then somewhere on the diet, you will start to feel deprived, depressed, and craving for dessert. (Nice trick with the d’s, huh?) He may even feel like he’s being punished. You can’t eat the things you like. You can only eat asparagus or bean sprouts, or three from this column and two from that column; except the third Tuesday when there is a full moon. Is it any wonder that you and every other living human being quit a diet simply because of this nonsense?


As if discomfort and stress weren’t enough, there are actually a couple of hidden reasons why diets don’t work. I’m not even going to go into the effects of stress and cortisol on your weight. That is a book in itself, and it is too long a topic to go into here.


Most diets are structured in the beginning, reducing the calories ingested. Most of us burn calories at a rate determined by our age, physical makeup, activity, and heritage. The rate at which we burn calories is called the “metabolic rate.” Our metabolic rate is unique to each of us and is simply a measure of how fast we burn or metabolize calories. As we age, the metabolic rate slows down and eating the same number of calories as last year will cause us to gain weight. As we age, we also tend to become less active, and our body gradually changes its metabolic rate based on our activity levels.

When you start drastically cutting calories, as in most diets, your body responds by lowering your metabolic rate. Even though you have reduced your calorie intake, fewer calories are now needed to maintain your weight. As you eat less, you may even gain weight.

What normally happens when someone comes on board on an extreme diet? Well, eventually, they usually fall off the wagon and go back to their old eating habits, maybe even eating a little, or a lot! If your body has learned to survive on fewer calories, what will happen to the calories that are now excessive? They will be stored as more fat.

If the calories are cut too drastically, the body may start to eat on its own, and it wants only the best! You will go after muscle tissue. The problem with this is that muscle burns calories more effectively than other components of the body. When you lose muscle tissue or muscle mass, you burn fewer calories. You probably won’t feel as good or energetic either, so you will become less active. So again, simply cutting back on calories could do a double whammy against you.

By the way, one of the sources of muscle tissue that the body might begin to break down is called the heart. There’s no way that can be good for you.

Okay, you’ve slowed down your metabolism and lost muscle mass. Now you are disappointed and depressed because you are not losing as you thought. You have less energy and you are hungry all the time. You’re sick of eating the same old stuff, you’re miserable, your family doesn’t understand, there’s no one to talk to! Oh! A small plate of ice cream won’t hurt, right?


The next thing you know, you’re in the gutter surrounded by burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes. It! How the mighty have fallen.

No, you are only human. But now he’s depressed (which can contribute to weight gain) because he failed again. Besides everything else, you are winning again. How did that happen?

Remember what we said earlier about slowing down your metabolism and depleting your body’s supply of muscle tissue? Well, with less muscle tissue you burn fewer calories and, as you saw before, the body has slowed down its metabolic rate and does not need as many calories to survive. Came back! It is a trap!


I suppose you could hire a dietitian to help you plan your meals. You can purchase pre-prepared menus to help you purchase the specific ingredients needed for healthy and nutritious meals. You could take some college courses and learn how to do all of this yourself.

That is where the problem of diet lies. To properly control calorie intake, someone has to be in charge of the nutritional aspect of a planned weight loss program. You can take responsibility, but be prepared to spend a lot of time planning, preparing, and compensating.

There are organizations and companies that can provide guidance, planning, and / or products to help. You may want to check out: NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or TOPS International.

These can provide you with a wide range of delicious planned meal options that can help you stay on target.


Remember that part about metabolism and muscle mass?

When you do a physical activity; Gardening, walking, lifting weights, swimming, biking or dancing aerobics, for example, burn more calories during activity than during times of rest or most other less strenuous activities.

This is good, but it gets better. If the activity is vigorous enough, your metabolic rate may remain elevated for some time after the activity ends. Uh oh! I said “strenuous”, didn’t I? Look, what’s strenuous enough for you is what YOU can handle, not what an Olympic miler can do. Do what you can and your body will figure it out. In fact, your body will rage and bond with your mind and convince you that this is TOO HARD if you try to do too much at first. That’s one of the reasons many well-intentioned exercise programs don’t last. The other main reason is that people expect too much in too little time. It took years to lose shape, he’s not going to reverse that in a week, a month, or more.

The degree to which your metabolism rises and how long it remains elevated will depend on several factors, of course, but a key factor is obviously the intensity and duration of the activity. However, the bottom line is that if you want to lose or control your weight, some form of activity is important.


Combine increased activity (okay, exercise) with a controlled caloric intake, and you’ve got the basic ingredients for healthy weight loss. Forget pills, fad diets and, except in the most extreme cases, surgical procedures. Now, exercise is a broad field, as is nutrition, and there’s no way you can go into all the possible variations on those themes here.

The programs listed above, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and TOPS Club, Inc. provide nutrition and exercise guidance. Plus, they provide another very important ingredient for success … SUPPORT!

Some have meetings, others have online support, but the key is that you can communicate with other people who know what you are going through.

No weight loss program is necessarily right for everyone. Take a look at these programs and decide which one will work for you, or create your own weight loss program. Remember also that we are all human, so forgive yourself if you slip and fall. The important thing is to get up and move on.

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