by Gregg R. Luke, B.S., R.Ph.,
Pharmacist at Cache Valley Community Health Center – North Logan Center

Browse through almost any magazine at the supermarket checkout and you will find at least one article on an amazing new diet plan—one guaranteed to work quickly with minimal effort. Some of these plans are helpful. Most are big hype with little effect. A few are even hazardous to your health. The trouble with most “lose weight fast” plans is that they are short-lived; i.e. they may work initially, but rarely do they keep the weight off or maintain a healthy, energetic body. Studies show that rapid weight loss is almost always followed by rapid weight gain.

The bottom line to losing weight is eating less (or eating healthier) and exercising more (or more consistently). If you do not burn off what you ingest, it gets stored as fat. The key to weight maintenance is following a concerted, consistent, healthy lifestyle. Period. End of story.

Now for some good news. A lifestyle change is not that difficult to do. And the benefits are lifesaving. Regular exercise and proper nutritional habits not only promote overall health and well-being, they also strengthen the immune system, reduce stress and chronic fatigue, prevent and combat cardiovascular, diabetic, respiratory, neurological, and arthritic diseases. It even reduces the potential onset of many forms of cancer. Exercise is a natural antidepressant and energy booster. Exercisers sleep better, generally feel healthier, and take fewer medications than non-exercisers. In all, eating right and keeping fit brings a greater benefit than any other hobby or investment a person can make. And it is never too late to start.

The following is a compilation of basic, no-nonsense, commonsense tips for diet and exercise. These tips will help anyone lose weight, tone up, and become healthier. They are guaranteed to work if they are adhered to consistently.

To start, let us address two basic questions:

1. Do you know what you are eating?  The idea of counting calories is not appealing to anyone, yet if you do not have a general idea of what you are taking in, you will never know what you have to burn off. Some foods have the potential to store more calories than others do. It is a simple fact: to lose weight you have to burn more than you consume. So here is the first lifestyle change: Stop snacking on junk. Many people would be surprised at how many calories they consume in simple snacks. And snacks are everywhere—a Tootsie Roll here, a Smartie there. It all adds up. Nutrition facts are now printed on all food products, so it is easy to know what you are eating and how much.

2. What kind of exercise do you do and—more importantly—how much?  The more you do, the better the results. The old saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” could not be more profound when referring to our bodies. Beneficial exercise requires an increase in heart rate, an increase in respiratory rate, and occasionally some sweat. Another old saying “no pain, no gain” actually has some truth to it. You do not have to end up hurting, but you do have to exert an honest effort for an extended period to reap the benefits.

COMMONSENSE DIET TIPS

1. Guess what?  All calories count. Even if you are eating a non-fat cookie, you are still consuming calories. If those calories are not burnt, they will be stored as fat. Just because something is non-fat or low-carb does not mean you can eat a ton of it.

2. Adjust your meals to fit daily calorie-burning requirements. Experts say you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper. Unfortunately, our cultural norms are just the opposite of our nutritional requirements. If your biggest meal of the day is at dinnertime, try not to eat too late or too close to bedtime. Some experts theorize that most calories eaten after 8:00 pm are stored as fat, so keep nighttime snacking to a minimum.

3. Drink at least 40 ounces of water a day. Ice water works best because your body has to warm it before it is absorbed, and that in turn burns calories. Water also helps eliminate harmful substances and aids in nearly all metabolic processes in your body.

4. The latest diet fads claim carbohydrates are the culprit behind excess body fat. This is only true of simple carbs like sugar. Complex carbs (whole grains) require energy to digest, which burns many of the calories contained in the food. And complex carbs are loaded with slow-release energy that lasts throughout the day.

5. Eat more raw fruits and vegetables. If you prefer cooked vegetables, be sure to steam them. Boiling leaches nutrients and flavor.

6. Fiber is tried and true. There are two major types of fiber—soluble and non-soluble. Both are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Both types of fiber aid in several vital body functions and can even prevent many types of cancer. In addition, fiber is filling and full of complex carbohydrates.

7. Fat is not bad. Too much fat is. Many essential vitamins and beneficial acids are contained in fat, but so are mammoth amounts of calories. The healthiest fats are mono-unsaturated fats. Saturated fats and trans-fatty oils are loaded with calories and cancer-promoting free radicals, so avoid them whenever possible.

8. Eliminate carbonated beverages from your diet. Carbonation promotes water retention and stimulates calcium loss from bones. In addition, most are loaded with non-nutritive simple sugars.

9. It takes about twenty minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it is full. If you eat until you are full, you have eaten too much. Instead, eat a set amount and walk away. If you drink a glass of cold water before and after you eat, you will feel full quicker and will eat less over all.

COMMONSENSE EXERCISE TIPS

1. Do not exercise to be thin; exercise to be healthy. Some people will never be skinny, but everyone can be healthy. Remember to set realistic goals. Losing twenty pounds in two weeks is obtainable, but not realistic. Likewise, six or eight dress or pant sizes in a month is not realistic; two or three in as many months is.

2. Be consistent. I cannot stress this point enough. Your body gets used to patterns, so the more you exercise the more your body responds to it. People often claim they try to exercise daily but get zero results; yet when evaluating their exercise routine and consistency, one finds they are rarely doing enough to gain the results they seek. Some women state that chasing toddlers all day and keeping the house clean is more than enough exercise. While admittedly a daunting task, the caloric output of such routines seldom match daily caloric intake. Some men claim their jobs demand more than enough physical exertion, but rarely is it consistent enough to make daily exercise unnecessary. True exercise is a concerted, consistent effort—it is not simply getting tired from performing a certain task.

3. Morning exercise burns more stored calories (fat) than evening exercise. This is because there are few quick-burn calories (carbohydrates) available in your system, which forces the body to derive energy from stored fuel. Additionally, studies show that people who exercise in the morning are generally more faithful to their routines. Morning exercise increases mental alertness and improves stress resistance throughout the day.

4. Weight resistance is the best long-term fat burner for both men and women. This is because all cells in your body burn calories at differing rates know as the cell’s Baseline Metabolic Rate (BMR). The cell’s BMR is a continuous process; no matter what you are doing, your cells are burning calories. Muscle tissue has a higher BMR than any other cell in the body; therefore, the more toned you are, the more calories you will burn—even while you sleep. Additionally, weight-bearing exercise slows the progress of osteoporosis, many joint diseases, and regular back pain. Ladies, do not worry about becoming a muscle bulging Amazonian. Few women have enough testosterone to achieve that kind of physique, or have the time necessary to create that body in a gym.

5. Cardiovascular training burns more calories faster than any other form of exercise. Consistent aerobic exercise is the best way to lose weight quickly. There are many forms of cardio-training: stationary biking, stair-climbers, swimming, aerobic classes, rowing, martial arts … the list is endless. Nevertheless, the best form is the simplest—running. The optimum weight-loss program, however, is a combine of both weight training and cardio-training, alternating one with the other every other day.

6. Everyone has problem areas: hips, thighs, stomach, buttocks, etc. While there is no such thing as “spot reducing” (without surgery), fat and skin exactly match the contour of underlying muscle; therefore, toning an area will help eliminate the fatty-look from that area. Adopt daily exercises that isolate muscle groups around your problem areas and you will be surprised at the results.

7. Measure your progress in weekly or monthly amounts, not daily. In many cases, external factors can add or drop a few pounds sporadically. Once a week measurements will give you a better picture of your progress. Remember, no exercise program works overnight. If you are trying to lose weight, set your short-term goals for weekly amounts and your long-term goals for monthly amounts.

8. Beneficial exercise takes a minimum of 20 minutes of continuous movement each day. Studies show optimum weight-loss exercise takes at least 30 to 60 minutes. Moreover, the minutes have to be contiguous, meaning one joining the other. Ten minutes here, five there, maybe another ten later on will not achieve the same results as 30 contiguous minutes. Keep in mind: If you quit when you get tired, you have only exercised half way. The more you push, the better the results.

9. Once again, consistency is the key.  If you are too rushed a particular morning, exercise later that evening.  No time invested in exercise is wasted time.  Like calorie consumption, it all adds up.  So take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work instead of drive, or do ab-crunches while the shower is warming.  It will all bring you closer to your goal of a health body.

Some individuals may have specific health issues to start with that necessitate certain restraints.  That’s okay, but it does not restrict you from achieving a healthier body.  A costly recurrent fad is diet pills and supplements.  The truth is that none of them works unless you are on a good diet and exercise program, and a few of them are actually hazardous to your health.  Most are best left on the store shelf.  You can achieve your goals without them; it is simply a matter of making up your mind to change your life style, and then doing it.  Most importantly, do not make excuses or program-breaking justifications.  You will only regret it later. There’s the truth behind weight loss.  Remember, you only get one body. Take good care of it.