It’s not stretching a point to say that most Americans today probably know someone who’s either been on a diet, is on one currently or is planning to start one. The fact is Americans are probably more weight conscious today than they’ve ever been, due in part to the growing emphasis on fitness and to the rising concern about obesity as a health issue.
Aside from the fact that our culture idealizes those who look lean and mean with a flat tummy and six-pack abs, being overweight carries significant medical risks. Diabetes and coronary heart disease are among the more obvious problems, but research has shown that excessive weight can lead to some forms of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease and liver problems. Complications in pregnancy are also on the list.
The desire to lose weight has given rise to an entire industry devoted to making the process appear effortless and relatively fast. Just watch television for an evening and you’ll be bombarded with commercials touting weight loss programs promising near-miraculous results.
Despite the promises and the hype, anyone who’s been serious about losing weight knows it simply isn’t that easy. It can, however, be done and there are proven methods that can help individuals burn fat and lose weight. Here are six guiding principles that can help one to safely lose pounds, actually improve health and contribute to a sense of well-being.
- Create a caloric deficit. Simply put, people lose weight by burning up more energy than they consume. Energy, of course, is measured in calories and measuring the number of calories consumed in foods has never been easier. Government regulations require that most packaged foods list their calorie content on the label. In some areas, restaurants must list the calories in each dish they serve. Even smart phones can get into the act with one of the many available apps that will help keep track of the calories taken in at mealtimes and burned during daily activities and/or exercise. The goal, of course, is to burn more calories than are taken in.
- Start a double-barreled attack on fat. Dieting, by itself, and exercise alone can work, but it may be a while before one sees results. The far better plan is to use a combination of diet and exercise. Eat less, eat smarter, boost activity level and the weight-loss goal is in sight.
- Eat smart and often. A wise weight-loss diet should be oriented mainly toward lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Starches and refined carbohydrates should be kept to a minimum. The dieter should drink plenty of fluids (primarily water), and try to eat at least 4-5 small meals per day. This will help the body maintain blood sugar levels and keep burning fat.
- Add resistance to the workout. A major factor in burning calories is the rate of metabolism. And a major factor in metabolism is lean muscle mass. Build up more lean muscle mass and the result is an increase in metabolism, thus burning more fat. So weight training has to be a part of any effective fat loss program.
Jump-start metabolism: Studies have shown that interval training and metabolic resistance training provide the most efficient use of training time. These are examples of high intensity and active rest workouts. Experts agree that we burn more calories during and after exercising with these types of programs.
- Team up with someone to lose weight: According to a new study published online in the journal Obesity, teammates in a team-based weight loss competition significantly influenced each other’s weight loss, suggesting that shedding pounds can have a ripple effect. Social networks do play an important part in successful weight loss regimens.
- Contributed by: Joseph Ruhl, PT, Partner, E & A Physical Therapy. Select portions used with permission from Alwyn Cosgrove, August 12, 2008 and Core Performance (www.coreperformance.com)