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Compliments to Your Health

Weight Management In the 21st Century:
Part 3 - Shake It Up, Baby!

by Joann Flora,
Acupressure, Nutrition Counseling, Qigong


February 24, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Happy Chinese New Year to all and good riddance to the feeding frenzy we call "The Holidays".  The end of the calendar year routinely enjoins  festive and social eating activities to the next year's guilt. Like many of you, I managed to indulge in the culinary pleasures present between the third week of November and January first,
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managing to put on a couple of pounds. Unlike many of you, I have not made a resolution to do something about it. Rather, I am simply resuming the dietary habits I established last year as a method for managing my weight. Part 1 of this series identified the problems associated with excessive weight gain in the US; Part 2 focused on the food component.  Part 3 is about activity (or lack thereof) and the effect activity has on our ability to lose pounds or maintain a desired weight.
Weight management is really a function of mathematics:

Energy in = Energy out = Stable Weight Management (no gain/loss)
Energy in < Energy out = Weight Reduction
Energy in > Energy out = Weight gain

This view is not intended to oversimplify the challenge of losing weight, but the basic math is correct. When our caloric intake (energy in) equals the calories burned (energy out), we remain constant. When we expend more calories than we take in dietarily, we lose. What is more often the case in these sedentary days is that we consume more calories than we use up and thereby gain weight. Countless health and fitness organizations have issued all manner of recommendations for activity and exercise. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, on most days; the US Institute of Medicine recommends 60 minutes per day. How does the average person know where to begin? If we can accept that we have to move to lose and move to live, we have taken the first step toward establishing an exercise or activity plan for ourselves.
Before making any changes, it is important to first assess where we are at. How much do we sit during the day? How much TV do we watch at night? Are we presently involved in any regular physical activity? Are we in a physically demanding job or do we sit at a desk all day? Do we swim, or go to the gym regularly? Are we walking the family dog one or more times per day? Do we jog, walk or bike when weather permits or use the car for all travel? What about our present health status. Do we currently have (or have a history of) any of the following: cardio-vascular disease, hypertension, degenerative joint disease, diabetes, obesity, or pulmonary disease? For those with significant health considerations, a visit to the family physician is a good idea. Once we have an appreciation of our health status and present activity level, we can begin to effect changes that will get us moving.
One thing I highly recommend is joining the motivational sight, America On the Move, This excellent sight allows us to participate with others in moving more, accomplishing more, and doing it together. The sight offers activity tips and ways to track your activity level in an entertaining and tangible way. For example, I am presently hypothetically walking the Lewis and Clark Trail. Rather than just plod away on my tread mill, with no goal or destination, I use my pedometer to count my steps daily and apply them to the steps I would have to walk to traverse the trail on foot. I get a map showing my distance and a calendar that shows my steps per day plus my average over the period of time I have been walking the Trail. This makes my daily movement more interesting and tangible. The sight has many ideas and techniques for getting you moving. You can also receive the email Tip of the Day, designed to give you new ideas, remind you of positive health concepts, and help you establish achievable goals. Here are a few of the recent tips from American On the Move:

  • Reducing calories without increasing activity actually lowers your metabolism making it harder to lose weight. Increasing activity levels will raise your metabolism, even while at rest or without dieting.
  • To  maintain your present weight, add 200 steps to your day and subtract 100 calories from your diet.
  • Walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day can lower your risk for metabolic syndrome (diabetes, hypertension, heart disease)
  • Walking 12,000 steps per day can result in weight loss.
  • It takes eight to twelve weeks of increased activity to raise your good cholesterol (HDL), and 10+ weeks to lose 10 pounds.

You don't have to engage in strenuous exercise to improve your health and control weight. Start with small, achievable goals and increase from there. Take the simple action of increasing your daily steps. Find ways to make it enjoyable. Research has shown that increasing fitness lowers metabolic syndrome even in people who are overweight! So get up and get moving. By using a sight such as America On The Move (or another 'buddy system') for activity, it is easier to get motivated, stay consistent, be accountable, and achieve results. Go places with friends, take a class, or trade exercise videos with people you know for a variety of activity options.
There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. The recommended caloric intake for weight loss is 1200 calories for women and 1500 for men. If you only reduce calories without increasing energy output (exercise/activity), you would have to eat negative calories in order to lose a single pound! Not a very pretty picture. Nor is it a practical approach to weight loss. That's why  dieting  alone is seldom effective at producing the results we seek. That's why the new vogue diets, and fat blocker supplements only produce temporary change.  The combination of eat less/burn more is the practical choice to effect weight management changes.
Remember that activity as a weight management tool is not about beating yourself up at the gym. To start, think 'activity' not 'workout'! Think 'moving' not 'exercise'. If you are an experienced athlete or have a history of physical fitness activities, sweating till it burns probably makes sense. But for many people, increasing activity is as simple as watching less TV, using stairs instead of the elevator, or parking at the far end of the lot and walking in to the store. It's about getting off your seat and on your feet! Moving more helps sharpen our mental capacity, improves muscle tone, aids in the prevention of a variety of cancers, reduces stress, and helps us sleep more restfully. Additionally, being fit lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome even in those who are overweight! In other words if two people are each 25 pounds overweight, the person who is more active (walks, bikes, or swims) will have a lower risk of diabetes, coronary-artery disease, and hypertension, than the inactive individual. even though they weight the same! It's not just about being overweight or not, it's about becoming fit! So get with it, get up, and get moving!
Part IV in this series will address alternatives to nutrition and exercise in relation to weight loss: what to do if cutting calories and becoming active doesn't work for you.


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©Compliments To Your Health
Joann Flora 2005

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