PHIL KAPLAN'S FITNESS TRUTH - Nutritional Confusion

Update - January 22, 2005

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I've Tried Everything and I Can't Lose Weight

QUESTION: I know you say anyone can get fit, but I've tried everything. I've tried Weight Watchers, both the old and new, Jenny Craig, Atkins, South Beach, and Fit For Life. They all work to some degree, but I'm never able to keep the weight off. I've even tried walking, Nordic Track, and a short bout with Spinning (which I hated). I've tried Trim Spa, Xenadrine, Hydroxycut, and even Phentermine and no matter what I do I just can't lose weight. 10 years ago I would have said I need to lose 15 pounds, but now it's more like 40 pounds. I don't know if you can help, but I thought I'd see if you have any answers that I'm missing.

ANSWER: Allow me to first make two adjustments in the language of your question.

When you say "you can't," you really mean you haven't yet found the solution yet, and when you say you've "tried everything," you really mean you've tried many things and don't know where else to turn. That puts you in the same boat as near 2/3 of our population. They attempt to change, but they typically employ flawed approaches, and if you try to get to the moon by digging a hole, no matter how hard you try you're going to strike out.

Now let's understand what's really going on. 10 years ago you began a cycle of dieting, which really translates to "taking in fewer calories than you body needs to sustain metabolism." When you reduce calories below the level your body requires to maintain lean body mass and meet metabolic demand, you do lose weight, but a portion of that weight is muscle tissue. The scale tells you things are going just wonderfully, but the scale neglects to point out that if you lose muscle you slow metabolism. Research shows that metabolism declines near 2% every decade, and follow-up research indicates an indisputable connection between age-related metabolic slowdown and a gradual loss of muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is calorically active tissue. Muscle burns calories. Fat is simply stored fuel. Remember, the scale cannot tell you the difference. Muscle is also the physical location where fat is burned, so if you lose weight and any portion of that weight is muscle, you've crippled your body's fat burning machine.

It's also valuable to note that when you are in caloric deprivation your endocrine system (the glandular system) attempt to protect you from starvation. Repeated bouts of caloric deprivation can coax the thyroid gland to make metabolic shifts so the body can survive and maintain on fewer calories. Together with muscle loss, this guarantees fat loss will be a greater challenge in the future.

I know Weight Watchers is "sensible," and Jenny Craig is "balanced," and they all play up the idea of a lifestyle change. The point they miss is in recognizing that if you want to boost metabolism you don't want to starve away metabolically active tissue, but you want to in fact protect or add muscle and stimulate increases in metabolism that make the body more efficient at burning through food.

If all of your attempts included a form of caloric deprivation, you should celebrate, because the reality boils down to misinformation. You were misinformed. Nobody gave you the human body user's manual. You never really failed, the diets failed you. If you recognize that with each perceived failure you returned to the same technology that failed you, perhaps with a different twist or a different name, but the same "cut calories" approach, you'll also recognize that you need, not a repackaging of the same approach, but a new approach, one that absolutely works!

I use the word Synergy a lot. I use it specifically to define and summarize the vital relationship between Supportive Eating (not starving . . . eating in a manner that boosts metabolism), Moderate Aerobic Exercise, and a Concern For Muscle. All three elements must be in place at the same time if you want to ensure a positive physical change.

The supplements that you've tried are various types of stimulants, and the drug you tried was one of the Phen-Fen drugs with significant risk of side effects. You can use the links below to understand the supplements including ephedrine, synephrine (the ephedrine-free formulas), and other purported fat loss compounds. Regardless of the product names, the supplement business is driven by marketing, and no supplement is a fat loss solution. Not a one.

Your exercise attempts have all revolved around aerobic exercise, and although aerobic exercise is a piece of the puzzle, without the resistance training it can actually amplify muscle loss. Think about it. If you're not taking in enough calories to sustain lean body mass, and at the same time you're putting your body in a state where it wants to protect you by slowing metabolism down, and you compound the challenge by adding an aerobic exercise demand increasing caloric need, you're further coaxing the body to sacrifice muscle. Resistance exercise, some aerobic movement, and ample calories in frequent "thermic" meals (thermic refers to "heat" and a calorie is actually a unit of heat), allows you to add muscle, increase the rate of oxidation of food, maintain consistent energy stores, and burn fat as fuel. If you haven't tried that . . . I mean all three components simultaneously, the good news is, you haven't tried "everything," and the thing you missed is the thing that works!

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The following articles might also help:

[ Supportive Eating ]
[ Ephedrine ] [ Ephedrine-Free Formulas ] [ Trim Spa ]
[ Atkins Diet ] [ South Beach Diet ]
[ Phentermine ]
[ Aerobic Exercise and Fat Loss ]
[ The 8 Basic Resistance Training Movements ]
[ The 8 Pitfalls of Exercising and Eating Right ]
Nutrition 101 ]

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