Four Ways to win over fat reduction
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DO NOT hate your fat cells. They are wonderful. They are designed for an important function. They make fat from sugar and fatty acids. If they need more room for storage space, they expand. If they need still more, they make new cells and fill them with fat. They are marvels at storing energy in the form of fat. It’s their specialty. In one pound they can store 3,500 calories, though the liver can pack only 250 calories in a pound of its energy-storage medium, glycogen.
Fat cells receive and obey signals. They cushion vital organs. They release their energy upon demand, supplying it as fuel for the body’s working cells. At times they receive emergency signals and spring into action. When sent life-threatening messages, they take lifesaving measures. They start hoarding their fat, holding it in reserve for the impending crisis.
It is now clear that fat plays an important, though incompletely understood role, in the body’s immune system. Fat cells can receive a false message and misinterpret it as a crisis; a crash diet may send fat cells the same message as would famine or starvation. Instead of fat breaking down, it is actually conserved, curtailing the release of calories to a trickle. But the fat cells have no way of knowing the difference. They react as they were designed to react. They hoard their energy for what they foresee as a future and more crucial need than the present. Parents magazine for March 1987 offers a possible explanation: “The more often you diet—the more frequently your body senses you’re gearing up for a famine—the more resistant the fat cells become to releasing their precious commodity.”
The body intervenes to cope with the current crisis by turning muscle into glucose—the brain must have its glucose or the whole organism will close shop! But you do not want to lose muscle; you want to lose fat. Crash diets are not the winning way. Then what is? The winning ways, plural, are: the right food, at the right time, in the right amount, with the right kind of exercise—and the right mental attitude. The dieter himself must be in the driver’s seat. Whether you reach your goal or not is up to you.
The Right Food
Foods high in calories and low in nutrients are not the right foods for weight reduction. Fats and simple sugars are loaded with calories but empty of nourishment. The right foods for both weight control and nourishment are the more complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables; the preferable meats are fish and fowl.
“Another basic approach to weight loss,” we are told by The Encyclopedia of Common Diseases, “should be to eliminate everything from your diet that is not a whole, nutritious, non-processed, natural food. In addition to food energy . . . your body constantly needs protein, fats, minerals and vitamins in optimum amounts to participate in body processes and to repair and renew body cells. When you eat whole foods [nonprocessed food complexes], you can be pretty confident that you’re getting necessary nutrients and not ‘empty’ calories.”
The Right Time
The right time is not while watching television. The incessant nibbling goes on for hours, perhaps consisting of greasy potato chips or French fries, cookies or desserts loaded with sugar, with uncounted empty calories mounting into the hundreds—so hard to stop the snacking since fats and salt add flavor to food and sugar delights our sweet tooth!
Some nutritionists are now “coming around to the conviction that the body has less tendency to accumulate fat deposits if meals are eaten more frequently and served in smaller portions—without a reduction in the daily food intake. They have also found that the meal which is most important and should therefore make the largest caloric contribution to a person’s day is breakfast.”
The Right Amount
Eat a variety and eat enough. You have learned what will happen if you panic the fat cells by stingy eating! On a weight-loss experiment, rats were given only one meal a day. During the study, their enzymes responsible for depositing fat increased tenfold. The report said: “It was as if their bodies were saying, ‘The minute more food comes along, I’m ready to lay down extra fat just in case this stress happens to me again!’”
So “if you have to diet, don’t make the mistake of fasting or eating just one meal a day (essentially a 23-hour fast).” Be content to lose slowly, a pound or even a half pound a week. You took a long time to put the fat on; give your body time to take it off. So eat enough to keep your fat cells relaxed and even willing to contribute a few of their own calories to the cause. But don’t get gluttonous. Enough is enough!
And with the passage of time, less is enough. As we get older, muscle cells decline and fat cells take their place. Since the lean body mass requires the largest portion of energy, with its decline energy needs decline and metabolism slows down. If food intake does not decline accordingly, fat accumulates. And if older people exercise less—as they usually do—still more food goes to fat. But one researcher says, “You can exercise the intramuscular fat away.” And remember, a good dietary effort can be nullified by binging from time to time.
The Right Exercise
Scientist Covert Bailey says in his book Fit or Fat?: “The ultimate cure for obesity is exercise! . . . It is a simple fact that those who exercise aerobically on a regular schedule do not get fat. If I were offering a pill to decrease the tendency of the body to make fat, fat people would be lining up to buy it. I am offering such a pill; it takes just 12 minutes a day to swallow it!” Most data, however, shows that at least 20 minutes is required before aerobic benefits occur.
The exercise Bailey has in mind is aerobics—sustained movement that gets the heart to pump at a fast rate, thereby supplying copious amounts of oxygen to the body for burning fat. Typical exercises in this category are jogging, rope skipping, bicycling, and brisk walking. Before undertaking such an exercise program, however, it is advisable to consult a doctor for direction. Exercise is prescribed by most researchers in weight reduction, as the following statements show.
The slowed metabolic rate “that normally occurs when individuals are on low-energy diets may be prevented or reduced by incorporating physical activity into the program.”—The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The consensus among weight-loss specialists is that a regular routine of exercise is one key [a major one] to weight reduction and maintenance. A good cardiovascular workout increases the body’s resting metabolism for as long as fifteen hours afterward, which means more calories will be burned even after you stop.”—Parents magazine.
“In any effective weight control program, exercise is essential. Regularity of exercise is more important than intensity.”—Conn’s Current Therapy.
“Exercise changes us. It increases the metabolic rate, increases the amount of muscle, raises the level of calorie-consuming enzymes inside the muscle, and increases the burning of fats. . . . It can also be shown that physically fit people have slightly elevated metabolism. Even when they are at rest fit people burn more calories than fat people do.”—Fit or Fat?
After warning that excess weight is a killer because of heart disease and high blood pressure, the good news: “One comforting fact: the damaging effect of overweight is reversible when the weight is trimmed,” says The Encyclopedia of Common Diseases.
“The sad thing,” Bailey says, “about the grossly obese people who often claim they would do anything, absolutely anything, to lose weight is that they refuse to do the one thing that will do them some good. They refuse real exercise.”
Little wonder fat is so pervasive when we realize that the body can make fat out of protein, out of carbohydrate, and out of dietary fat. “Almost everything you eat,” Bailey says, “if it can be digested at all, can be converted to fat.” Fast-weight-loss diets change body chemistry so that “you have a fat person’s chemistry. Your tendency to get fat is greater than when you started!”
A certain set of enzymes is needed for the burning of fats. If you do not have these fat-burning enzymes, “you are going to get fat. Enzymes will increase only if you stimulate the DNA by exercise and if you eat enough that there will be amino acids available for biosynthesis,” says Bailey.
At times muscles need sudden bursts of energy, increasing the demand fiftyfold in a split second. To get it, they must have enzymes capable of metabolizing the energy sources. Only in muscle cells are such enzymes to be found—special enzymes with this capacity to burn calories so fast. Ninety percent of all the calories burned in the body are burned in muscles. These enzymes are found in the mitochondria scattered throughout muscle cells, and during exercise they promote the burning of fats in muscle tissue to supply energy.
Concerning these enzymes, Fit or Fat? says: “It has been shown repeatedly that steady aerobic exercise actually causes an increase in the number and size of mitochondria in each muscle cell. Further biochemical studies have confirmed that, with exercise, there is an increase in metabolizing enzymes inside those mitochondria.” Aerobics makes it happen; without it fat happens.
The December 15, 1988, Boardroom Reports extols the virtues of exercise: “Physical inactivity doubles the risk of heart attack, and researchers classify sedentary people in the same high-risk category for heart attacks as smokers and people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.” It adds that “carrying weights while jogging or walking greatly increases the health benefits of exercise.” The recommendation is to start with half-pound weights, and exaggerate arm movements.
Spot the triggers that start you eating when you shouldn’t. Know the excuses you use to weaken your good resolves. Say no to them immediately! Reject them angrily!
Develop the will to win! Know what you have to do, and do it! Eat the right things in the right amounts and trust your body to put them to the right use. The body is very adaptable. It adapts to the rare atmosphere of mountain heights by making more red blood cells to carry oxygen—but it takes time. It adapts to exposure to a hot sun by adding more melanin to the skin to protect from ultraviolet rays—but it takes time. And it will adapt to sustained exercise by making the enzymes needed to burn more fats for energy—but it takes time.
So be patient. It took time to gain weight; give yourself time to lose it. Move toward your goal step-by-step. Small daily successes in eating and exercising turn what was first a chore into a habit, and soon the flywheel of habit will propel you smoothly along to your image of the new you! Win the war, lose the fat, and cherish the victory!