Once you’ve completed the first four steps it is time to examine your diet. From step 3, you should have your RMR. This tells you the minimum amount of calories you’ll need assuming you sit in front of the tv all day and do nothing. This will increase about 30%-50% depending on your activity level. Once you’ve calculated your caloric intake range (RMR + activity level calories or 30%-50%), begin a food journal. The food journal should include:
Time of food intake -
What you’re eating -
Quantity of everything -
Any liquids taken in -
At the end of the day, calculate your caloric intake. Is it in line with what your caloric intake range should be? If it is within that range, decrease your caloric intake by about 250 calories a day. If it is NOT in the range, decrease your caloric intake to be within that range.
We’ve established how much you should eat; now the question is WHAT should you eat? While it’s true, weight loss is calories in vs. calories out, not all calories are created equally. Furthermore, many chemicals added to food (i.e. artificial sweeteners) may not necessarily have calories, but they will change the physiological processes of your body and can potentially lead to future health problems such as migraines, GI problems, and potentially different cancers. Here is a great blog a friend of mine wrote on artificial sweeteners. For a specific meal plan, you should be working closely with a registered dietician. In general, the more natural your foods are the healthier they will be. You should be avoiding simple carbohydrates which the body digests and absorbs very quickly leaving you hungry again. Lean meats, a lot of veggies, and whole grains are fantastic. Fruit is a great way to regulate your blood sugar without eating a Snickers Bar. If you need some variety in your diet, there are online meal plans which can help you plan a menu.
There are 4 macronutrients you need to consider (technically there are 3, but I’m including water).
Protein is used by the body to rebuild and recover. If you’re not getting enough, your body will not be able to stay healthy, rebuild bones, build muscle, heal from injuries..etc. Depending on your goals, your protein intake should be no more than 25% of your overall intake.
Carbohydrates are your body’s energy source. Your body breaks down carbs relatively quickly and allows you to get through the day. There are good carbs and bad carbs . This is based on how quickly your body digests the carb. A good carb is also known as a complex carb and also known as low-glycemic index carb. Bad carbs are simple carbs or high glycemic index carbs. Complex carbs should be about 50% of your daily intake. As a side note, fruits and veggies are good carbs.
Fats are used to coat nerves, help lubricate joints, insulate the body, and keep the skin and arteries supple. Fats are subdivided into saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (dairy and meats). Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (vegetable oils). Saturated fats, due to the extra density, are not healthy. They clog arteries and create health concerns. Unsaturated fats are healthy and should consist of no more than 25% of your daily intake.
Water is used for everything. A majority of the physiological reactions that occur in the human body need either hydrogen or oxygen. By staying properly hydrated you are providing your body with these necessary elements. 60-70 ounces of water a day is a good place to start. On exercise days, this should increase.
Next month, Part 3, Exercise.
Since we’ve discussed the health risks associated with rapid weight loss and weight cycling (see previous blog “Lose Weight Fast”), the next logical question is, “So how do you lose weight in a healthy manner?” This is a multifaceted question which will be answered in several parts.
There are many factors that go into healthy weight loss, but for those who don’t want to read my diatribe, the easy answer is “calories in vs calories out.” Expend more calories during the day than you’re taking in. Weigh yourself periodically and watch the number drop.
The long answer is actually a restructuring of the question. Your goal should be focused on fat loss not weight loss. Weight loss is very general and can (and often does) include loss of lean body mass. Your body is divided into fat mass and lean body mass (LBM); LBM includes muscle, bone, blood, tendons, ligaments, and water. The most common aspects of LBM lost during weight loss are muscle, bone, and water.
There are several steps you should do to begin any fat loss program.
Step 1: Consult with your doctor. There are several medical problems and medicines that may cause weight gain. Your weight loss may be as simple as controlling a medical problem or adjusting current medications.
Step 2: Check your body fat. Many gyms will use something you hold in your hands with your arms fully extended (biostatic impedance). This is accurate within +6%. Some trainers will use body fat calipers to pinch 3 locations on your body to check your body fat. In the hands of a competent trainer, this method is accurate to within + 2-3%. The third most common method is the Bod Pod. It’s a large egg shaped machine that you sit in and it measures air displacement. This is accurate to within + 1.5% - 3%. Why is this important? It will establish your LBM and the amount of fatty tissue on your body. This is used to help set your fat loss goal. It is also used to determine what kind of weight your losing. If your LBM decreases and the fat amount stays the same, it’s time to re-evaluate your methods.
Step 3: Check your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). There are a few different methods to determine your RMR; many include an online formula based on your weight, height, and age. These are extremely general and should be taken with a grain of salt. A more accurate method is to measure the air you’re inhaling and exhaling. This can be done with a large room called a calorimetry room or you can use a small device called a Body Gem or Med Gem. Admittedly, this isn’t 100% necessary, but knowing your RMR will enable you to better determine how often and how much you should eat.
Step 4: Set both long and short term goals. Your goals should be specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, and timely. “I want to lose fat” is a general goal and a great place to start, but break it down even more. How much fat do you want to lose (specific)? Can we measure how much fat you lose (measureable)? Is your goal realistic; is it too easy or too difficult(attainable)? Is this goal something that matters to your overall life and ultimate goal (to be healthy, look good, feel good) (relevant)? How long do you want to take to accomplish this fat loss (timely)?
Stay tuned for Part 2. Examining your diet!
LOSE WEIGHT FAST! There are many diets that make this promise of rapid weight loss such as Atkins, Sacred Heart Diet, and Cabbage Soup Diet. Sure, you may lose weight fast, but research has shown that 65% of people who lose weight fast regain that weight within three years, and only 5% of crash dieters keep the weight off permanently (O'Meara, 2011). How many of these diets have you tried and how many times have you gained back the weight? This weight yo-yo'ing is called Weight Cycling and it can have some nasty consequences on your health and your body. A small weight cycle can be as little as 5-10 pounds while anything greater than 50 pounds is considered a large cycle (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, 2008).
If you’re lucky enough to be part of the 5% who can keep off the weight you lost in your crash diet, you still increase your risk for kidney stones and increase your cravings. These things occur because a majority of the weight lost is water and lean body mass (muscle) during rapid weight loss; when muscle is broken down and excreted, it is filtered through the kidneys. This process increases your risk for kidney stones. Furthermore, recent studies on rapid weight loss have shown that the hormones that regulate appetite become more active causing you to have more cravings and become hungrier.
Since 95% of society will regain the weight and end up cycling, let’s look closely at what it does to your body.
We often hear health and wellness professionals speak about losing weight at a slow (1-2 lb a week) pace, yet people often try to drop 5-10 lbs in a week. Is there truly a health risk associated with this process? In 1996 Jeffrey found weight cycling leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. He also found that maintaining a steady weight, even if it is overweight or obese, is healthier than weight cycling (Jeffrey, 1996). Wow, but cardiovascular disease encompasses quite a bit, right? In 2006, Montani looked more closely at different elements of cardiovascular disease and found weight cycling increased blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol levels, visceral fat (fat deep in the body), blood sugar, and sympathetic nervous system activation (fight or flight). Montani also found that the healthy fats in your body (polyunsaturated fats) were broken down and restructured to be unhealthy fats (saturated) (Montani, 2006).
People who are obese have the ultimate goal to become a healthy weight, but what about people who are already a healthy weight? Why do they want to quickly lose weight and what are the effects of cycling when you’re already at a healthy weight?
Typically, people who weight cycle at an already healthy weight fall into three categories.
Category 1: People with eating disorders
Category 2: People with body image problems (body dysmorophic disorder)
Category 3: Weight class athletes (wrestling, judo, power lifters…etc).
So what are the effects of weight cycling in people with an already healthy body weight? They are the same as in an obese population with a few extra… “perks”. Along with the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, they have the extra benefit of actually slowing down their metabolism making it harder to lose weight (Steen, 1988) (Bennett, 1989) and a decrease in kidney function (Montani, 2006).
These people tend to use dehydration and severe calorie restriction to rapidly lose weight. Both of these affect how well the kidneys work. To bring this full circle, the kidneys are important in regulating your blood pressure and heart rate. The decreased kidney function elevates your risk of cardiovascular problems even more.
The moral of the story is that there is a reason health professionals suggest losing no more than 1-2 lbs a week. Quick fixes don’t work. Proper weight loss though healthy eating and exercise will help you avoid the weight cycling trap. It may be swimsuit season, but it didn’t just magically appear. Try beginning your summer diet even sooner to avoid putting your health at risk.
Bennett, S. W. (1989). Bulimia nervosa and resting metabolic rate.
International Journal of Eating Disorders , 8 (4), 417-424.
Jeffrey, R. (1996). Does weight cycling present a health risk? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (63), 452S-455S.
Montani, J. V. (2006). Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the "repeated overshoot" theory. International Journal of Obesity , 30, s58-s66.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. (2008). Weight Cycling. NIH Publication .
O'Meara, A. (2011, May). The Percentage of People Who Regain Weight After Rapid Weight Loss & Risks. Retrieved from Livestrong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/438395-the-percentage-of-people-who-regain-weight-after-rapid-weight-loss-risks/
Steen, S. O. (1988). Metabolic effects of repeated weight loss and regain in adolescent wrestlers. Journal of American Medical Association , 260, 47-50.
Sumithran, P., Predergast, L., Delbridge, E., Purcell, K., Shulkes, A., Kriketos, A., et al. (2011). Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. New Englad Journal of Medicine (365), 1597-1607.
Sleep is possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of health. It does so much for us and asks so little. How often do we forgo sleep in order to accomplish a task, have fun with friends, watch a movie, or play online? “I only need a few hours of sleep,” we say, but what damage are we actually doing to ourselves? What constitutes good sleep?
There are five stages of sleep, the most important being Stage 5 or Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This is where our dreaming occurs. REM sleep is entered several times during sleep and the amount of time spent in it gets progressively longer.
Sleep is actually our body and mind’s way of resetting and restoring. Without this important reset we enter what is called Sleep Deprivation/Sleep Debt. This is the state in which the amount of sleep gotten is less than the amount of sleep needed. This can be a dangerous state over longer periods. Studies have shown that sleep deprived animals often die after just a few short weeks.
Can missing a few hours of sleep really be all that bad? Sleep debt can cause a wide variety of both mental and physical problems. Minor sleep deprivation can cause drowsiness and decrease alertness, but it can also cause memory loss, the inability to process new information, decreased attention span, and depression. Physically, sleep debt can cause an increase in cortisol release in the body. This can lead to loss of appetite, weight gain, hypertension, and immune system issues.
Sleep is an important part of the lifecycle. It is the restart button on the computer in our skull. While at rest, the body restores and rejuvenates. Simply put, it is the state where the body works to repair and optimize itself. Sleep is the time when we organize and categorize all new information, fights infections, repairs muscular problems, balances our body chemistry and all around reset the foundation of our bodies.
How much sleep do we need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, this can vary across the span of our lives.
Age Sleep Required
Newborns (0-2 months) 10.5-18 hours
Infants (2 months-11 months) 9-11 @ night, ½ hr-2 hr naps 4x daily
Toddler (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
Preschool (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
School (5-12 years) 10-11 hours
Teens (11-17 years) 8.5-9.25 hours
Adults 7-9 hours
Older Adults 7-9 hours
Sleep is just one area of optimal health, but without proper sleep, our physical and cognitive abilities slow down. What’s 2+2? Wouldn’t you hate to have to count on your fingers again?
Crossfit is the best workout ever!!!!!
I’ve heard this too many times to count. For those who are unfamiliar, Crossfit, according to their website is “delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing.” They go on to claim that it has “universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience.”
Crossfit is essentially extreme circuit training designed to metabolically push your body while building either muscular endurance or strength (depending on the workout). It is extremely high intensity. Sounds great, but does this make it the best workout ever?
This would depend entirely on your goals. Ask any fitness professional and they’ll tell you one of the most important aspects of beginning a fitness program is goal-setting. This is how your trainer shapes your workout to meet your wants and needs.
If your goal is general fitness and wellness, and you’ve been cleared by your doctor to participate in a fitness program, Crossfit may be a great option for you. Coaches tell athletes to “leave it all on the field” and that’s exactly what Crossfit does.
Because Crossfit boasts that they’re specialty is NOT specializing, if your goal is more specific than general fitness it might not be the best option for you.
If your goal is to improve in a sport, a more specific fitness regime would be beneficial. If your goal is to deal with joint pain, a more specific fitness regime would be beneficial.
If your goal is improve balance, a more specific fitness regime would be beneficial.
Crossfit is one of the new crazes in fitness. That doesn’t make it the best.
This may sound strange, but Crossfit enthusiasts remind me of a yoga instructor who once told me that, “of course, yoga is the ONLY thing that changes the body’s physiology.” Both forms of fitness have a cult-like following.
The question isn’t is it the best; the question is what the best is FOR YOU.
What does your fitness program look like and why do you like it?