Weight Loss Basics - Can I Lose Weight Just By
you can lose weight just by cutting calories depends. We're often
told that our diets comprise anywhere from 60-80% of our ability
to lose or maintain weight as well as our overall fitness. If we
eat a lot of fat and simple carbohydrates, for instance, we often
eventually pay a price. So there is a relationship between diet
and body composition, but whether or not just cutting calories will
be enough for you to lose weight is dependent on a number of factors,
some of which you can manage, such as various aspects of your diet,
and others you can't, such as your genetics.
Our diets should contain six essential macro and micro nutrients.
Each day, we have to feed our bodies carbohydrates, fats, proteins,
water, vitamins and minerals. While carbohydrates, fats, proteins,
and water are macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are micronutrients.
Micronutrients are only needed in small amounts. Nevertheless, they
are essential for normal metabolism, electrolyte balance, and growth.
Macronutrients supply us with energy. Energy is measured in calories
and is essential for the body to grow, repair old tissues, such
as muscles, and develop new tissues, conduct nerve impulses and
regulate body temperature.
All fat and all carbohydrates are not bad for us. When eaten in
moderation, good fats, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats,
like the kind found in avocados, salmon, walnuts, sardines, and
mackerel, helps to lower our low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (bad
type of cholesterol) and overall cholesterol levels and to lower
our chances of getting heart disease and colon cancer, and they
keep us satiated. Many of the foods mentioned above contain omega-3
fatty acids. Trans fats, and other manmade fats, are the ones that
clog our arteries, raise our blood pressures, LDL cholesterol and
our disease risk. Saturated fat, animal fat, contributes to heart
disease and raise LDL cholesterol, but, contrary to belief, it cannot
harden inside a 98.6 degree body, and it is believed that it also
contributes to good or HDL cholesterol.
carbohydrates are sugars, like the kind found in candy, soda, and
fruit (yes, fruit) and it adds very little, but calories to our
diets. Fruit does contain unhealthy sugar, but it can be healthy
for most people if eaten in small amounts. For one thing, many fruits
contain a high amount of fiber or micronutrients, such as Vitamins
C and E or the minerals, zinc or potassium, for instance. But most
simple carbohydrates, like many candies, tend to be devoid of enough
nutrients to justify their calorie contents. They also activate
the "reward circuit" of our brains, tricking the pleasure
centers of our brains into addiction. That creates a vicious cycle
that can easily lead to weight gain. Carbohydrates, however, complex,
fibrous carbohydrates are needed in our diets, because they, like
monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower our LDL and overall
cholesterol and our risk of colon cancer and can make us feel full
longer. That helps us to manage our appetites.
In terms of satiation, fat holds us the longest, followed by protein.
Carbohydrates, largely because of the simple carbohydrates, come
in last. The reason why eating a lot of fats and carbohydrates,
for instance, is not encouraged as a weight loss method is simple:
You can get too much of a good thing. Can you say, diarrhea, for
instance. Fat also contains 9 calories per gram while both carbohydrates
and proteins contain only 4 calories per gram. So although some
fats can be good for you, fat is also highly caloric.
The USDA recommends that we get about 20-35% of our calories
each day from fat, 45-65% from carbohydrates, 10-35%
from protein. The reason why there is a range is because our dietary
needs vary depending on the type of activity in which we are normally
engaged. A bodybuilder needs a different breakdown of macronutrients
(and possibly micronutrients) than a distance runner does. The bodybuilder
needs a high amount of protein, a medium amount of carbohydrates,
and a low amount of fats. Endurance athletes (runners, bikers, swimmers)
need a high amount of carbohydrates, a medium amount of protein
and a low amount of fat. Most people need a higher amount of fat
than both bodybuilders and endurance athletes, although no one needs
a high amount.
Almost all hormones - insulin, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone,
hemoglobin (blood protein) - is composed of protein. And enzymes
are. Enzymes are involved in homeostasis and they help to stabilize
every chemical reaction in our bodies (regulate our appetites, thyroid
activity, bowels, muscle contractions).
To lose weight, I've seen various recommendations, such as carbohydrates,
proteins and fats should be eaten in a ratio of 50%, 30% and 20%.
Mypyramid.gov also suggests that half of the grains we eat each
day, which are usually carbohydrates, should be whole grains (whole
wheat, quinoa, barley, oats). Because we digest whole grains slowly
(they take more effort for our bodies to breakdown), they do not
spike our blood sugar levels. Spiking causes blood sugar levels
to rise and then fall quickly. Low blood sugar causes hunger. Simple
carbohydrates cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, then a sudden
To find the right combination of macro and micro nutrients for
you, it's best to consult a registered dietitian. At the very least,
visit ChooseMyPlate.gov which is the USDA web site where you can
get an idea about what the dietary recommendations are for you.
Yes, for you. Just like everything else, when it comes to fitness,
diet also has to be individualized. You can meet the USDA recommendations
while customizing meals and meal times to satisfy your tastes and
schedule. Eating small frequent meals works for some people, but
not for all. It never worked for me. I have to have one fairly large
meal per day to feel like I've eaten, to feel satiated. I've found
that I can put together a satisfying and large breakfast for about
400-450 calories. So if you find that one recommendation does not
work, try another. The right way is the way that works for you.
is what I've found, diet is a very important component of weight
loss, but its value, as the most important component, decreases
as we age. Here's an example. When I was 28 years old, I went on
a Haagen-Dazs diet and gained about twenty pounds in a few months
(I was already about 15 pounds overweight when I gained that weight).
I vowed to take it back off, and I did without much hardship.
I cut 500 calories per day from my diet and walked around San Francisco's
Embarcadero Center for about a half hour each day during my lunch
hour from Monday through Friday. I dropped 25 pounds in about two
and a half months.
Fast forward nearly 25 years. Over the years, I had gained the
25 pounds back and then some. But a strange thing happened when
I tried to use my old method of weight loss. I couldn't. Doing what
I did in the past was against my dietitian's advice. Women need
at least 1,200 calories per day, I was told. When less than 1,200
calories are consumed, we have a difficult time getting enough micronutrients.
When I was 28 years old, I had a resting metabolic rate (RMR) of
about 1,850. Resting metabolic rate is a measure of how many calories
we burn while at rest (our lungs, hearts, livers and kidneys burn
calories). As a 50 year old, I had a RMR of about 1,350, and that
was likely because I was exercising. Exercise raises metabolism.
Other women my age and size, who are fairly sedentary, have RMRs
of about 1,100. So I had an RMR that burned an amount of calories
that was already deemed to be below the amount required for health.
Meaning at age 50, I had to exercise to keep from gaining weight
when eating the minimum recommended number of calories. While going
over the number of calories we need by just 50 to 100 calories per
day does not seem like a lot, over the course of one year that number
of calories adds up to a 5-10 pound weight gain. One pound is equal
to 3,500 calories.
The point is that I couldn't cut 500 calories from my diet to lose
weight. I had to exercise and exercise a lot. What that says is
that exercise plays a bigger role in overall fitness as we age.
Getting in the habit when we're younger wouldn't hurt. Plus, see
how much more difficult it is to lose weight as we age? We still
need to watch our diets, partly because we have to do more than
younger people to burn calories and partly because we are what we
eat. We need the correct balance of macro and micro nutrients, because
they support life.
Our metabolisms decrease as we age, partly because muscle loss
accelerates, and muscle is more metabolically active than fat. But
exactly what causes the breakdown is a mystery. Does our ability
to process macro and micro nutrients become less efficient and,
therefore, our bodies become less able to regulate hormones and
enzymes? No one knows for sure yet. That answer may be the fountain