Picture this: A woman (we'll call her Bernice) has been asked to be a bridesmaid at a Peoria wedding just four months away. Bernice wants to look fabulous in her dress, but she currently weighs 15 pounds more than her target weight. She wants to lose the pounds, but there's no time to exercise. She sits at a desk all day at work. After a half hour commute across Peoria, she still has to get dinner ready and the kids in bed. Time is a vanishing commodity. Desperate to lose those pounds quickly, Bernice changes her diet, consuming fewer and fewer calories, drinking smoothies and vegetable juices, staying away from pastas, breads, and meats.
Four months go by. Bernice steps on a scale, looking down at the readout nervously. She's amazed! She hit her target weight! She lost all fifteen pounds just by changing her diet!
But she still doesn't fit into that dress quite right. And, after the wedding, Bernice returns to her previous diet (she can't go another day without chicken and pasta!) and finds that the pounds fly back on.
There's an old mantra that weight loss is based on both diet and exercise. And it turns out that there's a very solid physiological reason for it.
Your body uses a few different types of fuel. It can burn sugar, it can burn fat, and if it doesn't have any excess sugar or fat, it can actually burn muscle tissue. In addition, even if extra fat stores are present, the body burns muscle tissue if the muscle isn't being used. When Bernice reduced her caloric intake, she was actually depriving her body of necessary starches and fats. Her body made the proper decision: it broke down her unused muscles for fuel. Bernice lost weight, to be sure, but the weight she lost was muscle weight, not excess fat.
But this is a Catch-22. The human body uses the muscles to burn fuel, which means that the more fit and toned the muscles are, the more fuel can be used. When Bernice started to consume her normal diet again, she didn't have much muscle left to burn all those new calories. Her body again did the appropriate thing: the "extra" fat and sugar was stored in the form of fat.
By using a "starvation" diet for a few months, Bernice actually caused herself to gain extra fat and lose the very muscle which ought to burn that fat. She's now in worse health than when she started her diet.
What should she have done?
Simple cardiovascular exercises, such as walking with hand-held weights just 15 minutes a day. Since Bernice sits at work all day and in the car, she needs to keep her muscles active somehow. Even a daily vacuuming regimen at the office or mowing the yard would keep her muscles active and prevent wasting. Bernice would then have been able to alter her diet slightly (but not radically), and still been able to lose those 15 pounds in time. The best changes are the simple ones. Radical changes usually result in unintended consequences, as Bernice discovered.
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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