During the last five years, the World Health Organization has repeatedly raised the alarm over the rising incidence of obesity and the associated health risks that come with it.
In fact, excess body fat has been elevated to the category of a major health risk factor along with the ravages of heart disease and cancer. So little wonder that fat loss is on our minds.
The incidence of obesity is doubling every five years. Even worse is the estimate that up to 20 percent of school-age children are obese – not just overweight.
We blame all of the lifestyle vices like poor physical activity habits, excess television viewing, too much Web surfing, too many video games, and junk-food addiction and other poor nutritional habits.
Unfortunately, too many people are not willing to change these “lifestyle” habit but are willing to buy into “quick fix” procedures designed to allegedly remove body fat overnight.
There are no quick and easy remedies to this problem. It all lies in LIFESTYLE, and is based on some refutable arithmetic and biochemistry.
One pound of fat contains 3500 calories. To gain one pound of fat, you have eaten a surplus of 3500 calories (calories not spent in daily work output).
In order to lose that pound of fat you must create a 3500 calorie deficit. (Burn more than you eat)
The exception to this arithmetic occurs when you follow a “Ketogenic” diet (like Atkins or Protein Power) – very high in protein and very low in carbohydrate.
Ketogenic diets produce and cause you to expel Ketone bodies (the result of incomplete metabolism of fat) that still contain calories. Therefore, fat can be lost that is not accounted for in energy expenditure.
Although Ketogenic diets are not really dangerous, there are nutritional imbalances requiring lots of supplements and these programs are difficult to follow, often produce temporary results and are usually accompanied by bad breath and body odor (Ketones don’t smell nice).
All of that said, fat loss is a simple process but you must be patient. The fat was not deposited overnight – do not expect it to disappear overnight.
The entire issue deals with insulin control and lactic acid control.
Insulin is the “storage hormone” produced in response to a rise in blood sugar and responsible for removing sugar (glucose - the digestive product of all carbohydrates) from the blood.
If you don’t produce enough insulin – you die but if you over produce, you become obese or very resistant and other health problems arise like Type II Diabetes.
Once the glycogen (storage form of sugar) levels in the muscles and liver are satisfied, the remainder is converted to fat and stored as tri-glycerides in the body fat.
If you are inactive, the glycogen stores tend to remain full so fat storage become prevalent.
Chronic high carbohydrate consumption leads to chronically elevated levels of insulin.
While insulin is elevated you CANNOT burn fat, you will be hungry, the liver will produce more cholesterol, tri-glycerides will be high and you risk many inflammatory conditions like asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, and migraines.
So if you wish to feel healthy and by the way lose fat if you need to, control the insulin.
Under normal circumstances of sitting, standing and walking, unless you just ate or drank some carbohydrates, up to 85% of your energy is coming from fat.
Fat is the energy source of choice in a resting body. Even during a marathon 50% of you energy comes from fat.
The more you exercise the more fat you burn. The more you control your insulin, the less fat you store.
However, the 3500 calorie deficit rule still applies. If you followed a 1,000/day calorie diet, creating a 200-500 calorie/day deficit, it would take 7 – 17 days to lose a pound of fat.
If you added 400 calories of daily exercise (approximately 3 miles equivalent) you could lose one more pound per week.
It is advised that exercise be at “conversational” intensity to avoid producing lactic acid.
Lactic acid, a product of high intensity exercise, also inhibits the mobilization of fat for energy.
So, you ask, how do people lose 20 pounds in one month or 300 pounds in one year (actual published testimonials)?
The answer is – I am not sure but I do know that most of such rapid weight loss is not fat. It is lean tissue – muscle (it take less that 1,000 Calories to burn a pound of muscle) and to a small degree it will be water and excess waste stored on the colon.
In many other columns on this subject I have urged people to do the math when it comes to weight loss.
A loss of two pounds per week, if you are diligently exercising, should make you happy because you did it the healthy way and it will become your lifestyle.
Remember that your current weight is a product of and supported by your lifestyle. To change your weight, change your lifestyle.
There are no “magic bullet” solutions.
Dr. L. Lee Coyne, the Healthy Professor, is a nutritional consultant, lecturer and author of Fat Won't Make You Fat and the LeanSeekers nutrition program.