Let’s admit it, most of us are carrying around plenty of extra weight that has increased as we’ve aged and our metabolism has changed. Not only are these extra pounds unsightly as we view ourselves in the mirror, but weight gain can lead to various health problems if left unchecked.
Rather than focusing on body weight, it is more important to know your body composition. A couple of years ago I hired a fitness trainer who weighed the same as me, however her weight was composed of far less fat and more dense muscle mass than my own. Weight alone does not tell the whole story. If we hope to enjoy health benefits and look better, we need to focus on the amount of fat within our bodies.
How much fat is OK?
Women should have between 12-23% body fat. You're in the healthy range at 24-32% but classified as obese with 32% or greater. To get an estimate of your body fat you can buy a scale at your local department store that works through bioelectrical impedance analysis but you don't get an accurate measurement and it changes with how hydrated you are. A simpler method is to pay attention to how your clothes fit and take bimonthly circumference measurements of your body using a sewing tape measure.
Measurements of your body should be done by placing the tape measure on bare skin and measuring to the nearest 1/8 inch. When taking chest measurements, maintain consistency by measuring on the exhale.
- chest (around under arms, above breasts)
- chest (around ribs, under breasts)
- 1 inch below belly button
- hips (around largest part of buttocks and pubic bone)
The risk of negative health effects is greater for those carrying fat higher in the abdomen. The more body fat, the greater the risk of disease. The good news is if you eat a healthy diet, build strength through weight resistance and involve yourself in cardio exercise, you will see changes in body composition. It will show on the tape measure.
Here’s the truth …
Losing fat is not easy. You’re going to have to do things differently. There are no quick or easy fixes. Your body and mind will try to resist your efforts.
Metabolism is the total energy we need to live. Sixty-five to 70% of this energy is used at rest when we breathe, digest, etc. We need at least 1200 calories for resting metabolism. Thirty to 35% of calories consumed are burned by our physical activity each day or stored as fat. To lose stored fat we need to burn more calories than we consume either by eating less or increasing metabolism (or both).
- Building muscle increases our resting metabolism. One pound of extra muscle burns
up to 50 extra calories per day! Pick up those weights and build muscle mass!
- In studies comparing methods for reducing body fat, it is the combination of cardio
and weight resistance that produces the best results.
You can't out train a bad diet
No matter how much you exercise, a bad diet will cause you to lose the battle. Most trainers say that nutrition is 80% of success! There has to be a caloric deficit to lose weight. Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. That's a whole lot of exercise!!! Think instead of losing 1 pound per week by cutting 500 calories from your typical daily diet.
Here are some trades you can make:
- Love mixed nuts? Eat pistachios instead, shelling them will slow down the snacking.
- Don’t eat in front of the TV, eat at the table instead, then trade 1 hour of TV for
- Limit salad toppings and dressing. Cheese crumbles, caramelized nuts, bacon,
avocado, dried fruit, croutons and vinaigrettes can add calories.
- Swap a 12-inch plate for a 10-inch plate. You’ll eat 20-25% less.
- Count your chips and crackers instead of eating them out of the bag. Stick to 1
serving, which is usually 15 chips.
- Leave serving dishes in the kitchen. Placing platters and bowls of food on the table
invite people to go back for seconds.
- Eat less pasta. One cup is 220 calories but typical dinner portions at restaurants can be much larger.
- Leave 25% of your food on the plate at every meal. Save what's remaining as
leftovers for the next day.
- Watch the hidden sugar. It is everywhere and disguised by various ingredient names.
- Plan your meals for the week. Create your grocery list from the plan. Come home
from the grocer and prep vegetables for the week.
- Kick the soda habit!
- Before lunch and dinner, enjoy 1 cup of low calorie soup (I usually keep a pot of hearty vegetable soup in my refrigerator).
- Eat fresh vegetables. The fiber fills your stomach, lessening your appetite.
- Pay attention to serving sizes on labels.
- Never skip a meal. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, enjoy a morning and
- Trade oil for broth when cooking vegetables.
- Eat whole foods, they have more nutrition and bulk.
- Eat a diet of low carb and high protein (protein keeps you fuller).
- Keep hydrated, water helps suppress appetite.
In review …
Fat loss requires these three:
- cardio exercise (60-80% of your maximum heart rate)
- weight resistance
- management of caloric intake
I welcome your questions or comments. Simply click “Contact” on the Menu Bar.