The human body has a control system, that makes us hungry when we need to eat, and satisfied when we've had enough. We call this control mechanism an "appestat". It used to do a pretty good job. However, recently we find that 33% of children and 66% of adults in the U.S. are overweight. It seems that many of us are doing something to "fool" our appestats.
There are two basic reasons why dieting is so hard:
However, if we keep the excess weight for some months, it becomes extremely difficult to lose. It seems that our appestat resets itself; it becomes determined that we keep that excess weight.
When you begin to diet, your body tries to help you out. It notices less food coming in, so it tries to conserve. It digests food more efficiently. Even though you are eating less, you may absorb just as many calories from your food.
If you cutback more sharply, you may become tired. Your body will save fuel by lowering your metabolic rate. You'll feel tired. The remedy -- exercise. Exercise every day. This will rev up your metabolism, so that you burn more food for hours after you have finished exercising. You'll have energy, and feel much better.
Yo-yo dieting is not good for your body. It is said to be worse for you than not dieting in the first place.
Thus the first step in dieting should be to begin maintaining your weight.
You can do this by eating just enough so that you don't go around hungry. You should do this over a period of time, so that your stomach has time to shrink, if it needs to, and so that you learn to like the (perhaps) new foods you are eating.
Eventually you will stop craving high calorie food. When you've reached the point that you don't want to eat more than you need, you are finally ready to diet.
Begin to increase your exercise level over the next several weeks. Choose several types of exercise that you enjoy. This will not only burn calories while you are exercising, but will increase your metabolism, so that you burn more calories for the next several hours. The goal is to feel good -- better than you have in a while.
Only a very muscular athlete exercising for hours a day will use that much. Most of us eat only about half that much in a day (if we're not pigging out), and we will really notice it if we run a calorie deficit of 10%, or about 200 calories.
Remember that losing the weight faster isn't going to get the pain over with. You still have to keep it off, and the faster you lose, the longer you will stay hungry after the loss. Ninety per cent of diets don't result in yo yo syndrome for nothing.
We tend to think that our weight is affected only by our body fat, but this is not true. A number of things affect body weight.
First of all weight varies with the time of day. You probably weigh least first thing in the morning. And clothes can weigh 2 to 5 pounds.
Crash dieters, who practically quit eating for a few days, can lose a few pounds by emptying out their small intestine, which was mostly full of fluid anyway. This is not helpful. It comes quickly back when eating is resumed.
Quite a few people retain excess fluids due to eating too much salt. Cutting back on salt and drinking plenty of water can cause them to lose one to several pounds. This is a good thing.
Healthy fit bodies are a bit more dense than fat ones. This shows up as more weight on the scale, but as a smaller clothing size.
Finally we come to body fat. Weight gain and loss can sometimes be due to changes in the amount of body fat. However such changes tend to be slow. Losing weight is especially slow.
Copyright July 2005, 2006 by Nancy E. Knox
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