Friday, June 27, 2014

A Calorie is Not Just a Calorie

Does this sound familiar? You want to lose weight so you buy into an established program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Or you buy yourself yet another dieting book, perhaps the latest craze everyone is talking about. Conventional diets have you counting calories: not only what you consume but how much you  presumably expend during exercise. You measure portion sizes according to some pictures, the size of your hand, or even pre-made plates they sell you. The stress rises from all the attention to detail and attempts at perfection.

You do lose weight initially. It seems all "diets" lead to some weight loss in the first few weeks. What happens then? You plateau. No matter how hard you exercise and how much attention you pay to your food portions and avoidance of fats, you can't seem to make the same inroads any longer. So you stop counting calories, maybe unconsciously  at first. Your metabolism has slowed on the calorie-restricted diet and now established eating patterns result in increased weight and fat deposition. Now you are heavier than when you started. What to do next? Of course: try the latest dieting fad. The cycle repeats itself.

What if I told you counting calories and fat-restricted diets are things of the past? That the added stress of counting calories consumed and expended increases cortisol levels which in turn increases fat deposition? That there are ways to lose fat and tone muscles that allow you to eat all you want of the correct, nutritious foods?

There are. I lived it myself.

In February of 2012, I weighed-in at a whopping 220 pounds, 45 pounds heavier than my college graduate weight. We had Dolphin Therapy for Jon coming up in March and I wanted to lose some of my rolly-polliness so I started practicing what I had been preaching to my patients for the last 2 years. I attacked the problem in two ways: jump-starting my weight loss with the 2 week "induction" phase of the Atkins Diet. I knew it would work since I made astounding progress on it when I was training for a body building contest in 1997. I then followed that with the Wheat Belly Diet, devised and written by my friend and cardiologist Dr. William Davis. I also monitored my body fat, cholesterol levels, and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels. CRP is a generalized measurement of acute inflammation. Chronically elevated levels of inflammation are associated with cardiovascular disease among other things:
                   "Recent research suggests that patients with elevated basal levels of CRP are at an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease."

Six weeks into the program I had lost 30 pounds. My total cholesterol level had dropped from 220 to 187. My body fat had decreased from 30% to 22%. And I never went hungry. Admittedly, the Atkins part of the regime was rigorous. The Wheat Belly part is just fun. Discovering new ways to prepare wheat- and gluten-free meals appealed to my inner Chef.

This is the gist of the program that I advocate for all my clients, friends, and relatives. There are obviously more details that I will explore in later posts. But for now, please consider buying or borrowing these two books. Learn that "diet" refers to a lifestyle (not THE Lifestyle which I will talk about some time later) and that you can enjoy eating sanely and nutritionally.

And stop counting calories: it's not healthy.

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