by Paul M. Carhart
With Thanksgiving and then the Christmas holiday season coming upon us, I thought this might be an appropriate topic. - Ed.
I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my adult life. I’ve never fully conquered the beast, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.
A Little Goes a Long Way
First, combat an increasing waistline by simply cutting back. Instead of two cheeseburgers, get one. Eat slower if you must. If you normally order the large french fries, get a medium or even a small. Round out your meal with roughage. At family functions, belay the second helping. Three cookies? How about savor just one?
Action. Movement. It always works. Whether you do aerobics or you’re running down the street, getting your body moving and blood pumping not only burns calories and fat while you’re doing it, but keeping at it consistently (say 4-5 times a week) will raise your metabolism so your body continues burning away the bad stuff during every day life. Even on non-work out days, you can maintain an active lifestyle. There are plenty of fun active things to do. Biking. Tennis. Hiking. Sex. You get the picture. If you sweat, you’ll lose. Which means you win!
Low Fat = Low Flab
I can tell you from experience that a low fat diet will work. After all, if you control the amount of fat you take in, you will by default control the amount of fat that is added to your frame. Right? Provisionally so. You see, in a low fat regimen, you’re counting fat grams. It doesn’t matter how much sugar you eat. Under this mindset, frosted flakes, chocolate syrup and your favorite cola turn out to be low fat foods. Sugar is not by definition fat. But sugar will turn into fat if it isn’t burned off. So a low fat diet really only works in conjunction with a good exercise program. Together though, they’re a powerful one-two punch to your gut.
The Lowdown on Low Carb
Popularized by Atkins (The Zone and The South Beach Diet are also variations on the low carb diet), the basic theory is that the body burns two types of fuel: carbs first and then, when you’re out of carbs, fat. The idea is that most people eat so many carbs (sugar, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) that they never get around to burning fat. And if they don’t burn the carbs, those turn to fat too which is what causes the increase. If you eat enough less carbs, your body will revert to burning fat (a state known as ketosis). In this scenario, your body is burning fat at all times. Can you actually lose weight by chomping cheeseburgers (sans the bun) and guacamole (sans the chips) for dinner? String cheese in the morning? Pepperoni snacks? Eggs galore? The answer is yes. And even though vegetables are technically carbs, the greener they are the more fiber is in their make-up. And you can subtract fiber grams from the carb intake! The big enemy here is refined sugar. According to the Atkins book (which really has a far better explanation as to why the low carb diet works), refined sugar provides zero benefit to the body. But these instant carbs will throw your body back into carb-burning mode. If you have a sweet tooth, there are low carb alternatives that are surprisingly tasty thanks to sugar alcohol (too much will give you the runs though) and the aspartame-free Splenda sweetener. I can testify. It does work. Atkins defends the diet as healthy but I suspect only time will tell how healthy the low carb diet really is.
Snacks Are Your Friend… Sometimes
It’s better to snack a little throughout the day than to binge on treats at night. A few nuts or grapes can go a long way. Just don’t snack after eight o’clock. It’s okay to be a little hungry when you hit the hay. Let breakfast take care of that.
The key is to stick with what works for you. It’s persistence that ultimately pays off.
Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, August 2009. Stay up to date: paulcarhart.com.