COLUMN – The battle of the bulge
We’re just two weeks into the New Year, and some of us are still regretting our Christmas splurge on those high calorie delights that have left behind that annoying lingering bulge and a fresh resolution to lose weight. It’s everyone’s wish to have the perfect body weight, and, according to fitness professional and Little League Gym owner William Beckles, it’s worth the effort –– and does not entail crash diets and extreme lifestyle changes.
“We make weight loss much more difficult than it needs to be,” he tells Health Today.
“There are lots of benefits. It lessens the risk of hypertension, diabetes, stress, heart disease and strokes –– not to mention it improves your mobility.”
Still he advises that rather than focus on losing weight, Barbadians should simply decide to develop a healthier lifestyle.
“I don’t like people to focus on weight loss; it’s a lifestyle change that you have to go after, because weight loss is one of the smaller benefits of living well.
“You might lose a couple pounds and then you stop doing what you were doing, be it exercise or eating healthy. But guess what: the weight comes back on.”
Beckles says there’s no mistaking the high interest in shedding extra pounds, especially among women; but he cautions that too many people are not doing it the best way.
“You can exercise as much as you want, but your diet is very, very important. And some people tend not to change their diet and thereby the results are very little. Your diet is very important; you want to avoid high fat foods, your sugars. You want to avoid bread and stuff like that; that will help you to reduce your caloric intake.”
Even more so, Beckles warns that crash diets will not produce lasting results and can sometimes lead to greater setbacks.
“Fad diets do work for a short time; but let’s be honest with ourselves, how many of us can realistically eat 800 calories a day for an extended period of time? How many people can go on a soup diet for a year? These are not realistic things that one can do every day.
“You cut your regular eating habits, and you go on these diets and these pills; and, yes, weight comes off. But you cannot eat like that for the rest of your life. So whenever you go back to your regular eating, the body gets confused and it will hoard body fat –– not to mention that with a lot of these things you will lose muscle tissue and not necessarily body fat, because the body will protect itself as far as the heart, the lungs, the liver, the kidney, and so on.
“And fat is needed for these functions; for warmth as well. So after a while, you find that you start to feed off your muscle tissue. That is why you find people who lose weight rapidly, their skin looks loose and saggy because the muscle tissue is being dissipated. So you must be very careful when you are going on these types of diet.”
Beckles also points out that quick weight loss is not realistic or recommended.
“The safe way to lose weight is one to two pounds a week . . . . Weight loss takes time; you don’t lose weight overnight. Most people figure that if you go to the gym, in two or three weeks you will lose weight. It doesn’t work so.
“What might happen is that initially you might see a five-pound, six-pound loss in the first month. The majority is actually water weight that comes off. The same time you take to put your weight on is the same time it will take for your weight to come off.”
Beckles adds that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to achieve the right weight, but rather it’s about making smart choices about diet and exercise.
“People figure that if you stop eating, you will lose weight right away. No, you want to minimize the amount of calories you are taking in to reduce the body fat you are putting on. Once you do that, and you are exercising, you can work on your present weight.
“How fat actually burns in the body is a whole chemical process where your body fat converts into energy after a given period of time. For example, after working out 30 minutes, your body fat converts into energy to continue your workout. One pound of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories. So, therefore, if you are burning 700 calories a day, over a seven-week period, that is ideally two pounds of body fat that you can lose in combination with your diet.
“So if you’re eating 10,000 calories per week, you want to make sure you burn at least 15,000 calories in that week and also reduce your caloric intake by another 2,000 calories; so that you create a deficit which reduces what you can put on.”
The fitness professional recommends that one should seek the advice of experts before embarking on a programme, including a medical doctor, a dietitian and a trainer to achieve the right results.
“When your car breaks down, you don’t decide if you’re car wants X or Y. You take it to a professional. It is the same thing with fitness. There are a lot of trained fitness professionals in Barbados and one should endeavour to ask for assistance.
“Consult your doctor and he or she will tell you if you are fit enough to begin an exercise programme; and again we recommend you see a dietitican who would give you a much more detailed and tailored menu to suit your goals.”