Overweight? You have lots of company. It is one of the greatest public health issues of the last 20 years. Let’s discuss a few myths, as well as a few ideas.
Myth: Eat three meals a day.
Not so! Three meals a day is a modern concept. Historically there never was enough food for the average person to eat three meals a day. In many parts of the world, that is still true. If you eat three “reasonable” meals a day, you will be overweight.
Myth: The kind of food you eat dramatically affects your weight.
That also is more myth than science. Your body needs somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 calories per day. If you take in more calories, you gain weight; taking in less means you lose weight. If you eat 4,000 calories of carrots per day, you will gain weight (and turn orange – I’m not kidding). The body happily converts protein, carbohydrates and fat in your diet to whatever the body needs. Carbohydrates are not the great Satan, nor are fats. Fats do happen to be twice as calorie-rich per weight as everything else. So you can only eat half as much fat. On that thought, it really is too bad that the body stores extra calories as fat (4,100 calories per pound). If it stored excess as carbohydrate or protein, it would only take 1,800 calories to burn a pound.
What is a calorie anyway? The calorie is a certain amount of energy that is contained in food. It can be thought of as “stored work.” You use it when you exercise or to keep your heart beating. Calories are good stuff, in moderation.
Myth: Exercise absolves you of food sin.
Unfortunately, there is no absolution. You need to exercise, and it is one of the most important health habits you can have. Exercise will burn 200-500 calories per session. That will help you lose weight or keep you trim. Keep in mind that 200-500 calories isn’t even a candy bar’s worth of calories. So exercise alone won’t do the job.
Now I would like to suggest the concept of dining for enjoyment vs. for fuel. I define fuel as calories I take in only to keep going. These are not tasted, savored or enjoyed. They are simply thrown down my throat hastily. Here is the important thing, in my opinion: if I am not going to savor and enjoy a meal, I might as well throw down something good for me (a protein or yogurt drink). If I have time to sit down and really enjoy a meal, I might as well eat something tasty, even if it’s not that great for me.
So get some exercise and don’t throw down bad food without enjoying it. If you are trim, it will help you stay that way, and if not, you will make steadily progress toward a lesser you.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.