NUTRITION/EXERCISE vs. HEART DISEASE/CANCER
We are strong advocates of living a healthy lifestyle. Sensible eating behavior and regular aerobic exercise are essential. There are no short cuts and we continue to dwell on this subject for many reasons. Most importantly, recent studies have shown that heart disease kills 1 in 3 Americans, and that 1/3 of Americans undertake no physical activity of any kind! Studies have also shown that lifestyle choices that could be changed or avoided account for up to 90% of the gene mutations that make cancerous tumors progress!
We have an aversion to the word “diet”, because it implies adherence to some kind of unpleasant, restrictive, dull eating regimen that’s going to mean major sacrifices and doing without the foods we love. Worst of all, it implies something temporary. “OK, I’m going on this diet for a month to lose 10 pounds.” Of course, after that time is up, no matter how much weight you’ve lost, when you resume your usual eating habits the weight will creep back.
A better approach is “Permanent Lifestyle Modification”- small changes you can make in your eating and exercise behavior that you are able to visualize yourself doing for the rest of your life.
Good health does not result from a self-punishing lifestyle in short bursts, it results from a pattern of making intelligent eating (and exercise) decisions most of the time while giving oneself permission to cheat once in a while. The two most important words in any weight loss regimen are “portion control“.
Don’t misunderstand. We will often give our patients targeted “diet” information (for cholesterol, diabetes, etc.) and speak with them at length about appropriate eating behavior, but we encourage them to use the printed diet only as a guideline.
THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF LEAN BODY MASS
Your “Lean Body Mass” (LBM) is the metabolically active part of you, consuming most of the energy, repairing the daily wear and tear on vital body structures, and replacing vital fluids and body chemicals – in short, doing all the work of living. By far the largest portion of your LBM is muscle.
It’s what gives you a reason to eat. You want to preserve all of your lean muscle mass while also allowing time for its repair and rebuilding, so you must feed it, water it, exercise it, and rest it periodically.
Counting calories is an easy way to track your eating habits. Daily calorie requirement for men is only 1500cal and only 1200cal for women! When you use one of the calorie-counting apps, you’ll be shocked how many calories you’re actually eating. By the way, 100cal is a 1 mile walk, so that coffee house latte (250cal) means you’ll need to walk 2.5 miles to offset even a little indulgence.
Some promising new studies are also showing benefits of intermittent fasting. (This is completely different than “dieting” for a month to lose 10 pounds.) If you skip eating altogether for a 24 hour period, your body uses up its short term energy source (glycogen), and switches to burning fat for energy. If this “fast” is performed more than twice a week, it may help kickstart the fat burning process. The key is to eat correctly on the non fasting days.
EXERCISE IS ESSENTIAL
Diets alone simply won’t keep your weight down in the long run. If you don’t exercise regularly there is NO WAY you’re going to be able to keep the weight off! Period. If you want to become (and remain) fit, trim, and healthy, you must exercise regularly and intensely.
As we grow older, all of us have a tendency to lose muscle. On top of that, most of us have sedentary lifestyles involving little or no real muscle work. If we were to put your arm in a cast for six weeks, you’d expect your muscles to shrink from disuse. Muscles all over your body react to lack of exercise the same way- they shrink.
As our muscles shrink, we have less and less high-energy, calorie-burning muscle mass. If we’re still eating the same number of calories, there’s an increasing tendency to store those excess calories as fat. As we grow heavier and more out of shape, it gets harder and harder to get motivated to exercise, and this becomes a spiral into obesity and lethargy.
The only way to fight this loss of muscle mass is through regular resistance training, i.e. working out with machines, weights, or even your own bodyweight. As an added bonus, strength training prevents disability and frailty, especially into your 70s and beyond.
If the goal is to lose fat weight and keep it off, a two pronged approach of daily exercise and intelligent eating decisions at every meal are the best path to take. We are happy to discuss more specifics with you at your physical exam.
Get to work building your healthier body. It’s the most rewarding do-it-yourself project you’ll ever undertake.