With summer weather right around the corner, many of us are once again faced with the daunting task of shedding the layers of flab we have accumulated over a long winter of eating and drinking.
Of course this comes as no surprise because removing our “winter coats” has become a ritual for us every spring. This year, instead of wondering “how can I get rid of this belly in time for the beach,” why not ask yourself a totally different question: “How can I lose this excess baggage permanently so I don’t have to keep taking it off every year?” How to keep fat at bay?
This feature article is in two parts, use the arrows below to navigate each section.
If you are having a difficult time keeping fat off permanently, it is probably because you foster the entirely wrong attitude towards nutrition. For most of us, our idea of a summer shape-up program consists of jumping on the latest diet bandwagon, which we inevitably end up falling off of when the summer is over.
Losing weight is easy; the hard part is keeping it off. Instead of looking for quick fixes, we need to focus on developing better eating and exercise habits that we can maintain for the long haul.
Instead of going on and off diets, we need to completely change our approach and make exercise and good nutrition our way of life. Small changes in our daily habits, over time, can produce quantum changes in your body and your health.
Eat Leaner, Smaller Meals
The first habit you must develop is to keep track of your daily caloric intake. Calories do count! Human physiology dictates that losing fat is a simple matter of consuming fewer calories than you burn up. Too much of anything gets stored as fat. However, it is not necessary to starve yourself. In fact, you can actually eat more and still become leaner by eating small meals more frequently.
Five small meals, each eaten three hours apart, will speed up your metabolic rate, allow your body to absorb and utilize more nutrients, stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, and increase your energy levels.
Most importantly, small frequent meals will decrease fat storage by controlling your portion size and never giving your body more calories than it can utilize in one sitting.
Don’t Cut Calories Too Far
The trick is to decrease your calories slightly below your maintenance level but not to cut them too far. Women can usually eat as many as 1400-1800 calories per day and men 2200-2600 per day and still lose bodyfat. Most diets are based on severe calorie restriction, often dipping well below 1000 calories per day. This approach may work initially, but it will never work in the long run.
Many people believe that they can just skip meals or “starve the fat off” by hardly eating anything at all, but it’s not that simple. Your body is an extremely efficient fat storing machine during times of famine or deprivation. The direct and unavoidable consequence of very low calorie diet is a reduction in lean body mass and a decrease in metabolic rate. When this occurs, your progress will grind to a screeching halt.
Once this dreaded plateau strikes, most frustrated and discouraged dieters end up falling off the wagon and gaining all the weight back.