Monday 24th July, 2006

Debbie Jacob
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Goodbye extra pounds

I don’t want to sound like Oprah Winfrey and make some big announcement about going on a diet, so let’s just say I’m experimenting with the latest knowledge in weight control.

Eighteen years ago when I was pregnant with my son, Jairzinho, I packed on the pounds and even then some over the subsequent years. For years I blamed the weight on the poor kid.

I told doctor after doctor I was hungry all the time. No one came to my rescue. I tried fasts, Dr Atkins, The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet—you name it, I tried it, only to be defeated by my ravenous appetite.

Then one day I decided to exercise more. I took up swimming and tai chi. That helped to keep me sane and the activity cut my appetite somewhat. The problem then was what to eat. I decided to do some research into nutrition and weight loss and I found out some really interesting information.

An article entitled “How dieting works” by Marshall Brain gives a crash course in how calories work. He says when the body is at rest, watching TV for example, you burn about 12 calories a pound of body weight a day. That means that if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), your body uses only about 1,800 calories a day (150 x 12).

I have read articles that give everything from ten to 16 calories a pound of body weight. Deepak Chopra weighs in with the highest calories a pound of body weight. It takes 3,500 calories to create one pound of new fat on your body.

So the question is how to get rid of the fat.

One day I saw a nutritionist on Oprah and she said no one on a diet should lose more than eight pounds a month. She said the human body can’t burn more than eight pounds of fat a month so if you’re losing more than that, you’re losing something else like water and muscle. Other nutrition sites agreed with that.

Nutritionists say the slower weight comes off, the longer it stays off. This is because it suggests real life-style changes and not fad or crash diets designed to lose weight fast. The result of these diets, in case you haven’t noticed, is that usually more weight than ever comes on.

Nutritionists say that when you deprive yourself of food and you eat low-calorie diets, your body sends a chemical message that you’re in starvation mode. It sends more of the chemical to make you hungry and voila! You are caught in a vicious circle.

Nutritionists also agree that people who are not overweight usually eat a good breakfast. You should eat 1/3 of your calories for breakfast and that breakfast should be before 7.30 in the morning. Silly me always thought: good, I’m not hungry in the morning so I won’t eat until I’m hungry.

Sure enough, as the day progressed I would get hungrier after I started eating. Nutritionists say that is because of the long fast you go on in your sleep. When you wake up, you continue that fast and once again your body produces that chemical that says you’re in starvation mode.

Much to my surprise a good, solid breakfast did keep me from getting hungry during the day. A bowl of oatmeal with some raisins and nuts or a high-fibre cereal low in sugar with some flaxseed and soya milk kept me from getting hungry and prevented me from feeling tired and hungry in the afternoon.

Brain says that to begin a diet you start by counting the calories that you consume in a day. This helps you to understand how many calories you are eating on a “normal” day.

Then you can adjust to suit. One site says that the United Nations considers under 1,600 calories a day starvation. No nutrition site I consulted suggested those 1,000 to 1,200 calorie diets and certainly not less than 1,000 calories.

After you become aware of your calories, start to become aware of what foods trigger your appetite and what foods make you feel full. Eat lots of bulky food, celery and lettuce, but make it interesting. Good salads and some peanut butter on celery. Soup is also good for you if it has lentils and vegetables and is low in fat.

Many people say they have amazing weight results from giving up white starches and white sugar. That will eliminate a lot of high-calorie foods like biscuits and candy. Give up white rice and white bread and substitute brown rice and brown bread.

Brain also suggests that you give up all calories from drinking while you are adjusting your weight. Skip the juice and soft drink and drink water. Giving up fried foods will also go a long way towards weight loss.

You should add one hour of exercise to your routine every day. This burns calories and helps you feel better. Incorporate micro-exercises into your life. Instead of taking the elevator, walk up the stairs or park further away than you usually do.

Walk, walk, walk. So far I have managed to lose 24 pounds in four months just by making some simple changes. I don’t know if I have this weight problem beat, but I sure know that a little research has given me a better understanding of how exactly we put on weight.

Remember, I’m no expert and you need to consult your doctor about any exercise and dietary changes. Be informed and find the best solution for you.

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