~by Dr. Gregory Steiner
It’s summer again, and without fail my clinic (and every other doctors’ as well) are filled with people who need help losing those last 10…or 50 lbs. Sometimes they are looking to trim up because of a soon-to-be event such as a wedding, and other times they are wanting to make a complete renovation of their lifestyle to something healthier – and sleeker.
Every year I also categorize patients into two distinct groups – those who have recently gained a little ‘paunch’ or ‘tummy’ and those who have been struggling for years, if not most of their lives. In our demographic, most people are reasonably well-educated and have a background in sports or fitness to levels varying from casual to competitive. However, every local gym is filled with people whose last really fit day was probably the day they graduated college.
Then came work, and kids, and expense accounts, and houses, and more kids, and promotions, and…and…
Then came the extra 30 lbs that seems harder and harder to get rid of.
There are two main ways to lose weight, the right way and the wrong way. What we DO want to do is lose extra fat; what we DON”T want to do is lose muscle along with the fat. In other words it is definitely possible to lose weight, shrink, and actually end up less fit than before the ‘diet’ started.
A professor from MIT once told me something I had never heard, and that was this: “If you have to exercise to lose weight or keep trim, then your diet is wrong.”
I had always followed the standard formula to eat less and exercise more, which does work – until one gets injured or can’t exercise for some reason. Later on I asked him to explain. What he told me was this – that ideally if our appetites are working naturally our food intake should be in exact proportion to our energy output, and that further, we should naturally and consistently select the foods we need to keep us at our optimal weight.
Well, I don’t know about you but what I see each and every day are disgruntled people who can’t seem to exercise enough to keep off the fat, or who have been injured and have ballooned up in size.
Two years I ago I put this counter-intuitive learning to a test. I had gained some size for a bodybuilding competition – some was fat and some was muscle. So, I dieted and did heaps of cardio, and lost 23 lbs in about 6 weeks….NOT pleasant.
I had 9 weeks before the next contest, and decided to quit the cardio and focus, focus, focus on fine-tuning my diet. At the end of that period at contest time I had trimmed another several pounds and lost several percentage points of body fat to compete at about 5.5 %. Again – no cardio. I decided I liked the leaner weight, and have found that with correct diet keeping about 7-8 % body fat is doable as a lifestyle, with or without cardio…and even after a knee surgery.
Not that I’m recommending bodybuilding – that’s a specialist interest for those people so inclined, but I mention it as strong test of the theory of diet vs exercise for keeping lean.
Of course what helps is finding out exactly what nutrients a person is deficient in, and that streamlines the process greatly and gives us something to measure. When I undertook this ‘project’ two years ago, we did not have the advantage of some modern testing that shows exactly what micro-nutrients are at a good level, and which are low – only elite athletes usually have that level of nutritional analysis. Knowing saves time and effort over educated guesswork.
What I do in my clinic then, with patients wanting to lose fat is to recommend a dietary template to provide a general basis for food selection, acupuncture certain points which alleviate cravings and facilitate metabolism, and perform blood nutrient analysis to see where the exact weak spots in need of dietary strengthening or supplements are.