Written by: D. J. Mathews
Years ago comedic actor Jackie Gleason was asked how he was able to lose weight. He stated that he was losing because he was tired of eating eggs on his diet, so he hardly ate at all. I know what he meant. I’ve been on a high protein diet once myself, which helps you lose weight, at least for a while.
Dieting for most people is no fun. You have to plan your meals in advance and can’t run out for a mouthwatering pizza when you feel like it. You’re also supposed to exercise along with staying on a food plan that is restrictive and many times hard to stick with. Depending on the diet, most people experience varying degrees of success, but not the healthiest success because of something that is left out.
Did I Say Dieting is No Fun?
Sure I did. Take my own experience with a high protein diet. Years ago I’d “heard” about this food fad called the Stillman high protein diet. It was a diet developed by Dr. Irwin Maxwell Stillman, so it had to be healthy, supposedly. I didn’t know till later that you were supposed to eat three meals and then snack to three meals a day. So the spouse and I stuck to three main meals, and sometimes a snack.
After all, why would you want to eat a lot? The diet was terribly restrictive: lean protein and cheese, mostly. My husband and I wound up eating eggs for breakfast, luncheon meat or a hamburger for lunch, steak or chicken or turkey and cheese for dinner. And lots of water was required, alternating with diet soda or tea. And there was nothing about exercise.
The extra water was a requirement because of a side effect. Eating all that protein all day caused a buildup of urea, a protein byproduct that can be hard on the kidneys. So you drink a lot of water and scurry back and forth to the bathroom like a dog peeing on every tree it passes. And you do lose weight. But who can stay on diet like this, and no accompanying exercise? So, sure we lose several pounds, but guess what? They eventually came back.
Exercise Should Be a Part of Any Diet, Exception None
Exercise today is becoming more and more a part of a successful diet plan. Whether it’s more high protein (like the Atkins diet) or just calorie counting, dieting alone doesn’t totally work, at least for women, because there is the issue of hormones like insulin and cortisol affecting weight loss. Stress or grabbing the wrong kind of food can spike insulin levels. Yet if you exercise along with a sensible diet that includes good lean proteins and some fats each meal, it can stimulate the liver to produce glucagon to help break down body fats.
But as you get older, your hormones become even less cooperative, and I am finding that as I count “points” on the Weight Watchers plan. It encourages exercise, but isn’t really specific. After twisting my knee recently, making me even less able to exercise, I told my physical therapist I was going to diet so there was less weight on that knee. He said if I really wanted to lose weight and fat, as opposed to needed muscle, that I should be lifting weights as I diet.
Weight lift expert Parnell Dean agrees that weight lifting as you work to lose weight will help you to maintain muscle mass. This applies to weight lifting men and women, but also can apply to women fighting stress and hormones who want to lose fat and not muscle as they lose weight. It’s recommended if you’re going to seriously weight lift that you eat enough protein, like a gram of protein per pound of lean body weight, which you can figure out by knowing your body fat percentage. (See Body Fat Calculator ).
Health experts say aerobic exercise, like running a long distance, fast walking, and swimming, burns calories at that moment. Anaerobic exercise (meaning without oxygen), such as weight lifting, stresses the muscles and will burn more fat in the hours afterwards as your body is recovering from the stress of the workout.
It is recommended as you diet that you lift weights three to four times a week but not every day. Pick a weight heavy enough for 12-15 repetitions four times, or six to eight times if you have been lifting weights already. Rest about a minute between reps. And you should exercise all parts of the body. Contact your local rec center or gym if you have questions on specific exercises to do. We can all afford to gain some muscle mass, and lose fat as we diet, for more permanent weight loss. It’s a sensible way to go.
About the Author
D. J. Mathews has been a freelance journalist for several years. A Master naturalist member, she writes about nature, the outdoors, and natural health.