Shelter Masthead

Overweight Management
(sample chapter from Getting Back in Shape)

We’ve titled this section overweight management, but what we’re really concerned with is obesity. Too often the terms are used interchangeably.

Overweight refers to body weight in excess of known standards. Today, the standards most often used are the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company height/weight charts.

Obesity, on the other hand, is defined in the medical dictionaries as an “abnormal amount of fat on the body” the term is not usually employed unless the person is 20 to 30% over average weight for his or her age, sex, and height.”

We use the word overweight here because some people wouldn’t read this if we titled it obesity. But it is obesity, or being overfat, that we’re concerned with.

Weighing yourself on a scale only measures your weight, it doesn’t tell you how fat you are. Standard height/weight charts can’t tell you how much fat you’re carrying. A football player might be considered overweight by the height/weight charts, but the weight is not fat, it’s muscle.

At the other extreme, someone who sits most of the day may have too much fat and too little muscle, yet weigh within the standard chart guidelines.

Risks of Overweight vs. Obesity

Being a few pounds overweight generally poses no health risk, but obesity can contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. Obesity not only decreases life expectancy, but can cause psychological stress due to worry and lack of confidence in oneself.

Commercial Diets

Unfortunately, most people who want to lose weight think in terms of dieting. It’s quick, you just follow the directions, or consume the product, and the pounds melt off, right? This practice is reinforced by the number of fad diets, books, and TV ads that abound in America. (It’s a billion dollar business!)

Quick Weight Loss

Most overweight people are looking for quick weight loss, but diets and dieters do not take into account that the excess pounds have accumulated slowly over the years (due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise); weight loss — permanent weight loss, that is — must likewise be a slow process.

Why Diets Fail

The major reason many diets fail is, as mentioned, the urgency factor. We Americans want results. When we decide to make a change, we want it to happen now! And there always seem to be self-proclaimed experts waiting in the wings with the latest fad diet. It’s funny how many M.D.s. or Ph.D.s feel qualified to recommend the latest wonder diet that will let you lose 5 to 10 pounds a week, with only “moderate” changes in your lifestyle.

How many of your friends have shed the pounds under the latest “miracle” program, only to eventually gain it all (and a little more) back? We won’t belabor the point. Covert Bailey calls this up-and-down cycle of weight loss/gain “. . . the rhythm method of girth control.”

Metabolism and Diet

Metabolism is the sum of energy your body requires. Metabolic rate is a measure of how fast you burn energy (calories). Strict dieting throws your metabolic rate into a tailspin. This process is thought to be a throwback to our ancient hunting and gathering ancestors: when the body is deprived of food, your metabolic rate slows way down. In prehistoric times, the body conserved its fat reserves for times of famine.

Fad dieting can also cause loss of muscle mass. When carbohydrate supplies are too low, the body literally feeds upon itself. Muscle protein is broken down as a source of fuel. On most quick diets, weight loss is mostly water and lost muscle; relatively little body fat is lost.

So What’s the Solution?

Exercise. Exercise helps keep metabolism at a steady level, even when you eat less. Exercise also helps maintain muscle mass when you diet. Permanent weight control involves a lifelong commitment to regular exercise as well as good eating habits. Whereas faddish diets and stop-and-start exercise programs ultimately end in disappointment, maintaining optimal body composition entails regular exercise and a diet based on sound nutritional knowledge. (See discussion on Food, pp. 128–136.)

Exercise Is a Key Ingredient

With as little as 30 minutes of exercise, 3 days a week (equivalent to walking 5 to 6 miles a week), you can lose up to a quarter-pound of fat a week.

Doesn’t sound like much? Well, in one year you could lose 12 to 15 pounds of fat from exercise alone. Eat a more healthy diet and the results will be even greater.

Here's page 178 from our fitness book, Getting Back in Shape by Bob Anderson (Stretching), Bill Pearl (Getting Stronger) and Ed Burke.

Click on the image, to get a good screen-size print-out, a pdf version, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader (free download) or Acrobat (enhanced commercial product available from Adobe) for viewing. It will allow laser quality printed output and clear viewing onscreen at any magnification.

Weight Management program - click here to download a printable PDF

Weight Training to Lose Weight?

In 1991, Fitness Management Magazine conducted a study to determine the role of weight training on body composition changes. In this study, 72 overweight men and women were put into two groups. Both ate the same diets and exercised 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks. But one group followed a typical weight-loss exercise program, spending all 30 minutes on aerobic exercise, while the second group did 15 minutes of aerobic exercise (exercycling) and 15 minutes of weight training (Nautilus machines). Here are the results:

Exercise Program N Body Weight Changes Fat Weight Changes Muscle Weight Changes

Endurance exercise only 22 -3.5 pounds -3.0 pounds -0.5 pounds
Endurance and strength exercise 50 -8.0 pounds -10.0 pounds +2.0 pounds

Won’t Exercise Increase My Appetite?

High intensity exercise will stimulate your appetite. It lowers your blood glucose levels and your body will demand more food than normal.

But several recent studies have shown that moderate exercise tends to actually decrease appetite for several hours after your workout, the reason being that blood is directed away from the stomach to your working muscles. That’s why taking a walk during your lunch break will help.

No Loss of Weight at First?

When you start an exercise program along with dietary changes to lose weight, it’s important to understand the difference between fat loss and lean tissue loss. As you get older, if you do not exercise you lose lean tissue — mainly bone and muscle mass. This is especially true for people who sit most of the day.

But when you start to exercise you tend to gain lean weight (fat-free weight). Thus, when you start an exercise program, you may not lose weight on the scale for a few weeks, or even a few months. This is normal, and you shouldn’t worry. Fat weight is being lost, but lean weight is being added at about the same rate. You’re losing fat and gaining muscle, so don’t sweat it!

Don’t depend on the scale to chart your progress especially at first. Just look at yourself in the mirror. How do your clothes fit? Are good changes going on with your body shape or physique? Do you feel better?

Fit people sink. Fat people float.
Fit people are fat-burners. Fat people are sugar-burners.
When fit people eat sugar, they make glycogen. When fat people eat sugar, they make fat.
Fit people have lots of fat-burning enzymes. Fat people have few fat-burning enzymes.
Fit people eat more that fat people. Fat people diet and fast frequently, which lowers metabolic rate.
Fit people use fuel efficiently. Fat people store fat efficiently.
When fit people exercise, it is usually aerobic exercise. When fat people exercise, it often is anaerobic exercise.
Fit people "waste" energy in everyday activities. Fat people "conserve" energy throughout the day.
Fit people have long, lean, shapely muscles. Fat people have short, round, fatty muscles.
Fit people can be overweight without being overfat. Fat people can be overfat without being overweight.
Exercise decreases hunger in fit people. Exercise triggers hunger in fat people.

Source: The New Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey © 1991. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.

Recommended Reading

The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey © 2000. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.

Nutrition, Weight Control and Exercise by Frank I. Katch and William D. McArdle © 1988. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, PA.

Maximum Metabolism by Robert Giller, M.D., and Kathy Mathews © 1989. Berkeley Books, New York, NY.

The T-Factor Diet by Martin Katahn © 2001. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, NY.