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The User-Friendly Weight Loss Plan : Researcher Says You Can Even Eat More, as Long as You Exercise

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Let’s face it, diets can really be downers. Days of near-starvation can leave you feeling deprived, grumpy, lethargic and listless--not to mention hungry with a capital H.

Granted, you may lose a few pounds, but in a few weeks or months, guess what? Your weight is back up and your disposition is back down in the dumps.

But here is good news for all you would-be losers who have attempted to skimp your way to thinness. By following my User-Friendly Weight-Loss program, you will not only be able to eat more (up to 1,200 more calories a week), you will lose more and smile more.

The secret ingredient is moderate exercise. But fear not. You won’t have to run a mile per Oreo. Walking briskly or jogging 12 minutes a week, or engaging in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times weekly, will do the trick without sabotaging your hectic schedule. Combining exercise with a nutritious, low-calorie diet provides necessary nutrients for all-around health and the oomph you need to maintain your exercise schedule.

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You really can eat more and lose more at the same time. If that sounds like a provocative statement, consider the following facts:

* The amount you eat has little relationship to your weight.

* Americans seem to be eating less nowadays but are not losing weight.

* The most active people in our society are not only slim but eat more than those who are overweight.

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A recent study I conducted with colleagues at Stanford University indicated that mild to moderate exercise not only prevents weight gain but helps you lose weight permanently.

12 Miles a Week

During our two-year study, the volunteers--all middle-aged men--participated in a moderate, steady exercise program, beginning with brisk walking and gradually building up over the course of six months to jogging 12 miles a week.

After six months, they were consuming 300 to 400 more calories per day (from 2,500 for smaller men to 3,400 calories for larger men) but had lost 7% of their body fat. After two years, they were still eating more and still losing weight.

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Volunteers experienced a drop in low-density lipoproteins--the “bad” cholesterol associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke; and an increase in high-density lipoproteins--the “good” cholesterol associated with decreased risks.

The volunteers weren’t jogging enough to burn the extra calories they were consuming, but they continued to lose weight as a result of “exercise after-glow"--the metabolic boost that results from vigorous aerobic exercise (running, brisk walking, cycling, aerobic dance).

There are two reasons for this continued weight loss: First, the volunteers became more active in general. That is, they tended to take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk more briskly. Second, vigorous exercise speeds metabolism--the rate at which you burn calories--for up to an hour and a half after you work out. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR--the amount of energy it takes your body to idle) also is fired up for up to an hour and a half after exercise, during which time it slowly drops down to your base line metabolism.

Burning Fuel

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The more you eat, the more fuel you burn. Studies show that those who eat more are leaner. The scientific explanation for this revolves around your resting metabolic rate. Most dieters think of calories as little fat machines in food, but calories are heat you eat. When you reduce the heat you consume (calories), your metabolic rate reduces the heat it generates to burn those calories. You are eating less, but burning less, too. Thus, the higher your typical food intake, the higher your RMR; the lower your food intake, the lower your RMR.

To bring this concept home, let’s look at an extreme hypothetical example: A woman reduces her calorie intake by 228 calories a day by dieting. Her body accommodates this decrease by lowering her RMR from 1.2 to 1.0 calories per minute. Nothing else changes. Her calorie requirements drop by 0.2 times 60 (minutes in an hour) times 24 (hours in a day) equals 288 calories a day. Consequently, she does not lose weight.

But add our secret ingredient--exercise--and watch what happens:

* You use calories faster. Any activity, even sleeping, burns fat and uses calories. In general, more vigorous activities burn fuel faster; jogging, cycling and swimming are champion fat burners. But walking a mile slowly will use nearly as many calories as a mile run fast.

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* You stoke your resting metabolic rate. Regular exercise leads to a temporary increase in your RMR, so you burn calories faster even when you stop. And increased exercise leads to increased eating, which leads to increased RMR.

* You lose body heat faster. As you increase your exercise level, you tend to lose fat, which insulates the body against temperature extremes. The less insulation you have, the more calories you must burn to maintain an even body temperature. This in turn hikes up your RMR.

* You gain fuel-burning muscle. When you go on a low-calorie, low-protein diet, you force your body to burn valuable muscle reserves for fuel, decreasing the amount of muscle left to continue burning fat. Thus, over time, the rate of fat loss slows down. Because exercise builds muscle it interrupts this process.

* You feel happier and more content. Low self-esteem breeds discontent, depression and feelings of inadequacy. Mastering an exercise program can turn these feelings around so you feel like you have accomplished something. Experts also believe exercise is related to increased production of endorphins, the brain’s opiate that is associated with “runner’s high.”

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* Finally, you get out of the diet rut for all the right reasons. Conventional dieting leads to a reduced resting metabolic rate that frequently sabotages weight-loss efforts and leads to frustration. Also, skimping with a low-calorie diet means you are skimping on vital nutrients, which can lead to nutrition deficiencies and accompanying illnesses.

To most people, dieting feels like punishment. Since we tend to avoid unpleasant situations, we ultimately abandon a punishing diet and may compensate by going on a binge or overeating.

Remember the more you exercise, the more you can eat. On the User-Friendly Weight-Loss Plan, you can eat more and weigh less by making exercise a permanent part of your weight-loss program.


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