Despite Encouragement, Diet Adherence, Weight Loss Is Slow

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Nearly two months into his new fitness plan, Kae Ewing has good news and bad news to report.

The good news: Despite the temptations of a sumptuous series of holiday feasts, he has been sticking almost perfectly to his diet.

The bad news: So far he has lost only 14 pounds, four of those in the past month.

Ewing admits that he's frustrated by the results so far. So frustrated, in fact, that at times he has found himself wishing that he hadn't agreed to let Orange County Life readers follow him through the experience. Overall, however, he says the benefits of being on display far outweigh the disadvantages.

"I've gotten so many comments from people about it," he says. "A lot of them have been along the lines of, 'How could you do that?' But most of them have been really encouraging." Most important, Ewing says that just knowing so many people out there are watching has helped him stick to the program. "To be honest, I think if I hadn't done it this way I probably would have given up by now," he says. "There have been times when I just wanted to chuck the whole thing."

Ewing, 55, a vice president with Shearson Lehman Hutton in Irvine, is an old hand at weight loss. Last year, for example, he dropped 70 pounds in less than 12 weeks on a medically supervised liquid diet. But--as with other diets he has tried--after reaching his goal, Ewing reverted to his old habits, and the weight started coming back.

This time, he hired fitness consultant Joe Dillon of Body Accounting in Irvine to help him develop habits that would lead to lasting weight loss and better all-around health.

When he began the program at the beginning of November, the 6-foot, 3 1/2-inch Ewing weighed 258 pounds. He is down to 244.

Under Dillon's supervision, Ewing cut down drastically on the fat, sugar and alcohol (another form of sugar) in his diet, concentrating instead on foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and grains.

Although he found that kind of eating somewhat unfamiliar, Ewing says he quickly accepted it. "There are some things that seem kind of strange about it," he says. "Bread, for example. I was brought up thinking that bread was fattening. Now I'm eating five to six pieces of whole-grain bread a day, and that goes against everything I was taught."

But diet is only one part of the program. The other is exercise, and that's where Ewing is having less success.

Dillon advised him to take a brisk walk--every day, if possible--using three-pound hand weights to exercise his upper body and increase the aerobic intensity of the workout. A 30-minute walk with weights, Dillon says, burns about 400 calories.

But that is just the beginning. "You're not only burning fat and calories while you're walking, but for eight to 12 hours afterward, your metabolism is elevated," Dillon says. "If you do it consistently, your metabolism will get up and stay up, and that means you can burn fat even when you're not exercising."

Ewing says he hasn't been able to incorporate a walk around Lido Island, where he lives, into his busy daily routine. Instead of six or seven times a week, he has been walking only about three times a week.

He intends to walk more often but says he has trouble executing his plans. "Like the other night, there was a boat parade party, so I couldn't go then. So I got up and did my walk in the morning, but that's a problem because then I get to work later and I'm behind all day."

Dillon says the only way to maintain an exercise regimen is to budget time for it and stick to the schedule. "You have to block out time at the beginning of the week. If you wait for that time to happen, it won't. And then you have to honor that commitment just like any other appointment. Don't say, 'It's only my exercise time.'

"So often, if we have a list of our top 10 priorities, we're not on that list. You have to make yourself one of your priorities."

Although Dillon expected Ewing to lose weight a little faster, he isn't discouraged. "He's averaging about two pounds a week, and that's good," Dillon says. "And that's real weight loss. With those crash diets, you drop a lot of pounds, but it's mostly water and muscle loss. And that just doesn't last. What you have to do is lose the fat."

To burn off a pound of fat, Dillon says, "you have to create a deficit of 3,500 calories, either by undereating or increasing exercise. And that's the only way to do it."

Ewing's previous weight-loss experience is working against him now, Dillon says. "People who have been on a lot of diets become very weight-loss resistant."

According to studies that were done at the Vanderbilt University Medical School, Dillon says, "each time we lose weight rapidly, our body goes into survival mode and slows down the metabolism. The second time that happens, it recognizes what is happening and slows down even faster. So it's twice as hard the second time, and when we come off the second crash diet, we gain weight back twice as fast. If somebody has been on a half-dozen crash diets, their body is pretty good at slowing down its metabolism."

Instead of New Year's resolutions, Dillon recommends that Ewing try New Year's affirmations. "That's where you take something that is a problem and turn it upside down into a positive statement. Then you take that and put it on a 3-by-5 card and read it several times a day. For Ewing, it might be something like, 'I enjoy exercise, and I enjoy the way it makes me feel, and therefore I do it almost every day.' After 10 days to two weeks, you find yourself doing the positive behavior."

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