Fitness and Wellness Principles - Part 1 - Weight Loss

By Douglas Galligan

The term "Wellness" is one of the most frequently used buzzwords in health and fitness these days. Wellness describes an overall health of the mind and body that result in an optimum sense of well- being (Dunn). Dr. Halbert Dunn first introduced the term in the 1950`s. In his book, High Level Wellness, Dr. Dunn defined the state of Wellness as "a method of functioning, which is oriented toward maximizing ones ability to function in their environment"; he summed this up by simply stating that it is the combination of things that give us a "zest for life". Over the past several years, with skyrocketing health care costs, and an aging population, the concept of wellness or holism is spreading throughout organizations nationwide.

Dr. Dunn's concept of Wellness is grounded in the belief that all individuals take responsibility for their own health and well-being by properly maintaining their personal fitness, body weight, stress level, and so on (Dunn). Although there are many dimensions of Wellness, the one that will be discussed in this article is Weight Management (body composition).

In parts two and three, we will address physical fitness and stress management.

Weight Management

The negative health implication of leading a lifestyle that makes one become overweight has been well documented. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for many dieters to determine exactly what methodology to use with so much conflicting information and marketing hype controlling the weight loss dialog. Naturally, everyone is looking for the easy way out. Therefore, people have become "sitting ducks" for the fad diet and diet product industry. The need for honest, practical information regarding diet and exercise becomes painfully evident when analyzing the diet and weight loss industries track record. The industry is currently a multi-billion dollar business that influences the behaviors of consumers around the world (Yoke et al.). Yet, the industry as a whole has a five-year failure rate of approximately 95% (Yoke et al.). The bottom line is fad diets and weight loss gimmicks do not work over the long haul (Kosich). Although many of the commercial diet plans are effective at helping people lose weight during the first few weeks, research suggests that only about 3% of individuals who use fad diets, and/or weight loss supplements maintained their weight loss (Kosich). In fact, most of the participants actually weighed more than they did at the beginning of their program within twelve months of completing the program.

The fact is, there are no miracle pills, shakes, or diet plans that will make people magically lose weight. Weight loss is accomplished simply by consistently creating a moderate deficit between the calories consumed vs. the calories used by the body. In other words, eat slightly fewer calories than your body uses in a day. This requires a lifestyle change. Not a "quick fix" program (Clark). The word "diet" is something to avoid. A "diet" program is typically associated with something that is going to be temporary and will restrict certain types of foods. This type of plan almost always fails over the long run (Kosich). Establishing healthier nutritional habits are the product of making the commitment to change.

Improving you food choices and controlling portion sizes are the two fundamental changes that need to be addressed. No one eats a perfect diet 100% of the time. It isn't necessary, or desirable for you to expect that your daily meal plan will be perfect either. There should always be some flexibility to allow yourself to enjoy eating at restaurants or go to parties. With a bit of planning, it is possible to get a meal that can be both satisfying and nutritious.

Weight Loss Planning

1. Establish a realistic goal

2. Set a time frame for reaching the goal

3. Plan a sensible diet according to the Food Guide Pyramid or enlist the help of a Registered Dietician.

4. Learn to modify you food-buying habits and learn to cook and prepare healthier dishes.

5. Increase your physical activity

6. Learn to handle stress without using food as a reward

7. Avoid restrictive diets! Lowering your calories too far is not only unhealthy it is also counter productive. Ultra low calorie diets slow down your BMR (metabolic rate).

8. Change your attitudes about food. "Food is fuel" and its true purpose is to meet nutritional requirements of the body. (Klein), (Clark)

Nutrient Fundamentals

There are six essential nutrients that support our body's energy needs and support the growth and repair of tissues: Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals, Water. (Clark) Failing to meet the basic nutritional requirements will ultimately have a profound impact on ones physical and mental capabilities. Inadequate nutrition also increases our risk for a variety of illnesses. All living organisms need quality nutrition to grow and function properly (Beers, et al).

Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. There are two main types of carbohydrates: Simple Sugars (Fruits, Juice, Sucrose, etc) and Complex Carbohydrates (yams, potatoes, bread, and pasta). Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram and should account for approximately 60% of your daily calories (Clark).

Protein is used by the body to promote the growth and repair of tissues. Low fat protein sources include grilled chicken, broiled white fish, egg whites, roasted turkey breast, and beans. Protein also has four calories per gram and should account for approximately 15% of your daily calories (Clark).

Fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Fats are responsible for energy production (especially long term energy), transportation of fat-soluble vitamins, insulation, and protection of the organs. Fats have nine calories per gram and it is recommended that 20 - 30% of your daily calories come from fats (Clark), (Beers, et al)

It is desirable to minimize fats that are high in cholesterol, such as whole eggs, bacon, and whole milk products. In addition, hydrogenated oils (Trans Fatty Acids) should be avoided (Klein). Trans Fatty Acids are found in many commercial peanut butters, baked goods, and margarine spreads.

Water does not contain any calories, but is possibly the most important nutrient in our diet. The body is composed of approximately 60% water (Baechle). A person can only survive for a short time without water. Water keeps us hydrated, cools the body, transports nutrients, and eliminates toxins (Beers, et al), (Yoke et al.). We get our supply of water from both liquids and many of the foods that we eat (primarily fruits and vegetables). The body does not store water; therefore, it needs to be replaced daily. It is recommended that a sedentary adult living in an average climate consume about 64 ounces of water each day. Obviously, if you are active and/or live in a warm climate, you will need to consume more. Furthermore, it is recommended that individuals participating in vigorous, long term exercise, such as marathon training, consume about 500ml of fluids every thirty minutes during their exercise period (Baechle).

Better Choices

In my book, the ideal first step toward making better choices would start with the following five dietary adjustments:

1. Avoid Fast Food.

2. Do Not Eat Vending Machine Food (Candy, Chips & Sodas).

3. Grill, Bake or Broil instead of frying.

4. Drink calorie free drinks instead of sodas and juices.

5. Avoid alcohol beverages.

If you can exercise these five points, you will be well on your way to making outstanding food choices. Instead of getting in to a great deal of technical information about food choices, I think it is more useful to focus on the basics. For example, here is the nutritional breakdown for a popular, large sized, fast food burger:

1060 Calorie
69 Grams of Fat
1540 mg. Sodium
27 Grams of Saturated Fat

Above statistics:(Johnson et al.)

1060 Calories is almost a whole days calories for many people! In addition, 1540 mg of sodium is approximately 65% of your daily sodium intake (Yoke et al.). Needless to say, it would be much better to make a chicken or turkey sandwich from fresh ingredients at home and pack it with you to work. That way, you can control how it is prepared and what type of condiments, salt, or oils that are added.

Sugar is the most over consumed nutrient in the American diet. Although the body does require small amounts of simple sugar for "quick" energy, it has developed a deserved reputation as one of the "bad for you" foods. This is due to the massive consumption of sodas, candies, desserts, and juice drinks, the average American gets far more sugar than they need (Klein). In fact, many people could reach their ideal weight simply by decreasing the amount of sodas that they consume. The average 20oz soda has a whopping 304 calories, in addition to varying amounts of caffeine (Johnson et al.).

Serving Size

Ones ability to successfully modify their past eating habits is the single greatest predictor of success in a weight loss/weight management program (Kosich). Among the most important changes that can be made is the proper control of your portion sizes. Since the 1950's the typical fast food meal has more than doubled in calories (Johnson et al.). This is mainly due to the larger portion sizes that are being served today. Unfortunately, this has led people to adopt the restaurant's examples of serving size at their dinner table at home. This combination is more than likely the most significant factor in the "obesity epidemic" that we are experiencing in our country. I find it humorous to see so many people in the media questioning the source of obesity, as though it is such a mystery. I don't think that it is difficult to see the pattern that has developed in our society. People have become progressively less active over the past 100 years, while continuing to increase the average daily calorie intake. That is definitely a formula for becoming overweight.

Below is a simple guideline for serving sizes:

Breads & Grains: 1 slice of bread, bagel(about the size of a hockey puck), cup of rice(about the size of a cupcake), cup pasta
Fruits and Vegetables: cup (about the size of a light bulb)
Meat, Poultry: 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
Dairy: 1 oz. of cheese (about the size of 4 dice)
Fats, Oils, Sweets: Use Sparingly (One serving is about the size of the tip of your thumb)

NHLBI 2006 (Food Serving Size Card)

Another source of confusion regarding serving size is our current food labeling system. Food labels can be confusing and misleading. But, it is in your best interest to make sure that you understand how much is in a serving of the foods that you buy. Many products, especially snack foods, come in packages that appear to be a single serving. However, when you analyze the label, you may be surprised to find that some small bags of chips contain up to three servings. So make sure to read labels. Food labels contain so much information. How do we know what they really mean? Below are some common label terms. Keep in mind that all values given are "per serving".

Calorie Free: fewer than 5 calories
Low Calorie: 40 or fewer calories
Fat Free: less than gram of fat/serving
Low Fat: 3 grams or less
Reduced Fat: at least 25% less fat than the regular item
Sodium Free: fewer than 5 mg of sodium
Low Sodium: fewer than 140 mg of sodium
High Fiber: 5 or more grams of fiber

NHLBI (Read the Food Label), (Klein)

Remember, safe and effective weight loss amounts to about - 2 pounds per week for most individuals. If you are losing more than that, chances are you are also losing a significant amount of water and muscle as well (Kosich).

Using a scale as your primary measure of success can be very deceiving. This is especially true if you are including resistance exercise in your program, which will cause a gain in lean muscular weight. Exercise and Strength training will more than likely influence the number that you see on your scale. Perhaps the best measure of your success is the way you look in the mirror, or the way that your cloths fit (Kosich). As a rule of thumb, you should weigh on the scale no more than once per week. Your scale can't tell muscle mass from fat free mass and BMI charts are not very useful at determining changes in body composition. So, keep in mind that "inches lost" will usually exceed "pounds lost" (Kosich).

When you do check your weight every 1 -2 weeks make sure to weigh on the same scale, with the same amount of clothing, and at the same time of day. This will ensure a more accurate comparison. It may also be useful to keep a journal that contains more detailed information, such as how you feel, how your clothes are fitting, physical activity, and how you look. As mentioned earlier, your ability to modify your past habits will be the greatest predictor of your potential for success in a weight loss program. Planning menus, shopping lists, and keeping a written record of your food intake are a few of the most valuable behavior changes that you can learn. Research has shown that people who keep written records of their diets are much more likely to continue to manage their diets successfully (Kosich).

Always remain mindful that the formula for weight loss is simple: All calories consumed in excess of the body's daily needs are stored as fat. Weight Loss is all about consistently creating a modest calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume (Clark). The ultimate goal is FAT LOSS, not just weight loss. So take the steady, methodical approach instead of the diet fads and schemes and you will reap lifelong benefits.

Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet program. The information presented here is in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.

References - Wellness part I

Dunn, Halbert. High Level Wellness. 3rd ed. : R. W. Beatty, Ltd, 1967. (Dunn) Clark, Nancy. Sports Nutrition Guidebook. 2nd ed. Brookline: Human Kinetics, 1997. (Clark)

Yoke, Mary, and Laura Gladwin. A Guide to Personal Fitness Training. 3rd ed. Sherman Oaks: AFAA, 2003. (Yoke et al.)

Klein, Keith,. Weight Control For A Young America. 1st ed. Wilsonville: Book Partners, 1999. (Klein)

"Wellness (alternative medicine)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Internet Resource 2006. Wellness (alternative medicine))

Townes, Dwight. "Wellness: The Emerging Concept and Its Components." Individual Psychology: The Journal of Adlerian Theory 40.4 (1988): . (Townes)

Kosich, Daniel. Get Real: A Personal Guide to Real Life Weight Management. 1st ed. San Diego: IDEA, 1997. (Kosich)

Sol, Neil, and Laura Gladwin. An Emerging Profession: The Fitness Practitioner. Sherman Oaks: AFAA, 1996. (Sol et al.)

Baechle, Thomas, ed. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 1st ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1994. (Baechle)

Beers, MD, Mark, and Thomas Jones, MD, ed. Merk Manual of Health and Aging. Whitehouse Station: Merk and Co, Inc., 2004. (Beers, et al)

Johnson, Sharon, and Ruth Litchfield. "Soft Drink Portions Make a Difference." Iowa State University Extension May 2004. Dec 2005 www.extension.iastate.edu/nutrition. (Johnson et al.)

"Food Serving Size Card.", "Read The Food Label" 2006. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 2006. 29 Jan. 2006 . http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/sodium/sodium.htm (Food Serving Size Card), (Read The Food Label)

Doug Galligan is a Certified Personal Trainer and Health Club Manager with over 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. You can visit his site at: http://www.personaltrainerpros.com

Submitted by:

  • Name: Doug Galligan, Personal Trainer
  • Date: 12/28/07 at 09:11
  • Email: wolferlabc@yahoo.com
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