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Why Do Weight Loss Diets Fail?
 by: Phyllis Rogers

Most Americans wish that they weighed less than they do. Two-thirds of us are overweight. At the same time, there are literally hundreds of weight loss programs--each one promising that it will help you finally lose those extra pounds. Some of them work--and you are able to lose weight. But most people gain back the weight they lost--and more--when they begin to eat normally again.

Why do these programs not fulfill your dream of reaching your desired weight--and staying there?

To find out, letís discuss what happens to your body as you grow older. Adults who do not perform regular strength exercise lose about one-half pound of muscle each year after they reach maturity. This means ten pounds of muscle are lost during their 30s and 40s. And the rate of muscle loss doubles in people over 50 years of age. Many women have lost half the muscle they had at 30 by the time they are 70. In addition, most adults gain ten pounds of weight--fat--each decade. It should be obvious that these changes in body composition are not desirable, but most adults are more aware of the fat gain than the muscle loss.

If you lose one-half pound of muscle each year, by the time you reach 40, you have lost five pounds of muscle. Each pound of muscle in your body burns about 50 calories per day; therefore your body requires 250 fewer calories each day to maintain your weight. When you reach 50, you need 500 calories less each day than when you were in your twenties. Most people believe their metabolism slows down; actually it seems that way because they have less muscle to burn calories.

This gradual decrease in muscle and basal metabolism rate is also related to the increase in body fat that most people experience as they get older if they do not strength train. With the decrease in muscle, calories previously necessary to perform the activities of daily living now end up stored as fat. They then diet to lose weight, which further reduces their muscle mass because 30 percent of the weight lost through dieting is muscle tissue. Losing muscle leads to a lower metabolic rate because fat needs almost no calories to sustain itself, thus causing even more calories to be stored as fat which makes it more difficult to perform physical activities.

When you diet to lose weight, for every ten pounds of weight you lose, you lose three pounds of muscle. You have exacerbated the loss of muscle thatís already been happening to your body.

Letís say you lose 20 pounds by dieting without strength training. Thirty percent of those 20 pounds youíve lost were muscleóthatís six pounds of muscle that is gone. If you estimate that each pound of muscle uses 50 calories each day to sustain itself, 50 calories times six pounds equals 300 calories each day that your body does not need now to sustain itself. If you were eating 1,500 calories a day to lose weight, you now have to lower that to 1,200 calories. This is why you reach a plateau and are no longer dropping pounds. Get the picture?

You diet to lose weight--you lose muscle--metabolism slows--then you store more fat in your body--and you diet to lose weight. Itís a vicious cycle thatís repeated over and over by hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

You are not doomed to repeat this scenario. A strength training program will increase the amount of muscle tissue in your body--usually at the rate of over a pound a month for several months.

Why do diet programs suggest only aerobic exercise? Most experts and diet gurus tell you that you should exercise to burn fat. when youíre on a weight loss diet, but many of them ignore strength training or give it only a cursory mention. They tell you to walk briskly, ride the exercise bike or use the step machine at the fitness center to burn calories. They tell you how many miles or minutes it will take to burn a certain number of calories. This type of exercise is absolutely necessary to burn the fat stored in your body--but it does almost nothing to preserve or increase muscle mass.

I believe that if you do not do strength training as you ďdiet,Ē you are literally setting yourself up to fail--you guarantee that the more weight you lose, the more difficult it will be to lose more weight. You must do strength training to keep from losing muscle tissue. If you strength train for 12 weeks, you can increase your metabolic rate by up to seven percent and increase your daily energy requirements by up to 15 percent.

Bottom line: if you gain ten pounds of muscle, youíll increase your metabolism and your bodyís caloric needs up to 500 calories per day.

Wow! That means an extra piece of cake wonít add on another pound. Plus--youíll find that strength training gives you more energy and a sense of well-being. It helps firm up your body as you lose pounds-- so youíll look better, too.

So get out the dumbbells or go to the gym and get started. You'll be glad you did.

About The Author

Phyllis Rogers is author of "Over 40 & Gettin' Stronger." The book contains an easy to learn strength workout which uses only dumbbells and can be done at home. She is a certified personal trainer and specialist in fitness for older adults and has taught more than 1200 strength classes Her web site is E-mail her at [email protected].

This article was posted on February 04, 2005


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