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RYAN CAIRNS: No magic pill for losing weight

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Health transformation starts with understanding metabolism, avoiding overeating and changing one’s thinking

Earlier this week I gave a nutrition talk to some members at my gym. Here is a short summary of part of my one 75-minute talk:

First of all, don't worry about diets, magic pills, gadgets or the latest workout craze.

If you are overeating, you will not lose weight (fat). It is simple math. Energy balance is the most important factor in losing fat. The calories you put into your body must be less than the calories you need or need to expend in the course of a day or week. Don't worry if you overeat (by a little bit) one day or even two days. The entire weekly average of eating less than you need is more important than any single day.

Think of food as energy. People always tell me they eat healthy. You can still overeat healthy food. Don't think of food as "good' or "bad." Think of it as less or more nutritious. It is true that "healthy" food is usually lower in calories than less nutritious food, but remember, 2,000 calories of sugar and 2,000 calories of protein both equal 2,000 calories.

Metabolism is a fun word we like to talk about a lot. Simply, it is the least amount of calories a body needs to function. Everyone needs calories to just live. Unfortunately, we aren't all created equal when it comes to metabolism. A small woman does not need that same amount of calories as a large woman or man. Metabolism can also slow as you age. What does that even mean? Well, as we age, we stop growing, our need for calories becomes less. A teenager going through puberty needs way more calories than a 40-year-old man or woman. There are ways to increase your metabolism as you age, though. Exercise (especially strength training), healthy eating, increased daily activity and sleep can help you keep your metabolic needs in check. Muscle mass is one, if not the biggest, indicator of having a high metabolism. Question. Do you and your potentially larger, more muscular partner eat all the same portion sizes when you dine? If so, you are probably overeating or they are underrating. Some exceptions to that are if you exercise more or if you need more calories because you eat less at other times.

There is so much more I talked about, but I'll finish with this. You can't always eat the same amount of food you have always eaten. Here is a scenario. Just say you lost five kg in one month. You are now a new person with a new metabolism. You no longer have the metabolism of a person that is five kg bigger, so you can't eat like a person who is five kg bigger. You will need to eat less food moving forward. Remember, small people need less food. So, you lost five kg and then went back to old eating habits. You will gain that weight back. You can't escape math. It all goes back to the energy balance equation. Eat for the body you want, not the body you used to be.


Ryan Cairns is a certified personal trainer from Charlottetown. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia. Ryan’s column, Fit Happens, will be published monthly. You can reach Ryan at ryancairnspt@gmail.com or at Twitter.com/fithappensryanc.

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