April 16, 2024
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Lose Weight by Not Trying to Lose Weight

The conventional method of weight loss has proven to be flawed. Typically, recommendations revolve around reducing total body weight by eating less, or by eliminating entire categories of foods. However, it has become evident that this approach is not yielding the desired results. Constant dieting and fluctuating weight have unfortunately become a painful way of life for many.

Recent data highlights a concerning reality: nearly one-third of American adults are overweight, with more than two in five classified as obese, and one in eleven suffering from severe obesity. Moreover, traditional diets are actually counterproductive. Restricting food intake reduces your body’s metabolism, making it more difficult to keep weight off, causing lifelong weight management issues. Rather than fixating solely on the number on the scale, we should evaluate total body composition to discern between muscle and visceral adipose tissue (fat). Emphasis should be placed on the development of lean muscle mass through a tailored dietary approach combined with a well-structured resistance training exercise regimen.

To begin, we need to redress the metrics. Instead of focusing on the pounds, we should evaluate what body weight is made up of. While an ideal method involves a DEXA scan for a comprehensive insight into metabolic health, this may not always be feasible. Utilizing a high-quality, segmental bioimpedance scale (available on Amazon!) can offer valuable information beyond body fat percentage, including the distribution of fat and assessment of muscle mass. It’s crucial to differentiate between problematic areas such as belly fat, and less concerning fat deposits found on the arms and thighs. Simple at-home measures like waist-to-height ratio can also provide valuable indicators of overall health, particularly in assessing fat distribution. Additionally, assessments of grip strength using a hand dynamometer (also on Amazon!) can provide insights into overall body strength, with studies consistently linking higher grip strength to lower mortality. These findings underscore the importance of comprehensive health evaluations that go beyond traditional metrics.

Armed with this knowledge, let’s turn our attention to the task of building muscle mass, a cornerstone in enhancing your metabolism to lose weight. Building muscle mass and strength of course presents its own set of challenges. As people age, already beginning at age 30, they lose up to 1% of their muscle each year even in the absence of lifestyle or dietary changes, resulting in a decline in strength, power and therefore metabolism. Protein intake and resistance training are essential to counteracting this natural decline.

Contrary to common belief, the necessity for protein actually increases with age rather than decreases. The FDA’s recommended dietary allowance for protein may only represent half of what’s truly necessary. Individuals should ideally aim for 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of their target body weight. As a general guideline, aim for 100 grams or more of protein daily, although this recommendation should be customized to suit your specific needs. Most people fall short of meeting these protein requirements, particularly as they age. Additionally, dietary habits often skew towards consuming the bulk of protein at dinner. But studies suggest that distributing protein intake evenly throughout the day, including at breakfast, have more pronounced effects on increasing muscle mass. Given the common tendency to misjudge portion sizes and nutritional intake, utilizing tracking apps during the initial phase of dietary adjustment can be helpful.

The second crucial component for building muscle mass to increase metabolism is resistance training. Substantial evidence points to the pivotal role of resistance training in not only preserving muscle mass and function but also in enhancing muscle strength, particularly during weight loss efforts. Often referred to as “strength training,” resistance training is the most effective exercise for building muscle and optimizing body composition. By increasing muscle mass, resistance training elevates your resting metabolic rate (RMR), resulting in greater calorie expenditure throughout the day, even during sedentary activities such as sitting at your desk.

If you’re new to resistance training, here are some strategies to get started: Organize your workout routine into four main categories—upper body pushing, upper body pulling, exercises for hips and thighs and core exercises. Aim to target each muscle group at least twice a week. Many popular exercise apps have resistance training programs you can try at home (I like the Peloton app). Remember, while muscle formation takes time and consistency, the rewards of increased strength and vitality will be well worth the effort.

By focusing on building muscle mass through increased protein intake and structured resistance training, you can lose and keep off weight without constantly “watching the scale.” This paradigm shift offers a promising path towards a healthier and more vibrant future, where weight loss is a natural byproduct of your daily routine rather than a Sisyphean struggle.

Sarah Alter is a physician assistant with 10 years of experience in women’s health care. Currently, she specializes in women’s mental health and serves as an integrative medicine provider at Custom Wellness NJ.

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