Diets and Fat Tuesday

Almost like spring in NE Ohio this morning. Hit the concrete at 5 a.m. with temps near 45 — and with the garbage trucks on the prowl. Life is good. And I’ve been doing this now for almost 30 years.

Still, like many (most?) people, I battle to maintain my weight. And it ain’t easy — despite the fact that I run more than a 1,000 miles a year, every year. So I was intrigued by the print and broadcast stories this week that highlighted the results of four types of diets. Yeah. Health issues related to being overweight are a big problem, and health-care expenses in this country are getting bigger. And diets and dieting advice are big businesses and getting bigger. This also is an example of PR media relations strategy. What better time to release a study about diets than during the week of Fat Tuesday, when millions of people have stuffed their cheeks with paczki and other sugar-laden, artery clogging goodies?

Here’s from the article in USA Today:

When all is said and done, it comes down to calories.

A landmark study shows that people can lose weight on a variety of diets — including low-fat plans and low-carb ones — as long as they consume fewer calories.

Yes, it does seem like common sense, but weight loss has become a big business. Diet programs and best-selling books offer a banquet of different approaches, including cutting fats or cutting carbohydrates.

To get to the heart of the matter, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health financed a two-year study of hundreds of overweight people. The research was conducted by experts at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, part of the Louisiana State University system.

OK. On the surface, simple enough. Eat less — or at least eat better. Exercise more. Well, not quite that simple. And advice about dieting and exercise, even when well intentioned, is not sufficient.

I believe in exercise. It benefits the mind and the body. But even running more than 1,000 miles a year I can still gain weight. And my diet ain’t that bad. Trust me.

The problems?

  1. Very difficult to count calories. And who knows for sure what the right level is for your body? And when. I know people who have trained for a marathon, increased their running significantly, and still gained weight. Why? They may have developed more muscle. Most likely they are eating more — and if at all like me — tend to be too tired to do much else other than run.
  2. Your body adapts over time to exercise. Consequently, you have to work harder to get the same results. I only run and lift weights moderately. My body has adapted to that level of exercise. So I probably should do other things — bike, climb steps and so on. Nah. That looks like work.
  3. As you get older, your metabolism tends to slow down. I had that discussion with my doctor again last week. So you either increase the amount of exercise and exertion — or decrease calories — or both. Good luck at any age. I’m in my early 60s.
  4. It could be your thyroid. I’ve written about this previously — and it’s disappointing to me that the many stories on diets don’t at least mention this. It’s an easy blood test, but many (most?) doctors overlook it. And the result of an under-active thyroid: weight gain, fatigue, problems sleeping and mood swings that often lead to an unwarranted treatment for depression.

The reason I was talking to my doctor last week is that she is still trying to adjust my meds to get the thyroid operating properly and I guess keep me alive long enough to make good on my threat to run another marathon. And this is after a year of blood tests and constant monitoring. So please folks, ask your doctor. It’s not just about the right diet. If it were only that simple.

And by the way, I passed on the paczki.

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One response to “Diets and Fat Tuesday

  1. Life is too short for bad beer or bad food!

    You have two choices, it seems to me. Buy an old house or get a bike. The old house will keep you busy and active every day. If it’s not one thing that falls apart, it’s another that has worn out.

    Sort of like our bodies.

    For me, running ended a decade ago when 40 years of abuse caught up with my knees. Bikes are easy on the knees and can bring the same high as running. Walk in the winter, bike the rest of the year and work on the house year round.

    And every week enjoy some good beer and good food. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

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