Consider this all-too-common scenario: You notice that you have gained a few pounds over the past year or two. At first you dismiss the gain as temporary, a fluke, but you then discover that the weight is not so easy to shed. You’ve always been able to keep a somewhat steady weight, but each year your acceptable range (and your clothing size) increase just a little. You convince yourself this is a natural part of getting older, and, anyway, you don’t really have the time to exercise. You tell yourself that when things slow down a little, I’ll do something about this situation.
Or, perhaps, you have tried many different popular diets or joined weight loss groups. Each week you weigh in to get the good (or bad) news. Your measure of success or failure is determined by what the scale says. Physically feeling good while dieting certainly hasn’t been your experience.
Most diets are based on an average number of calories a person supposedly needs for daily bodily functions. This calorie number is called your Resting Metabolic Rate, or RMR. It reflects the daily input of food (calories) that your body’s vital organs (heart, liver, brain, etc.) and muscles need to function, at rest, each day.
The generally accepted average calorie intake is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men. The chief problem with diets that use a standard model is that the model fails to reflect the unique Resting Metabolic Rate of each individual. For example, if you assume your RMR is 2,000, when in fact it is 1,650, that’s a 350 calorie gain each day. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so every 10 days you will increase in weight by 3,500 calories, or a pound. Based on this assumption you will continually gain weight in small increments if you don’t use the excess calories in physical exercise. This outcome, which is built into most diets, is both discouraging and self-defeating.
One of the best ways to accurately determine an individual’s RMR is with a breathing gas analysis. In this easy-to-do procedure, you sit comfortably and breathe into a tube for 10 minutes. The testing instrument measures the oxygen in the air you exhale and calculates how much oxygen your body consumes. Based on oxygen consumption, the exact number of calories your body uses at rest is determined. By using the correct, precise number for you, you can achieve a greater degree of success.
Many factors affect variations in RMR, and differ from individual to individual. Genetics, certain drugs, thyroid conditions and stress all play a role. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your RMR, so that your body burns fat, which helps you lose weight. One of the most important is not skipping meals or drastically reducing your calorie intake. Your body responds to a lack of steady calories by storing up food, and this will actually slow down your metabolism. Instead, most experts recommend you eat the right foods every 4 hours. Not only does this limit a hungry feeling, it also provides a steady level of digestive enzymes (like insulin). Remember to drink 48-64 ounces of water daily, as this is necessary for your body to stay properly hydrated.
Another very effective way to increase RMR is to build muscle mass by strengthening your body. Exercise may be active or gentle as long as your muscles do work. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, from