BIG FAT FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
This month’s newsletter is going to be all about explaining what dangers truly lurk behind the big “fat” curtain and hopefully ignite some motivation for those of us who may be sporting a bit more than we need of it to try a bit harder to get rid of it.
Let’s face it, most of us want to lose fat because we don’t like the way it looks and feels. When I was younger it was all about vanity. However, as we “mature” our priorities change and it begins to be a lot more about health and a lot less about looks.
Oh, I know most of us aging baby boomers still care about how we look, but with age comes a lot more than wrinkles, broken veins, and fat.
Thank God, with age comes wisdom, humility, and the realization that we actually don’t stay young forever and if we don’t start taking better care of ourselves we’re going to surely croak or worse: die a long, painful, agonizing death due to some horrible disease or dysfunction that could have been prevented had we made healthier lifestyle choices. It seems like in a flash concerns go from youthful vanity to quality of life and simply wanting to be physically able to enjoy our 40’s, 50’s, and up in halfway decent health. Right?
Reducing excess adipose (fat) tissue is important for any person trying to decrease his or her risk of major disease and dysfunction. To do this one must exercise and follow a sensible eating plan. We simply cannot get away with the reckless lifestyle habits of our youth any longer. WAKE UP CALL: Did you know that after the age of 25 your metabolism decreases 2% to 5% every decade AND the average American gains a pound yet loses 1/3 to 1/2 pound of muscle every year after 25? Understanding why we get fatter as we get older isn’t rocket science when you consider these facts, is it?
It is important to lose body fat yet keep and build lean muscle mass because muscle is a much more active substance than fat. The more lean muscle mass you have the higher your metabolism even at rest. This is why you must strength train in order to keep from losing and to condition your existing muscle and even grow more. This is possible even into very old age. It is also why your weight in pounds is a very incomplete part of the picture because it doesn’t take into account your fat and lean mass ratio.
You need to consider your body fat percentage and your body mass index along with your weight. Hence, knowing your body composition is very helpful info when trying to maintain a healthy body.
BODY COMPOSITION EXPLAINED
Body composition is the makeup of the body in terms of the relative percentage of fat-free mass and body fat. Your weight on a scale consists of two dimensions: (1) body fat or adipose tissue; and (2) fat-free weight including muscles, bones, blood, organs, etc.
Women over 32% and men over 25% body fat are considered obese. The least expensive, most practical and accurate way to learn your body fat percentage is to have a qualified health professional measure it using a skinfold caliper. Also, many bodyweight scales are sold these days that estimate your body fat percentage. While they may not be completely accurate, they do at least give a baseline for you to track. There are also handheld body fat analyzers that are about as accurate as the scales. All of the methods above have a 3% to 5% margin of error.
Just keep in mind that body fat percentage is important and should be measured along with your body weight and body mass index. All of these numbers can provide a baseline to better track your progress along with your weight.
BODY MASS INDEX (BMI)
BMI provides an objective ratio describing the relationship between body weight and height. However, this peripheral measurement cannot determine actual body composition, which means that it can unfairly categorize some individuals. For example, individuals who are extremely muscular or have large frames can score high on the BMI charts, resulting in a label of “overweight” or even “obese,” while older adults with decreased lean tissue and excess body fat may score “normal.” Anything above 25 is considered overweight and anything above 30 is considered obese.
To learn your BMI you can go
and enter your weight and height into my online BMI calculator. Remember, as your BMI increases, so do health risks. It is estimated that 65% of Americans are overweight, and 28% of men and 34% of women are classified as obese. Even more shocking is the fact that 16% of American children and teens are in the obese category. A BMI greater than 25 increases a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
WAIST-TO-HIP RATIO (WHR)
As mentioned previously, excess body fat poses significant health risks. The location of the fat deposits may even be a better indicator of disease risk. The WHR helps differentiate android (or apple-shaped) individuals from those who are gynoid (or pear-shaped). Those who are apple-shaped carry excess fat in the abdominal area, while pear-shaped individuals carry excess fat in the hips and thighs. Though any extra fat weight is detrimental to a person’s health, those who are android and have a high WHR have a greater health risk. To determine your WHR, the waist measurement is divided by the hip measurement. Males with a ≥0.95 and females ≥0.86 are at risk.
Visceral (gut) fat contributes to android fat distribution and is very damaging, not only because it encroaches on the vital organs of the body, but also because excess abdominal fat has been associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Males with >47 inches and females with >43.5 inches waist circumference are at very high risk.
For every 1-inch increase in waist circumference in men, the following associated health risks are found:
As you can see, it is imperative to try and lose fat and keep it off if we want to experience the quality of life we all deserve. While some people are able to lose it, keeping it off usually proves to be as challenging as losing it in the first place. There is one common denominator that everyone who’s been successful shares that I must emphasize if you want to have a snowball’s chance at weight loss and weight maintenance.
- Blood pressure increases by 10%.
- Blood cholesterol level increases by 8%.
- High density lipoprotein (HDL-the good kind) decreases by 15%.
- Triglycerides increase by 18%.
- Metabolic syndrome risk increases by 18%.
EXERCISE—YOU’VE GOT TO MOVE IT TO LOSE IT, BABY!
- Exercise enhances daily caloric expenditure.
- Exercise, especially strength training, can minimize the loss of lean body weight.
- Exercise may suppress appetite and counteract the impact that diet may have on resting metabolic rate.
- Exercise makes the body more efficient at burning fat.
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EXERCISE OF THE MONTH
This is the part of the newsletter where I picture an exercise and give explicit instructions on its proper execution.
This month I thought I'd continue the train of thought on exercises that will enhance our already beautiful bodies for bathing suit season. In my opinion, nothing does that like a nice tone tummy. There really isn't a better exercise to isolate your abs than the Swiss Ball Crunch.
Swiss Ball Crunch
Primary Muscle Group Worked: Abdominals.
To see a video of this exercise (plus oblique crunches to hit your total abdominal area) go to:
Swiss ball crunch vid.
Preparation: Sit on the ball and then walk your feet away while simultaneously going down into a lying position, allowing the ball to stop at the lumbar spine area or the lower back. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be bent at a 90 degree right angle. Place your hands across your chest (beginner) or behind your head (intermediate or advanced) and slightly curl you head neck and shoulders towards your pelvis.
Execution: Exhale your air through your mouth as you come up and pause for a second as you empty your lungs completely at the top of the move, then slowly return to the start. Repeat for as many reps as you can until failure.
HEREIN LIES THE CHALLENGE: Don't let the butt drop, keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep your abs engaged throughout, keeping the pelvis in a neutral position.
TIP: Envision doing an accordion-type contraction with your abdominal muscles. This is a subtle move of only a couple of inches. Remember, it is a crunch, not a sit-up. Never pull with your hands and always do slow, controlled moves—never bouncy or jerky. Keep the same distance between your chin and chest at all times (pretend you have an orange lodged there), leading with the shoulders-your head and neck are only along for the ride.
THE PONDER POND
Okay, peeps! This is the inspirational part of the newsletter known as the "Ponder Pond" where you're welcome to take a swim in the sweet waters of inspiration.
This month's video
is just plain old cute! I just couldn't resist posting it. If nothing else, it will make you smile and say, "Awwwwwwwwww!" Right?
Well, that's about it for this time! I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter and until the next issue, may the wind be at your back and improved health and vitality your new reality!
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From my heart to your health,
Linda Burke, CPT
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