Body Image

A calorie is a calorie, right?

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? Not even close! Perhaps inside test tubes in laboratories; but in the real world, a calorie is more like the American dollar— its value goes up and down with inflation and the economy. If inflation is high, a dollar doesn’t buy us much. Likewise, if your metabolism is running high, a few extra calories will be quickly used and therefore have less impact on your “bottom line”. If your metabolism is running low, even a few extra calories will pack on extra pounds.

I collect a food log before creating a client's program to see what kind of food consumption their metabolism can handle. The value and effect of a calorie can only be measured when contrasted with the speed of our metabolism at the time the calorie is ingested. And the speed of your metabolism is constantly adjusting to the environment created for it daily by your energy balance.

If we reduce calories, we trigger a metabolic response in our bodies that starts slowing our metabolism. We will then lose weight only until the metabolism has adapted to our new caloric intake. We call this point a 'plateau'.

It’s at these 'plateaus' that we are most vulnerable to taking extreme measures that can ruin our metabolisms. Often we resort to some nutritional "extreme" out of frustration to break this plateau. Understanding how our metabolism works and what a plateau actually is, helps us to determine how to handle them. Our bodies metabolism can significantly throttle back and slow down when it perceives a food shortage. This is a survival mechanic, and a very powerful one. When we hit these plateaus we have two options:

A - reduce calories or carbohydrates further

B - Increase food intake

These options may seem straight-forward but responding incorrectly to a plateau can cause big problems for our efforts to reduce body fat. If handled properly, a structured decrease in our food intake can result in temporarily staving off the plateau long enough to lose more weight. If handled incorrectly, or when food intake is already too low, it can trigger a survival mechanic that can wreck our metabolism and make it nearly impossible to lose more weight.

If we choose to increase our food intake we need to recognize that our new goal is to speed our metabolism and not necessarily to lose more weight at this point. If we increase our intake we may actually increase our body mass so making sure we are doing the proper exercise at this point will ensure that only lean mass is increased and not body fat. It’s a very fine line to walk between increasing our intake enough to speed our metabolism while not gaining any body fat. Often this can only be accomplished by a gradual increase in food intake spread out over a few weeks. If implemented properly it will reset our metabolic rate, and allow us to once again begin dieting with results.

When properly structured, a diet can be cycled in such a way to decrease weight and body fat, and if needed, be re purposed to temporarily reinvigorate our metabolic rate allowing us to hit the 'reset' on the body’s ability to drop weight.

This method has the advantage of resulting in dramatic shifts in body composition and actually 'reboots' the metabolism so that these results are sustainable.

This approach is far too dependent on individual evaluation to be presented as a mass diet.... which is why there are no manuscript diets that can yield results anywhere close to this.

An intelligent nutrition plan must be based first on the current food intake levels your body is used to; second, what activities and conditioning you’ll be engaging in; and third, what your specific body type is, and unique personal goals are.

When these elements are accounted for, and then food and exercise timing is factored in, the results can be quite impressive to even the most experienced fitness professional.

Why am I a circle?

It's true, people come in all different shapes and sizes, but in recent years more and more seem to come in the same general shape. A circle.

It seems our lifestyle in general (the age of technology and eating on the run) produces an easily identifiable bulbous and sagging look towards the center circle. How did this happen? I used to be rectangular, even triangular... but now I'm a circle.

There are two primary contributing factors to our increasingly spherical physiques.

The first reason is that when we spend additional time in the seated or slumped position, our head and shoulders tend to roll forward and down (toward our center) and our arms internally rotate (again toward our center). Not sure if this describes you? Well, do you spend much of your time working at a desk, relaxing on the couch, driving, being driven, watching movies, working on the computer, eating, visiting with friends at the coffee shop, texting, studying, reading, playing video games, talking on the phone...?   ...by the way, what are you doing right now? You wouldn't happen to be sitting, would you?

If any of these activities describe a large part of your life, you are.. well... pretty normal. Also your head is likely forward from your center of gravity (not in line with your ankles), and when you stand relaxed the back of your hands face forward instead of your thumbs.

Ok, now that you've stood up and checked yourself out in the mirror (yeah, I know), let me recommend a couple things you can do to help restore yourself from a circle to any number of improved geometrical shapes.

For every hour a day you spend in the seated or slumped position, I suggest performing 2 door-jam shrugs. That means if you spend 10 hours per day sitting (scary but add it up - driving to work, sitting at your desk, relaxing in front of the TV etc..) that means you would perform 20 door-jam shrugs per day!

The second reason is because when we gain fat, our bodies are designed to hold it more or less symmetrically near the center of our bodies. Thank goodness for that! Could you imagine if we had an extra 30 pounds in our left ankle? Our Hop-Scotch days would be over! Instead, our bodies store the extra weight neatly in our stomach, thighs, and hips, allowing us to move with remarkable dexterity on the dance floor despite the need for a Doctor's note prior to preforming most popular dance moves (you know what I'm talking about)...

There are a few nutritional strategies.... and yes -- I'm talking about diet -- or as some people commonly regard it, “the complete removal of life's enjoyment”. Regardless, if you're in the market for a diet, make sure you read this brief article based on years of dieting thousands of clients. There are some common elements that strongly correlate to success with dieting.

Click here to view the article "Overcoming Adversity While Dieting".

While as a nation we are becoming increasingly rotund, individually we can take some steps to prevent ourselves from becoming or remaining.. “a circle”.

Instead we can adopt a healthy lifestyle and get in the best "shape" of our life.

Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET