Reproduced from OnHealth.com archives

Chat With Experts, October 1/99 ~ Dieting Myths
Guest Expert: Ron Brown

MODERATOR:
Welcome to Chat With Experts. Let's get started. Our guest is Ron Brown, the author of The Body Fat Guide: The Easy Way to Analyze Your Body Composition and Energy Balance. Certified as a personal fitness trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Brown is also a registered massage therapist and has operated his own Massage Therapy and Fitness Training Clinic.

Today he's here to answer your questions about what works and what doesn't in your quest to lose weight and get in shape. Here's our first question:

Question from coaco1: Why is it so hard to lose the weight in the lower part of the body?

BROWN:
It's really no harder, it just appears that way because the fat is piled up higher there. Fat melts away at the same rate all over your body at once, like the snow melting away in the spring. But wherever the snow is piled up higher, it takes longer for that area to completely thin out. People have different body fat distribution patterns. Some parts of your body may appear lean while other problem areas are still fat. Have patience and know that eventually it all thins out.

MODERATOR:
Ron, you mentioned fat "melting away." What exactly happens to the fat in our body when we lose weight? Do we actually get rid of it, is it converted into another form? Does the method of weight loss we use have an effect on what happens to our body fat?

BROWN:
Actually, we are storing and burning off fat continuously, 24 hours a day. It's all a question of restoring the fat at a slower pace than you burn it off. It really doesn't matter what activities you perform or how active you are or the type of food you are eating. It all comes down to the balance between calories absorbed and calories burned. To answer the other part of that question, normally your blood serum contains a certain amount of glucose and fatty acids which are burned by the body's cells for energy. Organs like your liver help to moderate those serum levels by releasing extra stores of these energy nutrients as they are needed. When enough nutrients aren't coming in immediately through intestinal absorption, then your body draws upon its stored fat cells more to restore your blood glucose levels. Incidentally, that is why you eventually lose your appetite when you settle into a strict diet. Your blood glucose level is normal party because of fresh nutrients arriving through your gastrointestinal system, and partly because of the nutrients arriving from your released fat stores. But, that only lasts a little while. Eventually when your diet ends, your full appetite returns.

Question from coaco1: What type of exercise is there for a person with a walking problem?

BROWN:
There's cycling, and aqua aerobics is excellent for people with problems with weight-bearing activities, because of the floatation factor of being in the pool. Bear in mind, the heavier your body weight, the more stress on your system during activity. So, a very heavy person could be working very strenuously simply by walking. In fact, it may be so strenuous for them to walk that they are hardly burning fat anymore. Most of what they are burning would be glucose converted from glycogen in their muscles, like a weight lifter. We call that kind of activity that burns glycogen anaerobic activity.

MODERATOR:
Our guest today Ron Brown, the author of The Body Fat Guide: The Easy Way to Analyze Your Body Composition and Energy Balance. Please send him your weight-loss and fitness questions. Just type in the text box and submit it to the moderator. Here's our next question:

Question from coaco1: Is there any herb or natural stuff that will help you lose weight?

BROWN:
No drug or supplement is a substitute for the proper weight management skills. If you manage to lose some weight taking these substances, the weight usually returns when you stop using these substances. Therefore, I don't personally recommend any of these items. Also, that would include crash diets, unbalanced diets and programs that restrict certain foods. The weight always comes back when you come off these things. The solution is to learn to properly balance your calorie intake with your calorie expenditures in order to prevent putting on the weight in the first place. My book The Body Fat Guide will teach you precisely that.

MODERATOR:
What does calculating your body fat percentage tell you? Is it an indication of your overall healthiness?

BROWN:
Excellent question. There are many other factors that go into your health besides your body fat level. The value of estimating your body fat percentage is to provide you with a reference point during your training. In other words, you can see if you are getting the proper results, and adjust your diet and activity accordingly.

MODERATOR:
Thanks to our chatters for sending in great questions! We'll get to them all in due time. Here's our next one:

Question from Katy H: I am 5"6", 196 lb. female, age 39 who has been attempting to lose 60 pounds. I started last January, lost 30 lbs. through changing my diet and exercising 4-5 days, and I have now been in a plateau for 7 months! Why won't my body respond to the decreased calories and increased exercise any longer?

BROWN:
Katy - congratulations on your weight loss. You have gone very far managing your diet by feel. But, that can only take you so far, in your case the first 30 pounds. To break out of your plateau, you need a better way to accurately modify the balance between your diet and activities. That is known as your Energy Balance. If people could properly modify their Energy Balance by feel alone they would never have weight problems. Following the Energy Balance numbers in my book The Body Fat Guide helps you get the proper balance. Then you will be able to do it by feel. But, until you use the numbers, you won't be able to do it by feel.

MODERATOR:
Should Katy change the type of exercise she's been doing? Has her body acclimated to the workout, or is that just a myth?

BROWN:
Good question. The amount of calories burned during her activities remains the same. What changes is her fitness level, so that she may feel like she's not burning as much as she actually is. For example, when you are out of shape, running up the stairs feels awful. When you are in shape it doesn't feel so bad. In both cases the amount of calories burned is the same. This is just another example of why it is difficult to make the proper diet and activity modifications by feel. So keep doing what you are doing Katy, just adjust the amounts.

MODERATOR:
Here's a quick follow-up from Katy H, then we'll move on to all of our other great questions. Be assured we'll get to everyone soon!

Question from Katy H: Can you briefly explain what you mean by "Energy Balance".

BROWN:
Energy Balance is, according to most textbooks on nutrition, the balance between the calories you absorb and the calories you burn. They make up two sides of an equation. You need to know both sides in order to manage your weight. Just as you need to know what your deposits and withdrawals are in your bank account to manage your finances. With that information, it doesn't even matter how much you eat or how active you are; to get results you just need to get the proper balance between the two parts of the equation.

Question from Tracy: I've been trying to lose weight, and I'm not sure if I'm doing enough exercise. How much and how often should I be lifting weights and doing aerobic activity?

BROWN:
To lose weight, lifting weights isn't really helpful. Because it burns mainly glycogen. Low intensity aerobics are the best for burning fat while sparing muscle. It is important to know that just burning fat is not the same as losing body fat. Again, this is where properly modifying your Energy Balance comes in. Follow those numbers in my book or for on my website, www.bodyfatguide.com.

MODERATOR:
Our guest today is Ron Brown, the author of "The Body Fat Guide: The Easy Way to Analyze Your Body Composition and Energy Balance. Please send him your weight-loss and fitness questions. Just type in the text box and submit it to the moderator. Here's our next question:

Question from tkd girl: What if your body index is 22? Is that good or bad?

BROWN:
That is considered acceptable range for most people. However, realize that body mass index has limitations. It doesn't take your body composition into consideration. In other words, two people may be the same height and weigh the same, and one person may have much more body fat than the other. My book combines body mass index recommendations with body fat percentage recommendations to give a better ideal target for your body weight.

Question from Marghiee T: Hi Ron. What is your feeling about diet plans like Jenny Craig.? Can they really work in the long term?

BROWN:
I can only give you my experience. These programs start you off on a weight-loss program, which skips over the most important part of weight management: How not to put the weight on in the first place. When I advise a fitness client, I tell them to take several days simply to get their diet and activity properly balanced, so that they are not gaining or losing weight. This gives them an important base to manage their weight, which you never get in a commercial weight loss program. In other words, the emphasis in the commercial programs is always quick weight loss right away, when what is really needed is an understanding of how to properly balance your diet and activity.

Question from tkd girl: I am a 5'8", 145 lbs. female age 15. I feel I need to get more exercise, but I can't bring myself to do it. How can you help me?

BROWN:
OK. Having specific goals and a way to measure them is the key to staying interested and motivated. My book provides a great way to see results in a few days, which allows you to make the proper modifications. The body composition formulas in my book apply to adults. But, if you are an adult size, then you could probably use them.

Question from NOT FAT: Ron, What fluids are the best to help keep proper hydration??

BROWN:
My preference is pure water, usually distilled water when available. It contains no impurities, including minerals, which when in water are not as bio-available as when they appear in food. My next choice would be fresh fruit, preferably whole fruit rather than juices. Juicing removes fiber and allows you to swallow calories very quickly.

MODERATOR:
Our guest today Ron Brown, the author of "The Body Fat Guide: The Easy Way to Analyze Your Body Composition and Energy Balance. Please send him your weight-loss and fitness questions. Just type in the text box and submit it to the moderator. Here's our next question:

Question from tma22: What is the best diet on the market today?

BROWN:
Here's the best diet on the market. Any diet that gives you life long results, which pretty much eliminates most of what's out there! So, what gives you life long results? The proper weight management skills that allow you to eat your favorite foods as part of a well-balanced diet. That's all it takes. Everything else is just a quick fix. Remember - most dieters regain their weight after their diet. So we're talking about life-long weight management skills.

MODERATOR:
Is it always a good idea to consult with a doctor before going on a diet? Is the family physician okay, or should we seek out a nutritionist?

BROWN:
You should always consult with a qualified health practitioner before attempting any diet or exercise program. Unfortunately, beyond that, most physicians are not weight management experts. In fact, neither are most nutritionists and dieticians weight management experts! And while you are at it, throw in most fitness personal trainers. You see, weight management encompasses all of these fields and even more. Most health care providers only specialize in one or two aspects of weight management.

Question from spicejar2000: What about the high-protein diets? They do work.

BROWN:
Work for what? Temporary weight loss or permanent weight control? And, what kind of weight are you losing anyway? Water? Muscle? Check changes in your body composition to see for yourself. Ten percent of your calories should come from protein. That's all the protein in human breast milk. More than that is not needed for an adult.

Question from Bldll: Is it possible to gain muscle and lose fat on the same day?

BROWN:
Despite what you may hear in advertising hype for Wonder Machines and fitness programs that allow you to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, it's a myth. To lose body fat you must be in negative calorie balance. In other words, burning more calories than you are absorbing. To gain muscle you must be in positive calorie balance. In other words, absorbing more calories than you are burning. How can you do both at the same time? You must separate your fat-burning days from your muscle-building days. If you attempt to build muscle with weight lifting and reduce your calorie intake at the same time to burn fat, you will not be able to fully replenish your fatigued muscles. As a result, your lean body mass muscle decreases. You are actually fatter (body-fat-percentage wise) and flabbier. On the other hand, if you are doing aerobics to burn off fat, and you eat more than you burn off, you will never lose the body fat. These commercial programs know that people want the fast route to results in the least amount of time. And so they make these promises. That's not to say you can't lower your body fat and increase your muscle mass over a period of time. You just have to train specifically for each effect, and alternate between the two.

Question from NOT FAT: Will your book provide us with the information for weight management?

BROWN:
Absolutely. I would tell my fitness clients to buy all kinds of diet and exercise books, but none of them contained all of the weight management skills I felt they needed. So, I compiled them into a book myself, The Body Fat Guide. I've taken the best from all of the experts in various aspects of weight management to make one complete system.

Question from Ed: Hi, what kind of schedule do you recommend for alternating between trying to lose fat and gain muscle? One month on one then one month on another?

BROWN:
It's very flexible, according to your results. Your results should always be the bottom line in adjusting your training. If you can reduce a pound of body fat in three days, and then follow that by gaining half a pound of muscle within the next four days, great. Just go by your results. Here again, using my book will allow you to measure those results.

Question from NOT FAT: Thank you, I find this information very intense with sensible facts!!

BROWN:
Thank you.

MODERATOR:
That's all the time we have for today's chat. Thanks for joining us, and thanks to Ron Brown for being here. His book, The Body Fat Guide: The Easy Way to Analyze Your Body Composition and Energy Balance, is published by HealthStyle. This chat will be archived on the site for you to reference at any time.

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