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Answers to Your most Frequently Asked Questions about Weight Control.

Got a question about diet and exercise?  Fitness trainer Ron Brown, author of The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book, will personally answer your weight management questions by email. 

Address your questions to:

All reader names and addresses kept confidential. Questions posted in Fat Talk! are summaries of actual questions. All questions and answers are copyright of HealthStyle. Body Fat Guy Diet Myths Fat Guide Love Handles Body Fat Review
Fat Talk! Flab Fighters Body Fat % Muscle Mass Ultimate Butt

Subject Index
Click to go to:

Fat grams 
Daily Fluctuations 
How much to Eat to Lose Body Fat 
Swimsuit Model 
Losing More than 2 Pounds a Week 
Trade in Your Love Handles for a 6-pack
Skin fold measurements 
More Protein for Active People? 
Flabby Upper Arms 
Children's weight 
Slow Metabolism 
Miracle Weight-loss Drugs 
Aerobic & Anaerobic Calories 
Seaweed Soap 
Weight-loss Guessing 
Losing 1% Body Fat 
Weight Loss Plateau 
Advice for a Dieting 12-year-old 
The Zone 
Protein Grams 
5 Meals a Day 
Body Fat Quackery 
Using An Electronic Organizer 
Accuracy of Low Body Fat Estimates
Activity Calorie Tables
Troubleshooting Your Calorie Estimates
Scientific Proof
Number Phobia
Formula Doesn't Work

Covert Baily 

Height And Body Composition

Frame Size And Body Composition

Food Combining

Convert Jogging Calories to Walking Calories

Breaking Down Fat Cells

  Click to go to More Fat Talk! Click to go to Still More Fat Talk!

Fat grams

I workout by running on the treadmill for 30 minutes, 3 days a week, and I weight train 2 days a week. I keep a food journal and I'm eating 1500 calories a day. But, although I have been doing this for several months now, I haven't lost any weight. I'm wondering if this is because I am still eating too much fat? How many grams of fat should I eat every day?

It's great that you are keeping track of what you are eating, especially by calories. Now, you have to figure out how many calories you are burning to make sure all your calories are balanced in the direction you want your weight to move. Don't try to balance your calories by feel. Use my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book to check your energy balance and your body fat percentage. Maybe the reason you don't seem to be losing weight is because you're losing body fat and replacing it with muscle.

There's really nothing magical about the right number of fat grams on a properly balanced diet. The calories you get from fat grams should be no higher than 30% of

your total calorie intake. For weight loss purposes, some authorities recommend reducing that to 20% and even as low as 10%. You should experiment to see which percentage of calories from fat is manageable for you.

For weight loss purposes, as long as your total calorie intake is set right, the percentage of calories coming from fat is not really that crucial. You could even eat 100% of your calories from fat and lose weight! That's because you would feel too ill to eat much at all! Eating too much fat is bad for your health, but don't be fooled by weight loss claims that you must eat ultra-low fat to lose weight. It's the total amount of calories that counts most!

Let's say you adjust your calorie intake down to 1200 calories a day instead of 1500. And let's say you want to try a 30% fat diet. So, 30% of 1200 calories means 360 calories should be coming from fat (1200 x .3 = 360). How many grams of fat is that? Since there are 9 calories in every gram of fat, just divide 360 calories by 9 and, voila, you get 40 grams of fat! Remember, that's for a 30% fat diet. Try figuring this out for a 20% and 10%. fat diet.
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Swimsuit Model

I use to have a  nice figure, but I've gained quite a bit of weight recently. My question is, how can I calculate the amount of pounds I would need to lose to get down to the body fat percentage of a bathing suit model?

To be in the body fat percentage range of a female swimsuit model, you are looking at reducing your body fat percentage to around 12%, perhaps even 10% or lower. (Checkout Celebrity Body Fat for a comparison of Hollywood's most popular female figures.) 

The quickest way to determine how much weight you need to lose to get down to your target body fat percentage is to simply subtract your target % from your current %. So, if you are 19% body fat and you want to get down to 12%, you need to lose 7% of your current weight, all from body fat. However, this is only a general estimate because the actual amount of weight in every 1% of your body weight decreases as your body weight decreases.

Here's a more accurate way to determine the exact number of pounds of body fat you will need to lose to achieve your goal. Remember, a loss of one pound of body fat will reduce your waist (measured at your navel) by about one quarter of an inch.

If you plan to lose 20 pounds of body fat, subtract a quarter inch from your current waist size for each pound of body fat you plan on losing. In this case, you will subtract 5 inches from your waist. Then, use The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book to find your percentage body fat if you weighed 20 pounds less and had a 5 inch smaller waist. Adjust your subtracted amounts until you arrive at your percentage body fat goal. The Body Fat Guide shows you how many pounds of body fat you would have at your goal. Subtract this amount from your current pounds of body fat to see how many pounds you need to lose.

**Very important word of warning: You may find that just losing body fat is not a realistic way to achieve your body fat percentage goal. You may also need to build up and tone muscle mass! After all, the curves on those swimsuit models don't just come from skin and bones. As you pursue your body fat percentage goals, always keep your muscle mass and your total body weight within a realistic and healthy range. Check out Minimum Lean Body Mass (LBM). There you will find Body Mass Index recommendations based on weight and height (which do not take body fat percentages into consideration) combined with normal body fat percentages. These two items together tell you the minimum amount of muscle you should carry for your height. 
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Skin fold measurements

Hello. I have a degree in Health and Human Performance. I have learned and agree with everything you teach and I think this is a very good educational page. Will you give the formulas to use to measure body fat with Skin Fold measurements.

There are many formulas for estimating body composition with skin fold measurements. Here is one I have used. You need calipers that measure in mm. Add together the following skinfold sites in mm:

  • Pec - horizontal fold 1" below collar bone, 3-4" out from inside edge of pec.
  • Subscapular - vertical fold, 1" from middle of shoulder blade toward spine.
  • Bicep - vertical fold in middle of muscle.
  • Tricep - vertical fold at bottom of inside triceps head.
  • Kidney - horizontal fold, 2" up and 2" out from dimple above glutes.
  • Suprailiac - horizontal fold, half way between navel and top of hip bone.
  • Abdominals - vertical fold, 1" to side of navel.
  • Quadricep - vertical fold in middle of front thigh muscle.
  • Medial Calf - vertical fold in middle of rear lower leg muscle.

Divide the total sum of all these skinfold sites by your body weight, and multiply by .27. This equals your body fat percentage.

With all this measuring and calculating, now you see why I wrote The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book. It contains a simple but accurate body composition analysis method for my fitness clients, based on just weight and waist size.
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Children's weight

I am writing to you because my daughter who is nine was told she is overweight. Now she is wanting to diet. I was wondering if you could send me a chart on height and weight, because I do not think she is overweight.

Most height/weight tables for children only give AVERAGES of what children weigh at certain heights and ages. You can probably judge this for yourself by simply looking at the child and comparing her to her friends and schoolmates of the same height and age. Teachers and school nurses could probably give you the best informed opinion about where your child's weight is in relation to her peers.

Here is a chart that shows weight and age for children. Remember, children are not responsible for feeding themselves...adults 

are responsible for supervising the feeding of children! The only way a child will learn proper lifestyle habits to maintain healthy weight is by learning from adults who set a good example!

Although this chart may seem out of date, mean weight shown is closer to normal ideals compared to today's increasingly obese youth! You can also view the latest charts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,

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Aerobic & Anaerobic Calories

Hi! I’ve read the pages on your site and find the info very enlightening. I plan to start implementing the energy balance chart in your book today!
Prior to having kids, I weighed 120 lbs. After 3 pregnancies, all the pregnancy weight went to my stomach and nowhere else. I began working out a year ago and everything is toning up except my stomach! I do 50-100 crunches each workout and I run a lot. Can you see any major thing that I’m doing ineffectively?

The reason why your stomach is still not toned up is because your body fat level is still too high. To lose fat and reduce the size of your stomach, you're definitely on the right track by starting out with the energy balance chart (see also the Energy Balance Chart Tutorial). Bear in mind, it's necessary to separate your aerobic calories from your anaerobic calories when using this chart. That's because aerobic calories come from burning fat and anaerobic calories come from burning a starch stored inside your muscles called glycogen. A general rule to tell the difference between aerobic and anaerobic activities is: whenever you feel your muscles burning, you are burning glycogen, not fat. You can't feel fat burning.

For fat burning purposes, it's better to keep your anaerobic exercise to a minimum while you are following a calorie reduced diet. If you don't cut down your anaerobic activities while dieting to lose fat, you won't be eating enough calories to fully replenish your glycogen. This will make your muscles shrink and look flat. In the meantime, your body fat keeps hanging around because you haven't been burning enough aerobic calories. So, does that mean you should run more? NO! YOU SHOULD RUN LESS!

You are no doubt saying, "But, isn't running an aerobic activity?"
The answer is: yes it is, but, you also burn glycogen while running. In fact, the faster you run, the more calories you burn from glycogen instead of from fat!

 Many sporting and workout activities really burn a 

combination of aerobic and anaerobic calories. The slower and longer your aerobic activity, the greater the percentage of calories burned from fat. Walking is about the best fat burning activity you can do. Walking a mile burns as many calories as running a mile (it just takes longer) but, more of the calories you burn while walking come from fat.

Here's what I suggest. Get out of the gym for awhile and go for long walks. One hour of walking will burn about as many calories as half an hour of running, and practically all of the calories will come from fat, not muscle. If you can't get out of the house for that long, turn on the TV or stereo and walk in place. If you like, gradually work up to longer walks whenever you can manage to find the time. A 2-3 hour walk makes a serious dent in your calorie intake! Just walk at a normal comfortable pace. Go for distance, not speed. Most people can walk farther than they can run, so they wind up burning more calories!

Don't worry about taking a break from the anaerobic toning activities you have been doing. Your muscle tone won't turn to mush overnight. Forget about getting a burn in your abdominals for now. It's more important for you to get the fat off your body. Every few days or so, go back to the gym to do some maintenance toning and running if you like, but make sure you are eating enough on those days to fully replenish your muscles. Check your LBM levels. If they are dropping, it's because your muscle mass is not being replenished.

These are just some general principles you can apply to get your body shape moving in the right direction. Keep checking your results on your energy balance chart, and make the right diet and activity adjustments. If you aren't burning more calories than you are eating, you will never lose any weight!

Aim for 2 pounds of fat loss a week. Separating your aerobic calories from your anaerobic calories will allow you to hang onto your muscle while losing the fat. That's how you really improve your percentage body fat, and your figure!
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Losing 1% Body Fat

How long should it take to lose 1% of your body fat?

Since body fat percentages are based on your weight, the answer to your question depends on how much you weigh and the rate of your body fat loss. Move the decimal point in your weight over to the left by 2 places to determine the AMOUNT of body fat you need to lose to lower your body fat percentage by 1% (body weight/.01). So, if you weigh 154.5 pounds you need to lose 1.545 pounds of body fat. Keep in mind that as your weight drops, the amount of weight in 1% becomes smaller. 

Now divide the amount of body fat you wish to lose by the RATE you wish to lose it. To lose body fat at the rate of 2 pounds a week you must burn off 1000 more calories than you eat each day. At the suggested rate of 2 pounds lost a week, or .285714 pounds a day (7/2), that means if you weigh 154.5 pounds, it takes 1.545/.285714 =  5.4 days to lose 1% body fat.. 

Most people can expect to lose 1% of their body fat each week if they follow The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book

Of course, if you are losing muscle as well as fat...well, that screws up everything!     
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The Zone

I have been reading your book The Body Fat Guide. I couldn't put it down when I first started reading. I felt that many of the things you pointed out made a lot of sense. I'd like to know if the kind of calories matters. Are calories from fat less easy to burn than calories from protein?

It's true that calories from fat and sugar are absorbed more easily into your body than calories from starch and protein. But trying to force your body to eat large amounts of protein and starch in place of normal amounts of fat and natural, unrefined sugars is not a substitute for learning to eat proper amounts of food.

If you are eating a well-balanced diet of about 10-15% calories from protein, 20-30% calories from fat and the rest from unrefined carbohydrates, you won't need to worry about where your calories are coming from. Don't be fooled by unbalanced weight-loss diets that make it hard for you to absorb enough calories, like ultra low-fat diets, or high-protein diets; for example, the 30% protein diet recommended in The Zone. Human breast milk provides the total protein needs for an infant, the stage of human life when protein needs are the highest. Yet, by 

calorie, human breast milk is only 9.5% protein!

A calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from, but it is harder for your body to digest and absorb the proper amount of calories on these kinds of unbalanced diets. That's why they are so popular for temporary weight lose. The problem is, since they are nutritionally unbalanced, you can't stay on these diets forever. They eventually undermine your health. For example, the National Institute of Medicine, in its most recent recommendations for calcium intake, states that high protein intake causes loss of calcium and is a cause of osteoporosis. Your body eventually demands a return to more normal eating, and then the weight comes back. YOU CAN'T LIVE IN THE ZONE FOREVER!

The best plan is to work toward your body weight goals with a balanced diet in PROPER AMOUNTS. That's what is all about. Remember, it's the percentage of calories coming from fat in your entire daily diet, not in any one particular food, that's important. Many people who worry about fat calories can't tell you what their total calorie intake is. Therefore, how can they know what percentage of their calorie intake is coming from fat?
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Daily Fluctuations

My calorie intake is balanced with my energy output, but my waist size keeps jumping around. Why?

As long as you know your energy output and calorie intake estimates are reasonably accurate and balanced, don't panic over day to day fluctuations in your weight and waist size. Pay more attention to changes that last over several days.

Fluctuations often occur from changes in fluid retention and gastrointestinal contents. Try to keep your daily weigh-in to the same time of the day, usually first thing in the morning. If your waist is bigger than your calorie 

estimates predicted it should be, bear in mind that changes in gastrointestinal contents could be caused by something as simple as delaying your previous meal a few hours later than your normal eating schedule. Changes in sodium chloride intake can also drastically affect fluid retention. Also consider dehydration, diarrhea, high fiber intake, constipation...all these can temporarily alter your waist size.

Additionally, doing lots of abdominal exercise while dieting can temporarily decrease the size of your waist somewhat, but that is because you have lost muscle glycogen, not body fat. Your waist pops right back out again when you return to normal eating.

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Losing More Than 2 Pounds a Week

I have lots of motivation. I am planning to do lots of aerobics and follow a low-calorie diet. Is it possible to lose more than 2 pounds of fat a week? Some people claim I could lose 4 pounds a week.

Technically, while it is possible to lose more than 2 pounds of body fat a week, the question is: How much body fat can a person lose in one week WITHOUT losing muscle? The 2-pound limit is a tried-&-true method for most people.

Will you be able to lose 4 pounds a week without losing muscle? If you have been following the information at this web site and in my book, The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book, you have all the measuring and monitoring tools necessary to answer this. However, before you try an accelerated weight-loss routine of more than 2 pounds a week, there are other important considerations.

It is critical that you receive a proper intake of the right kind of nutrients during accelerated weight loss. In addition, people should be checked for possible contraindications to accelerated weight loss, and many 

will need to have their physiological functions carefully monitored during accelerated weight loss. For these reasons:  Anyone who plans on losing weight at an accelerated rate of more than 2 pounds a week should be under the daily supervision of a recognized and qualified health-care provider.

Four pounds of body fat loss a week sounds twice as good as 2 pounds a week, but, even if you do it without losing muscle, it's also TWICE AS DIFFICULT! Don't think short term, think long term. Even with motivation, low-calorie intake and miles of aerobics, how long could you keep up such a drastic rate of fat loss? A few days? Maybe a week or two? A slower and steady loss could wind up getting you to your goal faster than if you started too fast, burned yourself out, and had to start over.

After saying all of this, you may still be determined to lose body fat at the fastest rate possible, no matter how difficult. In that case, see Accelerated Fat Loss! It is a very advanced program that will reduce your body fat and improve your body composition up to 130% faster than the conventional 2-pounds-a-week program.

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More Protein for Active People?

Don't active people require more protein than sedentary people? Shouldn't they increase their protein intake much higher than the 10% you recommend?

By calculating protein requirements as a percentage of energy requirements, active people are automatically taking in a significantly greater amount of protein than sedentary people. 

For example: If an active football player burns 5,000 

calories a day, his dietary protein requirement at 10% of his energy output comes to 500 calories from protein, or 125 grams of protein (there are 4 calories in a gram of protein). By contrast, if a sedentary secretary burns 1500 calories a day, her dietary protein requirement at 10% of her energy output only comes to 150 calories from protein, or 37.5 grams of protein.

As activity increases, there is a greater need for energy foods like carbohydrates and fats. This further lowers the percentage of calories from protein required for active people.
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Slow Metabolism

Help! I have had surgery that has slowed down my metabolism. I can't seem to lose weight, no matter what! Should I give up?

Will having a slow metabolism make it impossible for you to lose weight?  Definitely not, just as having a fast metabolism doesn't guarantee you will lose weight either. Fast or slow, your metabolism is only one factor in weight loss. The rest is a matter of making the right diet and activity adjustments.

You see, not everyone absorbs and burns calories at the same rate. Even if your rate of calorie burning is slower than others, that doesn't mean there isn't a "just right" amount of dieting and exercise that will help you achieve

your body weight goals.

The beauty of the weight management method in my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book is that you get to personalize your diet and activity modifications according to the outcome of your body composition changes. If a certain amount of diet and activity modification doesn't give you the usual results that everyone else gets, just keep adjusting your modifications until you find the level that your body responds to.

Before you give up hope, follow your body composition and energy balance numbers, and then show me the numbers! The numbers don't lie.

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Weight Loss Plateau

How do I get out of a weight loss plateau?

If your weight loss has hit a plateau for a long period, you probably need to review your energy balance. In other words, you must readjust your calorie intake and energy output until your body composition starts reacting again. The Energy Balance Chart in my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book will show you how to do this, so start following the numbers.

Seaweed Soap

Does using seaweed soap help reduce fat?

I don't know, but why not put it to the test? Try using seaweed soap for 2 weeks, and then try the weight management program in my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book for 2 weeks. Tell me which works better!

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Even when I lose weight, the cellulite on my upper legs refuses to budge. What can I do?

Cellulite is mainly a combination of overstuffed fat compartments and lack of proper muscle tone. Since losing weight is not always the same thing as losing body fat, just losing weight won't necessarily reduce the fat in the part of your body affected with cellulite.

If the fat stored in one area of your body seems to take longer to thin out than in other areas, don't get discouraged.  It really isn't special stubborn fat. It's just that your fat is piled up higher in that part of your body to begin with! Given time, like snow melting in the spring (or ice cream melting in the sun, for you people down south) it all eventually disappears if you make the right diet and activity modifications. That's what you will learn to do here at .
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How much to eat to lose body fat 

I weigh 174 lbs and my body fat percentage is 35%. If I walked 40 minutes a day, how many calories should I eat a day to lose body fat?

How much you should eat to lose body fat depends on your daily activities and your body composition. Using the Energy Balance Chart in my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book and the Energy Balance Chart Tutorial will help you figure this out. Here is a summary:

To figure out how many calories you burn per hour while walking at 3.5 mph (brisk for most people), multiply your weight in pounds by 2. So, you burn 174 pounds x 2 = 348 calories per hour. For 40 minutes, multiply that by .66 = approximately 230 calories.

Take that 230 calories and add 200 more for all your light and sedentary activity. If you perform extra activities like moderate house work (standing while using your arms) add another 200 per hour. (See the percent fat page to check the various activity levels.) This is the total of all your activities. Add your activities in calories to your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which you will find in my book. 

After you add together your RMR and your activities, you will have your total energy output in calories. These are negative calories, calories you have burned off. Add them to your positive calories, the calories you eat all day. For example, 2500 negative calories plus 1500 positive calories equals 1000 negative calories. This is your NET calorie intake.

To lose weight, you must have more negative calories than positive calories. In other words, your daily NET calories on the Energy Balance Chart must be a negative number. For every 3500 negative calories you accumulate, you will lose one pound of body fat. At a rate of 2 pounds of fat lost per week, you should have 1000 negative calories showing in your NET column everyday. For 1 pound of fat lost, 500 negative calories a day. Go at the pace that suits you!

Check your fat loss with your body composition results. If losing one pound of fat doesn't work out to 3500 negative calories, adjust your activity estimates and recheck your calorie intake estimates. If it still doesn't work out to 3500 negative calories, don't worry. Everyone uses calories differently. Just work with whatever calorie amount consistently gives you one pound of fat loss.   
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Trade in Your Love Handles for a 6-pack

I'm in the Marine Corps...the infantry, so I'm used to running frequently and weight training. However, even running 3-5 times a week, and working out the same amount per week, I just can't lose the love handles that I've had all my life. I've turned to fat-burning supplements for help with little to no success. I try to eat as little fat as possible. Any suggestions?

The detailed answer to your love handles problem lies right here at, so spend some time reading the material. In the meantime, here's a brief summary of the solution to your problem.

Although you are obviously very active, whether or not you lose body fat and allow your abdominal muscles to stand out like a 6-pack depends on the BALANCE between how many calories you eat and how many 

calories your body burns off. This is known as your Energy Balance. Trying to control your weight without following your energy balance numbers is like trying to balance your bank account without looking at the numbers. You'll never do it that way!

Just being more active won't take care of your problem. The more active you are, the more your hunger will build. You're still left with the problem of getting your energy output in proper balance with your calorie intake.

Get my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book. Once you set up your Energy Balance Chart, analyze your body composition, and plan out your weight loss schedule, you'll find you don't require any special low-fat diet or fat-burning supplements. Learning to adjust and eat proper amounts of a balanced diet will do the trick. Click on Trade In Your Love Handles For a 6-pack!
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Flabby Upper Arms

I am having trouble losing the excess weight from my upper arms. I used to lift weights so they are unusually large for a woman. I'm afraid if I start to lift weights that my arms will get bigger. Can you help?

Excess fat on the upper arms is common in women (especially on the back of the upper arm...the triceps muscle). Even though your arms may be larger than normal because of the weight lifting you have done, it's not likely that any arm "flabbiness" is due to too much muscle. Don't confuse size with tone.

As you reduce your overall body fat level, your arms will get leaner, no matter how large and muscular they are. Lifting weights will only make your arms bigger if you are eating more calories than you burn. It takes extra 

calories to allow growth to occur. But, as long as you are on a calorie-reduced diet your arms will never get bigger, no matter how much you exercise them.

Follow the advice here at to make sure you are burning more calories than you are eating. That will make your arms leaner. If you like, every few days increase your calorie intake to no higher than a normal maintenance level (calorie intake equals energy output) and do some weight lifting. This will allow you to maintain muscle tone in your arms without adding any extra arm size.

However, if you train with weights while following a calorie-reduced diet, you won't be able to fully replenish your fatigued muscles and you could wind up losing muscle. With less muscle and less muscle tone, your arms will look flat, shapeless and flabby!
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Miracle Weight-loss Drugs

I use to use Phen-Fen and was thrilled with the results, but then it was taken off the market. I lost 25 lbs. and since, have lost 25 more. I still need to lose 80 more lbs. I'm 29 years old, and for a while I had actually started to feel attractive for the first time in my life. Lately, I find myself becoming less and less motivated and increasingly discouraged. I have seen countless ads for "miracle-no diet" drugs. Is there anything out there akin to Phen-Fen, reasonable in price, safe, and EFFECTIVE? I just can't do it on my own.

Permanent weight control doesn't come in a pill! Read all the material at Then get my book The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book

Check your body composition, set up your energy balance chart, start your food and activity journal, and learn what no diet or pill can ever teach you: how to eat what you like, whenever you like, and still control your weight.

You don't have to do it alone. Join Flab Fighters!
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Weight-loss Guessing

To lose weight, I don't really keep track of my calorie and fat intake. I just cut back on my eating. I eat cereal with 1% milk for breakfast, an apple for my midmorning snack, and a dry turkey sandwich on low fat bread for lunch. I snack on a few pretzels in the afternoon, and then I don't eat supper. I ride my ten speed 2 miles in the early evening, and then go to bed. Is this too drastic?

You are correctly guessing that you are eating less calories than you're burning. Although this will no doubt easily result in temporary weight loss, neglecting to measure and properly balance your calorie intake and energy output is the #1 reason why people like you regain the weight they lose! In addition, much of your 

weight loss could be muscle.

How will you know how much to eat and exercise when you are through losing weight? Going by feel or just watching the scale won't prevent you from regaining the weight. If that's all it took, none of us would ever regain weight! By the time you see each pound come back, it's TOO LATE to do anything about it. Don't let all the effort you are putting into your program go to WASTE! You have to prepare yourself NOW!

Learn to balance your calorie intake with your energy output by following the advice here at Soon, it will become an automatic habit for life. But, without measuring your energy balance first, it will NEVER become automatic. 
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Advice for a Dieting 12-year-old

I dieted about 1 year ago on 800Kcal a day for 3 months and went from 9 stone to 7 stone, but that soon piled back on. Now I am eating 600Kcal a day but I am not sure if I am losing weight. Help a distressed 12 year old.

Since you are so young, I strongly suggest you talk to your family physician about whether you need to lose weight. You need extra calories to finish growing into an adult, but not so many extra calories that you get fat!

In the meantime, here is what I suggest. Learn to eat and exercise in proper amounts NOW so you will be able to keep the fat from piling back on again LATER. What's the good of losing fat now if you can't keep it off for good?

Forget about losing fat for the moment. See if you can go for several weeks without gaining fat. Hey, if you already knew how to do that, you wouldn't have any extra fat to lose in the first place, right?

It's normal for you to continue to gain weight because you are still growing. But, how can you tell if you are gaining fat? Just keep an eye on your waistline. It takes a gain of 12 pounds of lean body mass to increase an adult's waist by a quarter of an inch. As a growing youngster, if your waist size expands by a quarter inch for every one or two pounds you gain, you are probably gaining fat. Adjust the balance between your calorie intake and your energy output. Cutting out the junk food, getting outside to play more, and eating a healthy diet should do the trick!

So don't be afraid to eat and gain healthy weight. The more lean tissue you gain, the leaner you will become! Just make sure you are not also gaining too much size around your middle.

When you have mastered how to balance your eating and exercise to not get fat, then, with your doctor's approval, you can strip off some of the excess fat you already have, a little at a time. But, since you are so young, it is very important that you let your doctor tell you how much fat you need to lose. Okay?
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Protein Grams

Hello. I just read your site for the first time today, and it was wonderful! Except you have now totally confused me! I have been trying to get my body fat % down to 18%, but have not had very much luck. I have been stuck on 21% for about a month. I was told that I needed to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, 1 gram of carbs per pound of body weight and then keep my fat intake to no more than 20-30 grams. I am a 21 year old female, 5'9", 135 lbs. I workout in the mornings, 30 mins. cardio, 5x/wk and I do dumbbell work 4x/wk.

Well it is just not working. What do you suggest on how I can get better results (or any results for that matter)?

To lose weight, practically any type of dietary and exercise advice will work as long as you are burning more calories than you are eating. But, this can take you only so far. Eventually, you have to learn the principles of weight management and put together your own program, customized to work for you. Then you will be able to set your own goals, monitor your progress and make the necessary adjustments. That's what you'll learn here at You'll be able to design a program that fits your needs rather than trying to fit yourself to some program.

All you require to lose weight is a balanced diet in 

proper amounts. Losing weight on an unbalanced diet, like a high-protein, low-fat, or low-carb diet, will not help you keep the weight can't stay on an unbalanced diet forever, and so the weight returns!

Protein supplement sales people will tell you you need 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight in order to increase muscle mass. The scientifically proven protein recommendation for adults is actually .8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight (1 kilo). Even that contains about twice the amount of protein your body normally uses!

A good way to determine the proper balance of nutrients in your diet is by % of your calorie intake: 10-15% of calories from protein, 20-30% of calories from fat, and 55%-70% of calories from carbs. If you burn lots of calories and your calorie intake is high, your grams of fat and carbs can be much higher than you are currently eating. Check "More Fat Talk!" to figure out your calorie and gram requirements:

Set up your Energy Balance chart and start crunching those numbers! Aim for 2 pounds of fat loss a week. Don't lift weights on your fat-burning days or you will wind up losing muscle. Check changes in your body composition with my book, The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book. Let your results guide your diet and exercise modifications and you will reach your goal!
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5 Meals a Day

I am 28 years old and have never exercised or worked out. I started doing Taebo, not to lose weight, because I weigh 115 pounds and am 5'5", but to tone and build muscle strength. Since I started working out, my stomach has gotten bigger. Yes some muscle, but it sticks out, almost like I'm bloated. When I first started working out I only ate once or twice a day, and I figured out that was not the way to do things. For the past two weeks I have been eating 5 small meals a day, but my stomach just seems to be bloating worse. Is there a reason for this or anything I can do about it? Please help!

Your bloated stomach could be due either to increased body fat or to carrying more food in your digestive tract. 

Both of these usually result from increasing your daily calorie intake above your energy output. Not overloading your digestive system with huge meals is a good idea, but even if you divide your calories up among five small meals, it's the total amount of calories you eat all day balanced with the total amount of calories you burn off that determines whether your body fat level will increase. You can check this by crunching the energy balance numbers in my book, The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book.

My personal preference is to include a combination of light and heavier meals throughout the day. The digestive system needs periods of rest to work efficiently, so it may not always be wise to keep it busy with so many small meals. If digestion efficiency decreases, all these small meals could start backing up and cause bloating. Back to Subject Index

Body Fat Quackery

From a reader's review posted at "Just two weeks ago, I was hydrostatically weighed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Human Performance Laboratory. My body fat percentage was measured to be 6.7%. Just today, I used Ron Brown's Body Composition Calculator which estimated my body fat percentage at over 14%! I think I could definitely estimate a person's body composition much more accurately just by looking at them. This book (The Body Fat Guide) is most likely quackery and a get-rich deal for Mr. Ron Brown."

Since no method of estimating body fat is completely error-free, estimates can span a wide range when comparing one method to another. If two methods have an error range of plus or minus 3%, it's possible to have estimate discrepancies as wide as 6%! Thus, when checking for changes in your body composition, it makes sense to stick to the same method consistently. However, it is also obvious that as a method's error increases, it can no longer be considered reasonably accurate.

I created the Body Composition tables in The Body Fat Guide based on the analysis method recommended by the YMCA. This method uses the anthropometric formulas of scientists Wilmore and Benke, which, according to the YMCA, has proven to be reasonably accurate. But, how then can such wide discrepancies in the reviewer's body fat estimates be explained, assuming that the reviewer was accurately tested with proper 

hydrostatic weighing procedures?

The most plausible explanation is that the reviewer may have gained a lot of body fat and/or water retention (totaling approximately 14 pounds...give or take a few pounds for normal estimate error) in the TWO WEEKS between his hydrostatic test and the reading of the book! This is not an unheard of amount of weight to gain in that time, especially if it results from going on a binge at the end of a prolonged crash/unbalanced diet.

Bingeing on foods high in sodium chloride can cause very rapid bloating due to water retention, especially if the binge follows a diet low in sodium chloride. An ounce of sodium chloride retains 96 times its own weight in water! gallon of retained water weighs 8 pounds!...3-4 ounces of sodium chloride retains 16-24 pounds of water!

Did the reviewer gain weight between body fat estimates? Who knows? Nevertheless, considering how much one's body composition can change in 2 weeks, it seems only fair to compare estimates that were made on the same day. Remember, it only takes one day of excess calorie intake to gain body fat, and one day of excess salt intake to retain water!

Finally, here is a quote I recently received. "I tested my body fat using a skin-fold caliper and the body fat percent tables found on your website this morning. The results were the same. I plan on purchasing your book in the near future."

Thanks!     Back to Subject Index

Using An Electronic Organizer

Hi Ron- I bought your book and I would like to find a calculator that has foods already in it's programming to carry around instead of a pad of paper and pencil. I find if I wait 'til I get home I don't always remember what I've had 'til it's too late. I am enjoying your book-so far it has been very insightful. I have 25 lbs. to lose. I walk and work with weights. I quit smoking last Dec. and find the weight now my number 1 problem. I think it is STUCK! So I am looking for a way to get it moving. Thanks.

Adjusting the balance between your diet and activity will definitely get your weight unstuck! As long as you let your body composition results be your guide, you'll never fail to make the proper diet and activity adjustments.

A pre-programmed food calorie calculator sounds like a great idea...except, you could probably do a better job programming your own electronic organizer with lists of your favorite foods in the portions you eat them. By the way, be sure to take a day or two to create your "Favorite Foods" list, complete with calories and portion sizes. Once you create your personalized list, you will refer to it forever. 

Here is how I store my "Favorite Foods" list and refer to it throughout the day:

I have a 32KB electronic organizer. It's pocket-size and very easy to carry around. I record my calorie intake entries in the organizer's memory after every meal. The memory allows me to keep a running total throughout the day of all my calories from meal to meal.

I program lists of my favorite foods by category in the "MEMO" function of the organizer. Next to each food item I program the calories according to my usual portion size. A little calculation marker is placed in front 

of each calorie amount, allowing me to quickly select that number when I am in the organizer's "calculate data" mode. (Check your organizer's manual) With a few pushes of a button, my selected calorie number is added to my total calories for the day in the memory. Easy!

When programming unpackaged bulk foods on my list that I eat in variable portion sizes, for example fresh fruit like melons, I find it easiest to program the edible part of the food by Calories Per 100 Grams. Thus, if I eat 720 grams of watermelon, I just multiply my programmed watermelon selection by 7.2 (720 grams divided by 100 grams = 7.2).

Here's how I easily measure the edible portion sizes of unpackaged fresh food like watermelon: Placing a plate containing a slab of melon on my food scale, I reset the scale's number indicator over to the next highest round number, say 2000 grams. When I am done eating, I simply put the plate back on the scale, filled with watermelon rinds, seeds and all. The indicator shows a number lower than 2000. The difference in weight between the new number and 2000 is how much I ate.

I also keep a separate page in my organizer to record my calorie intake goal for the day, adjusting it according to changes in my activity. This goal is determined by whether I wish to gain, lose or maintain weight. At the end of the day, all my info is placed on my Energy Balance Chart. I use an electronic version of this chart on my computer. The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book shows you how to program an Electronic Energy Balance Chart on a spreadsheet program.

Of course, many people prefer to write all this down in a pocket size notebook with a pencil, but I like the electronic method! And don't forget, eventually you won't need to do all this calorie monitoring once you have turned your diet and activity modifications into new habits.
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Accuracy of Low Body Fat Estimates

I read that the formulas used to determine body fat become less accurate for people with very low body fat percentages. If this is true, at what body fat percentage do the formula's results start to become skewed?

Various types of body fat analysis methods, like skin fold calculations, may become less accurate at very low body fat percentages, as some claim. But, my experience is that this is not cause for concern when using anthropometric formulas that are based on weight 

and waist size, like the formulas used in my book, 
The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book

There appears to be a consistent and accurate correlation between shrinking waist sizes and reduced body fat percentages, regardless of how low one's body fat percentage gets. Even at the lowest body fat levels, I never heard of anyone's waist not continuing to get consistently smaller as they lose additional body fat...have you?

Try using my book and check it out for yourself.
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Activity Calorie Tables

Your web site's Activity Calorie tables are based on what a 150-pound man burns. But don't those numbers include the calories his RMR is also burning? If so, when you add these numbers to your own RMR to get your energy output, aren't you adding too many calories because you are adding part of his RMR along with your own? Plus, what value is there in using these tables unless you happen to be a 150-pound man?

You are correct in pointing out the limitations of these Activity Calorie tables. However, although it may seem useless to compare the calorie expenditures of a 150-pound man with those of a 250-pound man or woman, it still serves a practical purpose. First, let's look at the role played by RMR in these Activity Calorie tables.

Assume our 150-pound man (call him Fred) has a normal level of 15% body fat. Based on anthropometric formulas in my book, The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book, Fred's RMR is 1763 calories. If we divide 1763 calories by 24 hours in the  

day to determine his average RMR per hour, (keep in mind that actual RMR probably fluctuates throughout the day and night) Fred's average RMR per hour calculates out to approximately 73.5 calories. So, if you happen to be a 150-pound man like Fred and you wish to use the exact number of calories listed on these Activity Calorie tables, simply subtract 73.5 calories per hour from these estimates before you add them to your own RMR.

But, what about the rest of us who aren't 150-pound males? The truth is you can use practically any activity calorie estimate to start with because you are going to eventually need to adjust your estimate's accuracy any way! Since you have to start with some numbers, estimates from Activity Calorie tables make as good a starting point as any other numbers. 

By comparing how your energy balance numbers match up with changes in your body composition, you can adjust and personalize your activity calorie estimates to make them much more accurate and useful. (See the question about Troubleshooting Your Calorie Estimates.
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Troubleshooting Your Calorie Estimates

How can I improve the accuracy of my diet and activity calorie estimates?

Everyone should usually start by aiming for neutral calorie balance. This is when your calorie intake exactly matches your energy output, and there are no changes in your body composition. If your calorie estimates are evenly matched but you are gaining or losing body fat or muscle, your estimates are not correct. Correct them 

and adjust your energy balance until your weight is stable. 

When trying to either lose weight (negative calorie balance: your energy output is greater than your calorie intake) or gain weight (positive calorie balance: your calorie intake is greater than your energy output), if you find your weight is moving in the wrong direction, or it is not moving at all, correct your estimates and adjust your energy balance until you get the proper results.
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Scientific Proof

Where is the scientific proof that your method of weight management works?

The material I've compiled in The Body Fat Guide - Click to Download FREE E-Book is based on scientific principles of body composition analysis and energy balance. You can find these principles in most textbooks on nutrition and physiology.

What I have attempted to do is help people apply these principles to manage their weight. It is quite easy to present case studies of people who have achieved weight loss. (See Flab Fighters.) However, it is more difficult to follow up these cases with a scientific study of long-term weight maintenance. Obviously, the longer 

such a study, the greater potential for accurate scientific evaluation. But, this requires an enormous amount of time and money. 

On the other hand, how do you scientifically measure the impact of The Body Fat Guide on the prevention of weight problems? What about the young girl who learns how to avoid anorexia, or the young man who is encouraged to build up his body properly, or the couple who take up walking to help manage their weight? How do you measure that?

Common sense seems the best way to evaluate the book's method. The most frequent remark I hear when discussing The Body Fat Guide with people is, "That makes sense!"
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Number Phobia

I have found your book The Body Fat Guide to be very useful. The only problem is that when I show it to my mother, who needs to lose weight, she takes one look at all the numbers in the book's tables and says, "Forget it! It's too complicated." What would you suggest I say to her to get her on the program? She manages to lose some weight on her own, but then her weight yo-yo's back.

Like many people, your mother has what I call NUMBER PHOBIA: a fear that the numbers are too difficult to manage. She would rather manage her weight by feel, which makes temporary weight loss possible, but which hardly ever works for permanent weight control.

Your mother, like most people, lacks the ability to properly modify her energy balance to keep her weight off. She can't improve that without temporarily following the numbers. Studies show many people are bad at correctly guessing their calorie intake and calorie expenditures. The numbers are there to help your mother properly modify her energy balance until it becomes a habit.

The next time your mother ignores the numbers, try 

saying something to her like this, "Mother, if you could correctly guess what your energy balance numbers are, your weight wouldn't keep coming back."

Here are some other suggestions:

"I used to ignore the numbers like you, but I found that just trying to eat the right foods and getting some exercise didn't help me keep the weight off."

"You wouldn't manage your bank account without looking at the numbers, would you? Why attempt to manage your weight that way?"

"The numbers are the secret weapon in the battle against fat!"

Remember, using numbers to measure things is an important step toward acquiring knowledge. Whether we are measuring the results of a scientific study or measuring the ingredients that go into a cake, measuring teaches us to get things in proper balance. When any diet promises you results without the fuss of weighing and measuring, you can count on seeing temporary results that never last! These type of quick fixes are the HARDEST way to attempt to permanently control your weight!       Back to Subject Index

Formula Doesn't Work

Hi, I've been searching for a formula that I can use to calculate my partner's percentage body fat. Trouble is that I keep finding formulas that give him a negative result! He currently weighs 137.8 pounds (62.5Kg) and has a waist measurement of 26 inches (66cm) Your formula gives him a body fat percentage of -1.4%! He is 5' 10" and has a large frame with muscle tone like Bruce Lee.

As a 5' 10" adult with a large frame, you might consider if your partner's exceptionally low weight and small waist 

size is due to having burned off large amounts of muscle mass. This would temporarily distort his real body composition and make the formulas useless. The formulas are not designed to be accurate at extreme measurements like this. Many people who over-exercise while eating low-calorie diets sometimes unknowingly "cheat" their measurements lower in this manner. Gaining back the muscle mass rapidly restores their normal measurements, and then the estimates from the formulas make more sense.

If your partner is interested in increasing lean mass, he might find some useful info at Muscle Mass Myths.

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Covert Baily

Covert Baily says a woman can expect to lose 1% body fat a month, but by your calculations, I can do it in a week or less. Why is there such a difference? You also say that walking a mile burns the same amount of calories as running a mile, but Covert says, "joggers use more energy to run three miles than walkers use to walk that distance."

Covert emphasizes exercise as the main way to manage your weight, although he never admits that exercise ultimately increases hunger. I guess he figures that if you just exercise on a regular basis and try to watch what you eat, your weight will automatically gravitate to a normal level. Unfortunately, it doesn't work this way for many people. 

His recommendation to lose 1% body fat a month equals approximately 1/2 pound of body fat loss a week, depending on your weight. This rate may be too slow for many people. They get discouraged and quit. Fitness experts aren't necessarily weight management experts.

Any sleight differences in calorie expenditures between jogging and walking 3 miles would be mainly due to 

differences in one's level of work efficiency. For example, it requires more muscle coordination to run than to walk, thus there is a greater potential to waste energy on uncoordinated movements. On the other hand, it's possible that a person who walks very quickly for 3 miles will burn more calories than joggers. Again, this is due to differences in work efficiency. Quick walking does not employ limb movements as efficiently as breaking into a jog at the same speed.

I am not against running and jogging for fitness. It's great for cardiovascular conditioning. Nevertheless, from a weight management point of view it doesn't change the following facts:

  1. Most people can walk farther than they can run, and thus burn more calories.
  2. You burn more muscle running the same distance you walk.
  3. You lose more lean body mass if you eat a reduced-calorie diet while running.
  4. There is a greater risk of injury when you run.
  5. It's easier to get sedentary people to start walking than to start running. 

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Height And Body Composition

I am puzzled that height and/or build are not taken into consideration in the body composition formulas in your book. Seems that someone with the same waist and weight, but (say) 5 inches taller would have a lower % fat...because there would be more "structural" LBM.

If you were 5 inches taller and weighed the same, it is not likely that you would have the same waist size. To illustrate, let's say your body is elastic and stretchable, like a Gumby doll. Stretching your body taller would make your bones longer while giving you a smaller waist, 

right? Since you would still weigh the same, according to the formulas you would therefore have a greater percentage of lean body mass (longer bones) and a LOWER body fat percentage. 

If your waist then increased in size, your percentage body fat would start increasing too. So, it still comes down to the ratio of your weight to your waist, regardless of your height and bone size. That's not to say that height and frame size aren't considerations in your ideal body weight (See next question). It's just that they aren't needed to make a useful working estimate of your body composition.
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Frame Size And Body Composition

Just a small question about bone structure. A lot of weight recommendations seem to be calculated for Caucasian women which generally have a smaller bone structure compared to say women of different ethnic groups such as Polynesian women who generally have bigger bone structures. Surely this will have some kind of effect on lean body mass and body fat levels. I come from New Zealand where health professionals here recognize that ideal weight and lean body mass differ for both Polynesian and Caucasian/European women. Is bone structure really important when considering losing weight.

In my book I talk about FRAME sizes, large, medium and small. This is certainly a factor in determining your 

ideal body weight as a larger framed person can carry more total body weight. But, this does not mean that a large-frame person is entitled to carry a higher percentage of body fat! 

Regardless of your race or the size of your bones, consistently using a measuring method based on your weight and waist size to check changes in your body composition works well to lower your percentage body fat. It's the changes that are important. Since your bone size doesn't change much in a short time, it is not a factor in estimating changes in your body fat and muscle levels. 

Remember, there are no bones in your waist other than your spinal column, so you can't blame increases in your waist measurement on bone size!
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Food Combining

Is it true that you can lose weight by eating carbohydrates and proteins at separate meals?

Whenever you restrict the types and amounts of food you are allowed to eat together, or the types of foods you are allowed to eat at certain times of the day, or the amount of time you must wait between meals, you generally tend to eat less food, and you may thus lose weight. But eventually, hunger catches up with you. You 

then will probably start returning to more normal unrestricted eating, and your weight returns.

My experience is that following the principles of food combining is great for preventing digestive problems, but it is not a substitute for applying the skills to permanently control your weight. With the skills you will learn on this web site, you will be able to eat proper amounts of a balanced diet and permanently trim body fat, regardless if you combine your food or not.
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Convert Jogging Calories to Walking Calories

You give the formula for estimating calories burned when walking at 3.5 mph...which is equivalent to twice my weight in calories per hour. But, how do I convert my jogging speed to that?

Count the number of pairs of steps (1 pair of steps = left step + right step) per minute when walking at 3.5 mph. It will typically come out to around 60 pairs of steps. Now count the pairs of steps per minute when jogging, for example, let's say it comes to 84 pairs of steps. Divide your jogging step pairs by your walking step pairs: 84/60 = 1.4. You therefore cover 1.4 more steps per minute jogging than walking. Use that number to multiply the amount of time you jog, and you will have an equivalent amount of time walking. So, 30 minutes of jogging is equivalent to 1.4 times walking minutes, or 30 x 1.4 = 42 minutes of walking.

Breaking Down Fat Cells

What is your take on products like Xenedrine and lipothermic creams that claim to  displace adipose cells in the body to be broken down and removed from the system?

There is also an infrared device that breaks down lipid in adipose cells. Even if the claims are true, the problem is that the lipid is simply released back into the circulation, as if you had just eaten it. So, whether it winds up getting burned off in muscles or stored back into fat cells again all depends on the same factors that determine your body fat level in the first place, i.e., your energy balance, or the balance between the calories you burn and the calories you eat (including the calories from lipid released back into circulation). This is why the manufacturers of these methods tell you to also eat less until the lipid has cleared! Duh! Then why use the method at all? Why not just eat less?

The supposed advantage of this method is that it allows you to target certain "problem areas." But all problem areas are eventually thinned out naturally as your body burns off fat systemically.

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