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MORE FAT TALK!

Answers to Your most Frequently Asked Questions about Weight Control.

Address your questions to: ronbrown@bodyfatguide.com.
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.

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Subject Index
Click to go to:

Cardio and Fat Burning

Bio-electric Gadgets

Mental Attitude

Rebound Bingeing

BodyBuilding Competition Dieting

Obese Youngster

Calorie and Gram Requirements

Sedentary Activity

Loose Clothes

Success Story

Fat Cells

Losing Muscle, Gaining Fat

It's not just about Losing Fat

Heavier and Leaner

Breast Implants

Breast Feeding

Weight Maintenance

Recommended Calorie Allowances

Sweat

Swimming

Water Retention

Liposuction

Extra Calories for Growth

Fat Blockers

Waist Measuring

Miraculous Waist Reduction

Daily Weigh-in

Help for Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes

Heart Rate and Calories

Muscularity

Water Content of Muscle and Fat

Inaccurate Scale

 Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

Emotional Triggers

Proportional Thighs

Protein-Sparing Effect

Those Last Few Pounds

Back to: Fat Talk!

Click for: Still More Fat Talk!

Cardio and Fat Burning

According to the book, The Zone, I need to be breathing at a rate that makes it difficult to talk while doing aerobic exercise. I've been walking on the treadmill since I read your info, but at 3.5 mph, and with a pulse of only 117, I'm not breathing very hard - I feel like I'm not burning much of anything at this rate. I usually run at 4.7 mph for 1 - 2 miles, or walk at an incline.

Don't confuse cardiovascular conditioning with fat burning. Even though cardiovascular conditioning becomes more EFFECTIVE at higher activity intensity levels, fat-burning is more EFFICIENT at much lower intensity levels. A well-rounded program includes both types of activities. So keep doing your 4.7 mph run to maintain your cardio level, and schedule additional walks to burn extra fat calories. Your walks will be more effective if they are relaxed and enjoyable.

Lower-intensity activities have an advantage that many people overlook. If your goal is to lose fat without sacrificing muscle, lower-intensity activities will help you burn fat while sparing your muscle mass when you are on a calorie-restricted diet. It takes a bit more time, but your fat burning results will be better. Your body composition results will prove it to you.

At higher activity levels, you aren't feeling fat burning as much as you are feeling lactic acid accumulating from burning muscle glycogen. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, you won't be able to fully replenish this glycogen. This reduces your muscle mass. An hour of walking will burn the same amount of fat as a half-hour of running, but without draining your muscle glycogen storage sites.

A friend once told me her legs have more shape when she runs rather than walks. I pointed out that this just proves running is not a 100% fat-burning activity; it's also a muscle- toning and glycogen-burning activity. Walking, on the other hand is practically 100% fat-burning with not nearly as much muscle toning as running.

If your goal is simply to maintain your weight, then exercise as hard as you like for shape, strength and cardio fitness; and use the lower-intensity activities to burn off any remaining excess calories you may eat. But remember, using exercise to burn off extra calories (exercise purging) is not a substitute for learning to eat a proper amount of food in the first place.

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Bio-electric Gadgets

There are several new machines on the market that claim to accurately read % body fat; a scale like unit, a hand held unit and others. Are any of them accurate as compared to skin fold calipers or weighing underwater?

Depending on the sophistication and cost of the unit, some bio-electric gadgets that estimate body composition can be reasonably accurate, although evey method has a degree of built-in error. However, when assessing any body fat analysis method, there are other issues to take into consideration besides accuracy. For example, many people find it difficult to use calipers correctly, plus one usually needs the assistance of another person to use them. And hydrostatic weighing just isn't always practical.

Finding an easy method that provides a quick as well as an inexpensive way to consistently measure changes in your body composition is important. Also keep in mind that just knowing your body fat percentage won't necessarily help you improve it. If you lose muscle, your body fat % increases. Gaining muscle decreases it. Therefore, you also need a comprehensive weight management and muscle-building/toning program to go along with your body composition analysis.

For an inexpensive, easy and accurate way to measure and permanently trim your body fat, while preserving muscle tone and improving your body composition, The Body Fat Guide, in my opinion, offers the best choice. Click here to compare the cost of The Body Fat Guide with bioelectric scales.

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Mental Attitude

I just turned 49. I want to be in a good health program, working towards a goal of 125 lbs. by the time I'm 50. How do I keep up a positive mental attitude for more than just a week or two? Maybe I'm asking the impossible, however, I feel that some words of wisdom might turn a light on in my head... Please help.

Seeing results is what drives most people onward toward their goals. Every small achievement will encourage you to take bigger steps. Take your time and chip away at small goals first. For example, every day you might want to learn how many calories are in a new food. Sometimes just not sliding backwards can be a positive goal in itself. An example of this would be getting through the Christmas Holidays WITHOUT gaining the 5-8 pounds that everyone else gains!

But, you must have a method to measure your results, no matter how small they are. Set up your energy balance chart. Track your calorie intake and energy output. See how changes in your energy balance affect your body composition. This information is valuable feedback. Use this data to make better adjustments as you balance your diet and activity. This is how you will successfully modify your lifestyle habits.

Make every bite you eat and every step you take accountable. Learning to calculate your daily calorie allowance and sticking to it is a challenging but rewarding day by day experience. If you slip up in your eating schedule, just get back on track the next meal. But, first you have to have an eating schedule to get back on track to!

Take the emotion out of success and failure. It's not a matter of whether you are worthy or not! Many programs over-emphasize emotional aspects because they lack solid technical advice and information. Just follow the numbers and do the work! Your program should build self-esteem. Seeing results from following a sensible health and fitness program is one of the best self-esteem builders there is!

If you need a break from dieting, learn how to take it without backsliding. Learn the principles of weight management, master them and move on to other life pursuits. Don't make weight control your only life's purpose. The whole point of permanent weight control is to give you the flexibility to meet life's challenges while remaining healthy and happy.

You have to eat. You might as well learn to do it right. Above all, be patient. You have a lot of meals ahead of you!

Hope that encourages you a little.

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Rebound Bingeing
I've lost 4 pounds this past week following a high-protein diet. Even though my loss isn't all fat, my body fat percentage is still dropping. Is this rate of loss okay?

Even though your rate of fat loss is still moving your body fat percentage in the right direction now, there is a common problem with crash weight loss and unbalanced diets that could undermine your progress later.

If people lose TOO quickly over a long period and severely DEPLETE their body's reserves, this could eventually create an urge for them to rebound binge on outrageous quantities of food. Or if they exclude a wide variety of food types, such as fat and carbohydrates, and severely IMBALANCE their body's reserves, this could eventually create an urge for them to rebound binge on "forbidden" foods.

Keep following your diet if you like, but don't hesitate to slow down your rate of loss or add additional foods to your diet if you feel you need to. Learning to give yourself a break from super-strict dieting without bingeing and having your weight rebound is an important skill to master NOW. This is especially important when you start eating full meals back out in the real world later.

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Bodybuilding Competition Dieting
I would like to get down to 5% body fat  or less for a bodybuilding competition. How do I minimize my muscle loss while dieting for this competition?

Your body composition results will tell you if you are doing it the right way. Here's a tip: Consider not training with weights on your fat-burning days! I know, it sounds crazy, but as I said, your body composition results will prove to you that it works. Burning out your muscle mass while dieting simply won't allow your muscles to fully replenish with enough calories and nutrients. Muscle loss becomes inevitable.

To prevent this, try 3 days of low-intensity fat-burning exercise (walking, cycling, rowing) while eating 1000 or more calories below your daily maintenance level. Follow that with one day of high-intensity muscle pumping while eating no more than 300 extra calories above maintenance. Remember, you aren't trying to gain muscle. You're just trying to keep it toned while losing fat.

Plan on losing about 1% body fat a week. Schedule as many fat-burning days as you need. It all depends on how much time you leave yourself to get ready.

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Obese Youngster

I'm 13, and I am obese! At 5'5 I weigh in at 234lbs (and trust me, it ain't muscle). The problem is I loooove to eat and I despise exercise. I get tired really quick. I can't even get up a flight of stairs anymore. The worst I've ever eaten was a large pizza pie, 4 bags of nachos, a 1/2 dozen doughnuts...I was still hungry. I try eating fruit in the morning, but it makes me nauseous, so I usually grab a donut instead. You can usually find me with a double whopper plopped on the couch. I really need help! :(

Because you are still growing, please get your family physician's approval before you attempt to lose weight.

In order to adjust your eating and bring down your body fat level permanently, you must first figure out exactly how many calories your body burns off every day. The body composition formulas on this website are mainly for adults, so we have to use another method for you. Here's the plan:

First, I want you to tell me how much you eat each day for an entire week...but not by how many bags of nachos or double whoppers. No matter what food it is, I want you to tell me how many CALORIES you are eating each day for a week!

The deal is this: you can eat what you like, and you don't have to lose any weight just yet, but, you must read the labels, measure the portions and look up the calories of everything you eat. Get a calorie book if you need it. You must keep track of your weight and calorie intake each day. Use the energy balance chart and the food and activity journal on this website. On your energy balance chart, just fill in your weight and calorie intake each day for now.

Try to keep your activity level constant every day. If you can walk for half an hour, try to do that every day of the week. Figure out the calories you burn while walking (2 x your body weight per hour). Write them down on your chart under aerobic calories.

After a week, look back over your chart and determine which days your weight stayed the same, and the number of calories you ate on those days. When you determine how many calories you are eating on a normally active day and NOT GAINING WEIGHT, that number will be your maintenance calorie allowance. With that number, you can then set up a program to start losing weight. Each day, it's just a question of eating 1000 fewer calories than your maintenance calorie allowance. That will take off a maximum of 2 pounds of body fat a week. And even if you slip up and overeat, you can balance out any extra calories you have eaten in one day by including them as part of your next day's calorie allowance.

But, in order for this to work, you must constantly be aware of your calorie intake, your maintenance calorie allowance, and your weight, no matter what! That's how you 'll learn to adjust your food intake to control your weight.  

In addition, make sure you start eating a balanced diet high in whole natural foods, and low in highly refined and processed junk food. Eventually, you will find it's easier to stay in control of your hunger by making healthier food choices!

Once you know your calorie allowance, make sure your percentage of calories from fat, carbohydrate and protein are around 30% fat, 60% carbohydrate, and 10% protein. See the question about Calorie and Gram Requirements. It takes some work, but you only need to figure this out every now and then, just to make sure your diet is balanced. Remember, losing weight on an unbalanced diet won't help you keep the weight off when you return to normal eating.

I realize all this is a lot of responsibility to place on a 13-year-old's shoulders, but no one else is going to do it for you. You must take the responsibility for your life yourself.

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Calorie and Gram Requirements

How do I figure out my calorie and gram requirements for fat, protein and carbohydrates on a balanced diet?

Use this chart. Change the percentages if you wish to alter the balance of nutrients.
Calorie and Gram Requirements for Fat (30%), Protein (10%), Carbohydrates (60%)
Calories requirements:                             Gram requirements:
Fat  calories = total calorie intake x 30% (multiplied by .3) Fat grams = Fat calories / 9 (divided by 9)
Protein calories = total calorie intake x .1 Protein grams = Protein calories / 4
Carbohydrate calories = total calorie intake x .6 Carbohydrate grams = Carbohydrate calories / 4

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Sedentary Activity

I have had a desk job for the last 4 years. Prior to this I was a mail carrier on a walking route. In the last 4 years I have put on 30 pounds. I would like to use your Energy balance chart to keep track of my caloric intake and energy output. Sometimes I work as long as 11 hours a day on the computer. My question is do I really only burn a total of 200 calories a day doing sedentary light work?

I know it sounds incredible, but it's true: A normal amount of sedentary activity burns only around 200 calories a day. Of course, this is in addition to the calories your body is burning as part of your resting metabolic rate (RMR). So, if your RMR is 2400 calories a day, then combined with your sedentary activities, you might actually be burning a total of 150 or more calories each hour you sit at your desk. But, very few of those calories actually come from moving paper and pushing a pencil. If you are very fidgety and nervous, your sedentary output may be a few calories higher. It also increases a bit with colder weather and during the winter season.

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Loose Clothes

Hi, I have been working out for over 2 months now...walking, biking, and jogging 3-5 times a day, including weight training. I am also on a low-fat diet...my problem is, I am not losing any inches...I know my scale is not going to tip because I am definitely building muscles...but my jeans still fit the same and I am getting a bit discouraged. How long should it take before my clothes feel loose? And also...am I doing the wrong exercises? Maybe I should just walk for two hours and eat less carbs?

You are right to pay attention to your inches, especially your waist size. That's the key measurement, along with your weight, to monitor your body fat level. If you were losing pounds of fat and replacing it with the same number of pounds of muscle, you would weigh the same, but your waist would be smaller...about 1/4" smaller for each pound of fat lost. That's because, pound for pound, muscle is denser than fat and takes up less volume on your body.

You can expect to lose 1/2" off your waist as you lose 2 pounds of body fat each week. To achieve this, exercise alone is not enough, nor do you need to eat an unbalanced diet. You must carefully balance your total calorie intake with your energy output. You'll learn how to do that here at bodyfatguide.com.

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Success Story

Hi Ron, I'm bursting with having to tell someone about this . When I first decided to adopt a healthy lifestyle, these were my stats (April 1998):
weight: 212 bust: 46 waist: 46 hips: 51 thighs: 23.5 R and 23.5 L

As of October 17, 1998:
weight: 133 bust: 35 waist: 30.5 hips: 37 thighs: 20 R and 20 L

In inches, I've decreased by 47.5" - that is almost four feet of fat! I was amazed when I looked at it that way. My clothes size went from: 24 to 10 (I can't believe it - I can wear a SIZE TEN!!!)

All I've done is exercise and eat right, and I LOVE IT. I love the way I look and feel - but I still want to get about 5 more pounds off. I'm also working on the flab with crunches & 5 lb weights.  I exercise every single day - I figure I eat every day, I HAVE TO exercise every day, also.

I don't know if you wanted to know all these details, but I'm so excited that I wanted to share them with you. I enjoy eating healthy foods - I may even grow a rabbit tail soon. I know I'll never be able to eat again like I used to - and I don't care because I no longer want to eat that way. I will keep you posted of these last five pounds. I appreciate all you've done. Thanks for your support.

Thank you for doing such a great job! I get excited too when you share your success story!

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Fat Cells

Can adults increase fat cells in number, and if so, when?

Absolutely yes! This occurs when a person's absorbed calorie intake is very much more than their body can either burn off or store away properly. When the body's old fat cells are filled to the maximum with lipid, the body then manufactures extra storage compartments in the form of new fat cells to store any additional calories. So, liposuction that removes old fat cells will do you no good in the long run if you don't learn to manage your calorie intake properly and avoid growing new fat cells.

The good news is that regardless of how many old or new fat cells you have, they will all shrink in size with a proper weight management program.

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Losing Muscle, Gaining Fat

I've lost several pounds while dieting and training with weights, but, according to your energy balance chart, more than half of the weight I lost was muscle. Then, as I ate more to regain my muscle, I gained back a lot of the fat I lost! So now, after a month and a half, I am practically back to where I started.

You seem to be in a rut. You're losing muscle when your weight goes down and gaining fat when it goes back up. In both cases you're body fat percentage is getting worse! Welcome to the club. This is what happens to most people when they train and diet the "conventional" way. Seeing these results should convince you that your method is a merry-go-round to nowhere.

Forget about the way everyone else trains! You have to zero in on increasing muscle without increasing fat and losing fat without losing muscle. That's the only way your body composition will improve. Your body composition and energy balance numbers are showing you where your problem is. Now, let's solve your problem!

Separate aerobic-calorie burning for fat loss on different days from your anaerobic-calorie burning for muscle gain. This is the ONLY way to solve your problem. Let your numbers guide you!

Change your routine and adjust your calorie intake the moment you see your muscle and fat levels are going in the wrong direction. Your net calorie intake on fat-burning days should be (minus)-1000 calories. To avoid losing LBM on these days, don't perform anaerobic activity. Your net calorie intake on muscle gaining days should be approximately +300-500 calories. To avoid gaining fat, adjust your net calorie intake more accurately according to the calorie's effect on your body.

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It's not just about Losing Fat

I've been getting consistent results reducing my body fat level and lowering  my body fat percentage. But recently, my weight and waist size have been stuck at the same measurements for awhile. However, I am glad that I haven't gained fat. Actually, just yesterday my tape measure started moving down again, so I guess I'm back on track.

Even if your body fat loss stalls for awhile, NOT gaining back any fat is a MAJOR accomplishment! That is one of the main points of weight management...It's not just about losing fat. It's learning to live in the real world without gaining fat in the first place! You are doing great, so give yourself credit.

Remember, if you go over your daily calorie allowance, just include the extra calories as part of your next day's allowance and GET BACK ON TRACK! However, also remember that this type of damage control is not a substitute for eating proper amounts of food in the first place!

Heavier and Leaner

Over the past 2 months I've lost 13 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle. Most of my muscle lost was in the last 2 weeks. I noticed my body fat percentage went up even though I finally reached my body weight goal! Can I gain that muscle back?

Your body fat percentage went up because of your muscle loss. You were probably working at it a little too hard as you approached your body weight goal.

You can expect to gain most of that muscle back as you increase your calorie intake back up to maintenance level and start toning. That means you can expect to see your weight increase, BUT, if you do it properly, YOUR WAIST WON'T INCREASE! That will lower your body fat percentage back down again. This is a perfect example of how losing the wrong kind of weight makes you smaller and flabbier, and gaining the right kind of weight makes you toned and leaner!

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Breast Implants

I recently purchased a Tanita Body Fat scale. I also have silicon breast implants. My question is... Does this affect the accuracy of the scale, if so how much?

Bio-electrical impedance scales use an electric current to sense you have a certain amount of body fat. Unless the scale is also programed to sense implants (which I doubt it is) the scale will then assume the rest of your body weight is all natural tissue. It can't tell that some of your weight comes from implants. The result is that the scale is tricked into thinking you have more real lean tissue than you actually have, and thus the body fat percentage readings you get will appear lower than they really are.

If you have my book, The Body Fat Guide, you could solve this problem by subtracting the estimated weight of your implants from your body weight. (Probably not much more than 2-5 pounds for most implants, but I heard that some of them get up to 50 pounds!) Then either lookup or calculate your body fat percentage based on your adjusted weight and waist size.

I first discovered this implant problem while I was calculating Dolly Parton's body fat percentage based on her weight and waist size. By failing to adjust for the weight of her implants, (yes, she admits she has them!) not only did her calculations make it appear she had no fat, she came out as (minus)-2% body fat!

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Breast Feeding

As a breast feeding Mom, what is an acceptable range for body fat? At what rate should I decrease my weight on a 3x a week exercise regimen?

Breast milk contains a high percentage of fat, but in my opinion, that doesn't mean that breast feeding mom's should have a high body fat percentage!

All the fat you require to produce breast milk should come from your diet, not from your body fat. It's true that your body will sacrifice its own tissues to manufacture milk for your baby when there aren't enough nutrients in your diet. Your bones, teeth, muscles and body fat...all of your tissues are used to provide backup sources of nutrients that go into your milk. But, this is not desirable for your own health, nor is it a substitute for feeding yourself a nutrient adequate diet.

If you cut back on your calories too much while breast feeding, in an effort to lose weight, this could reduce your milk supply. I don't recommend following any kind of reducing program until you are finished breast feeding. In fact, a breast feeding mom usually requires 500 extra calories of food a day, along with rest and moderate exercise.

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Weight Maintenance

I have been dieting, but now I suspect I am eating too little calories and I might harm my metabolism. How do I re-boost my metabolic system without gaining weight?

If you think you need to eat more, than simply do so without going over you calorie allowance. In that way you will be eating exactly the same amount of calories that your body is burning off, and no excess calories will be stored as fat.

But, if you don't know your calorie allowance, well then, you are as lost as one who is trying to balance one's bank account without seeing the ledger!

Analyze your body composition with the formulas on this website. Figure out your Resting Metabolic Rate. Then estimate the calorie output of your daily activities. Add these together and you will have your maintenance calorie allowance. Keep track of the calories you are eating and match them to your calorie allowance. If you are still losing weight or if you are gaining weight, then correct your calorie estimates and adjust them until your weight is stable.

When you can see that your calorie intake is equal to your energy output in calories, and when your weight is stable, then you will have taught yourself the most difficult part of weight management: HOW NOT TO GET FAT! Obviously, if everyone knew how not to get fat in the first place, no one would need to go on diets and lose weight!

Follow the numbers for a while as you maintain your weight. Soon, it will all become a habit and you won't need to use the numbers any more. But until then, the numbers are there to guide you.

This is the only way I know of to permanently control your weight without drugs. But, is all this too much trouble? I suggest learning to do this is no more difficult than learning to drive a car! You can do it!

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Recommended Calorie Allowances

My girl scout troop is working on there "Health and Fitness" badge. They need information for one of their activities: (Find out what the daily calorie needs are for someone of your height, weight and age.) My girls are 9 and 10 years old and are 47" to 57" tall. Do you have a chart that they could go by for this activity. They have to plan some meals with the calorie need for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you.
Troop 149

Try this:
Recommended Calorie Allowances (from US RDA)

Age

Weight/Height

Energy ___

Age

Weight/Height

Energy

Yr.

kg.

lbs.

cm.

in.

kcal.

Yr.

kg.

lbs.

cm.

in.

kcal.

Infants Females

0.0-0.5

6

13

60

24

650

11-14

46

101

157

62

2200

0.5-1.0

9

20

71

28

850

15-18

55

120

163

64

2200

Children

19-24

58

128

164

65

2200

1-3

13

29

90

35

1300

25-50

63

138

163

64

2200

4-6

20

44

112

44

1800

51+

65

143

160

63

1900

7-10

28

62

132

52

2000

Pregnant

+300

Males

Lactating

+500

11-14

45

99

157

62

2500

15-18

66

145

176

69

3000

19-24

72

160

177

70

2900

25-50

79

174

176

70

2900

51+

77

170

173

68

2300

The problem with charts like this is that they can not take individual differences in body composition, metabolism and activities into consideration.

The easiest way for anyone to determine their individual average calorie need is to simply keep track of their calorie intake for a few days while their weight remains stable. In other words, no matter how much they are eating, or how much activity they are performing, or how much calorie-burning muscle they have on their bodies--since no extra calories are being stored or lost from body fat, their average calorie intake will equal their average energy output.

Of course, the problem with averages is that they are not much help to us on our un-average days when we do the most damage! Like on our days-off when we eat more and work less than average!

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Sweat

When I exercise the same amount in winter as I exercise in summer, I don't lose the same amount of sweat. Is it necessary to sweat in order to lose weight? Will I lose less weight because I am sweating less?

Exercise that makes you sweat is good for general circulation and cardio fitness. However, regardless if you sweat or not, you will only lose body fat when you eat less calories than your body burns. Any fluid weight lost from sweating is immediately replaced upon re-hydration.

You sweat more doing the same exercise when it is hotter because your body is trying to stay cooler, not because you are burning more calories.

Generally, people burn slightly more calories in colder weather to maintain body heat, but this may be no more than 100 extra calories a day. It really depends on one's amount of exposure to the cold. When the seasons change, simply adjust your calorie intake until your weight is stable.

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Swimming

Can you burn fat and lose weight by swimming? Some people say you can not lose weight that way.

I've heard that before too. Supposedly, your body keeps more fat as a layer of insulation against the cooler temperature of the water. Fat also increases buoyancy. But, do the best swimmers have more body fat because they swim, or are they better swimmers because they have more body fat? In other words, which is the cause and which is the effect? One thing is sure: swimming burns calories, and if you are eating less calories than you are burning, you should lose body fat.

Why not put it to the test? Follow a calorie-reduced diet for a week. Monitor your body fat changes using the The Body Fat Guide, and compare the effect of equivalent amounts of swimming with other activities.

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Water Retention

Maybe I am measuring incorrectly, but I find it hard to believe I took 2 inches off my waist and lost 4 pounds in only 6 days. Also where exactly do you measure? The top of the navel, middle, bottom or what? And what if your navel is low, say just slightly above the top of the hip bone area?

You'll be happy to know that if your navel lies slightly above the top of your hip bone line, then it is right where it should be! Whether you have an "iny" or an "outy", cross your tape measure right through the middle of that little sucker.

Yes, your weight and waist dropped quite a lot in 6 days. This could be, as you suggest, because you have not been consistent in your measuring technique. Make sure you measure in the same exact place and with the same exact tension on the tape. However, your loss could also be due to the elimination of a few pounds of retained water along with some fat.

Using the energy balance chart, it's relatively easy to spot the effects of water retention. Assuming your calorie intake and energy output estimates are reasonably accurate, then whenever changes in your body composition don't seem to agree with your net calorie intake, the difference can usually be accounted for by the gain or loss of retained water.

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Liposuction

Hi, I was reading about diet myths on your web site. You say that fat removed by liposuction can grow back. I've read that plastic surgeons insist fat cells never grow back once they're removed.

Claims of permanent fat loss by liposuction are based on a half truth. There is no doubt that once a fat cell is removed by surgery it is gone forever. But, that doesn't mean new fat cells can't invade the area. Thomas Wadden, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health and Behavior at Syracuse University, says studies contradict claims of plastic surgeons. Areas on your body that have had liposuction can fill in again with new fat cells, although perhaps not exactly in the same cellular locations due to the scar tissue left by the surgery. However, over a period of time adjacent fat cells in the area may expand in number. The overall effect is that many people who have had liposuction discover that they are not immune to regaining fat in those same areas.

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Extra Calories for Growth

I have been following the Energy Balance Chart every day and I've lost body fat. But my muscle mass is low for a woman of my height and now I'm trying to improve that. I was wondering, when I am building muscle, on my days when I am not training am I supposed to eat the same amount of calories as I do on day's when I lift weights? I have been eating less on the days I don't lift weights because I am not doing any training on those days. I felt that if I ate more on the days I don't train I would gain fat. Is this true?

When you are training to build muscle you must eat 300-500 extra calories a day above your energy output, everyday, regardless if it is your day off or not. Obviously your total calorie intake on your days off will be less if your total energy output is less, but nevertheless you must still consume extra calories on those days. The extra calories provide the materials for muscle growth. This growth occurs best on the days when you are less active and when your muscles are resting. A muscle that is trained very hard can require up to 96 hours of rest to fully replenish and rebuild itself, so you must continue to provide extra calories during that time.

I know that mentally it feels uncomfortable at first to switch over to eating more calories when you are LESS active because you've put so much time and effort into losing body fat by eating less calories and being MORE active. But, remember, each pound of muscle you gain will make you look even leaner! Also, consider that pregnant women must eat 300 extra calories a day to support growth during pregnancy. Lactating mothers must consume 500 extra calories a day to produce an adequate supply of milk. In a way, feeding yourself extra calories to grow muscle is very similar to being pregnant or breast feeding. If you are continuing to lose weight while training to build muscle, you are definitely not eating and/or resting enough.

To ensure that you are not gaining body fat while eating extra calories, start out with small calorie excesses, like 100-200 a day if that makes you feel more comfortable. Measure changes in your body composition very carefully. But, if you don't see any changes in a week, start slowly bumping up your calorie intake. You may also consider cutting back your other activities even further to provide more rest. Eventually you will be amazed how much you can eat and not get fat, provided you are working out hard!

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Fat Blockers

A friend of mine ordered a product that contains chitosan. It is a natural fiber deprived from shellfish that inhibits fat absorption. My friend took it for a month and lost 30 pounds. And he claimed he still ate his normal way. People also use it to reduce LDL cholesterol. I was wondering if there are any side effects from this product.

Fat blockers are ingested non-nutritive substances that interfere with the proper digestion and/or absorption of dietary fat. In addition to supplements like chitosan, the latest drug fat blocker approved for sale is Orlistat,  trade-named Xenical, a lipase inhibitor which can decrease absorption of dietary fat in the gastrointestinal tract by about 30 percent.

These substances work by combining with the food to make it indigestible and/or unabsorbable. The unabsorbed food is then voided out in the feces and urine. But this type of pharmaceutical purging is no more intelligent or healthful than forcing yourself to vomit after eating...! You might as well just dump the food directly into the toilet! Purging of any kind is not a substitute for learning to eat properly.

Xenical reduces absorption of some fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, K and beta carotene. Effects of taking Xenical include gas, diarrhea and intestinal cramping. Typically the more fat patients eat, the more effects they experience.

Fat blockers and certain unbalanced diets may be associated with a slight reduction in cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, but this often occurs whenever one loses weight.

Don't be fooled by the spectacular short-term effects of these quick fixes. Your friend will not be able to compromise the proper function of his digestive system for too much longer before he comes off these fat blockers and regains all the weight, assuming he hasn't done any permanent damage to his system. Learn to control your weight with proper weight management skills. You'll be much happier with the long-term results!

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Waist Measuring

I am so confused! You say to measure your waist at the navel...but not to cross over the hip bone, right? Well, either my navel is unusually low or I am doing something wrong. To measure across my belly button I am measuring my hips. I know I have body fat there, but I would also assume that not all females hips are the same. What should I do?

As I say on the Percentage Fat page of bodyfatguide.com, "If your belly hangs lower than the top of your hips, make sure your waist measurement doesn't cross over your hip bone."

To explain further: Cross the tape over your navel in the front and angle the tape up higher as you cross it behind your back so it rests just above your hip bones. In other words, if the front of your belly slopes down over the top of your hips, the tape should also slope down in the front to follow the contour of your belly at the navel...but only in the front! Keep it off your hip bones in the back, but don't bring it up too high into the midriff area. Remember, regardless if your hips are naturally large or small, the size of your hips should not affect your waist measurement.

Everybody's navel normally lies just above the hip bones...as long as their belly is flat and they are not carrying excess body fat! So if your navel is hanging lower than the top of your hips...well, you know what to do.

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Miraculous Waist Reduction

My weight has remained the same since I ended my diet, yet my waist measurement has inched up steadily over the past week. What do you think? HELP PLEASE!

Here's a possible explanation that I write about in The Body Fat Guide:

As your waist size shrinks when losing body fat, it is possible to temporarily decrease the size of your waist even further by doing lots of abdominal exercise while dieting. This temporarily depletes any glycogen in your abdominal muscles, leaving them flatter, and makes your waist appear even smaller. In fact, many programs that claim miraculous waist reduction use this very method.

However, don't be fooled! When you gradually return to a normal maintenance amount of calories, your abs replenish with glycogen, look firmer, and your waist begins to pop back out to its normal size, even though you haven't gained weight. This may be what you are going through. If so, just wait for your waist size to finish replenishing. It's just one of those adjustments that sometimes occurs after ending a diet.

In my opinion, abdominal muscles should be trained like other muscle groups. For this reason, I make it a point to do little anaerobic exercise, including less abdominal exercise, while dieting to lower body fat. That way I am not burning off lean body mass, and I know my waist measurement is a truer indicator of my body fat level. Once the body fat is stripped off, anaerobic exercise easily whips the abdominal muscles into muscular shape along with the rest of my body.

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Daily Weigh-in

I just cannot weigh and measure myself each & every day because if there is no loss, I get discouraged and give up. So I've designated one weigh-in day a week, and although I really have to try hard, I stay away from the scale and tape measure. It works wonders from a motivational standpoint, because I'm not as hard on myself for occasional slips.

I know it is not a popular idea to weigh and measure yourself every day. If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, you don't really have to concern yourself with daily weigh-ins because, as long as you stay on the diet, the weight loss is sure to come. This situation changes dramatically, however, when it's time to precisely adjust your calorie intake and energy output to keep the weight off. Until you have formed the proper habits, how will you know everything is balancing out properly each day if you are not measuring yourself?

The fact is, it only takes one day to gain body fat or lose muscle! Why wait a whole week to measure it? How discouraged will you be when you finally see how much body fat has piled back on in one week after your diet?

Nevertheless, some experts discourage daily weigh-ins as a way to avoid obsessing over your weight. But, I think it's just the opposite! When you DON'T know what's happening with your daily weight, that's when you worry and obsess over it! You live in fear of the scale and in denial of your energy balance.

Start thinking about gradually doing more frequent weight-ins. Don't beat yourself up if the measurements are not what you expected...use that valuable feedback to further adjust and refine the balance between your diet and activity. That's how you eventually get everything balanced out properly. Hey, you can't pick up the violin for the first time and expect to play Beethoven's Violin Concerto...you need to learn by correcting your mistakes.

Of course, running back and forth to the scale all day long is useless because of normal fluctuations throughout the day. With one daily weigh-in, eventually you'll be able to identify relatively meaningless daily weight fluctuations, due to water retention and gastrointestinal contents. But, without measuring and using that feedback, you're just guessing...and worrying!

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Help for Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes

I'm an MD. I liked the information on your web page...the following observations are made for your response: I'm a non-insulin dependent diabetic (adult onset diabetic) who had been in "mint condition" once upon a time!...but, somewhere along the course of life, I got fat...I measured at 32% body fat in '96...since then, I have been very busy taking care of myself. Last month, I measured at 21%. My diet is highly special because of my carbohydrate intolerance...I am forced to eat the minimum amount of carbs I can get away with and over a period of time, I found what gives me energy without causing my blood sugars to spike... I get marked relief in hunger upon eating half a granola bar but within an hour or so, I start to feel hungry again...what's your take?

It has been proven that reducing one's level of body fat along with regular exercise will increase the insulin sensitivity of a non-insulin dependent diabetic's body cells. Increased insulin sensitivity allows the cells to absorb glucose and other nutrients, and this helps keep the diabetic's blood sugar level normal. In fact, the primary medical therapy for non-insulin dependent diabetes is weight loss and exercise.

The more you lower your body fat, exercise, increase the insulin sensitivity of your cells and stabilize your blood sugar level, the more you can begin, with proper supervision, to slowly return to a normal balance of foods. Ultimately, a more balanced diet will satisfy your hunger more thoroughly. Cravings usually result from an unbalanced diet.

Hope that helps encourage you to get back to "mint" condition.

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Heart Rate and Calories

Is using my heart rate a good way to estimate the calories I burn?

It can be, provided you take into consideration any changes in your fitness level. Assuming your body weight remains constant, performing a task like climbing a flight of stairs will burn a constant amount of calories, regardless of your fitness level. But, as your fitness level either improves or worsens, your corresponding heart rate usually decreases or increases while performing that task. For example, if you run up a flight of stairs when you are out of shape, your heart pounds, you are quickly out of breathe, and your muscles ache. However, when you are in shape, you can bound up the flight of stairs without even noticing it. In both cases, assuming you weigh the same, the amount of work performed and the amount of calories burned is the same, but your heart rate is very different.

This explains why people who get out of shape feel like they are burning more calories than they are actually burning. Their heart rate may be higher when active, but their calorie output is no higher than usual. When you are fit you don't feel the effort as much.

If you use your heart rate to estimate your calories burned, just make sure you periodically update the correlation between your heart rate and various activity intensity levels as your fitness level changes. The same applies if you are using your Rate of Perceived Exertion to estimate calorie output. Your feeling at various activity intensity levels changes as your fitness level changes. You can find a summary of the activity intensity levels at the body fat percent page.

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Muscularity

I have lost weight after beginning to work out with weights and following a calorie-reduced diet. Although you claim I am probably losing muscle mass training this way, why do my muscles look bigger?

As you lose body fat and tone up your muscles with weights, your muscles begin to stand out and gain visual depth, taking on more of a 3-D effect. This change in appearance is sometimes referred to as improving your muscularity. It is amazing how much bigger your toned muscles appear in this state with less body fat covering them. However, don't be fooled. They aren't really bigger. Increased muscle mass requires a calorie surplus, which can't occur while on a calorie-reduced diet.

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Water Content of Muscle and Fat

If a pound of fat has 3500 calories, and if fat has over twice as many calories as protein, doesn't that mean a pound of muscle contains over 1750 calories? And if so, how is it possible to lose several pounds of muscle so quickly when my calorie output is not that high?

You are not considering that muscle is composed of over 72% water and only about 20% protein! Body fat has about 20-25% water. This explains why losing water out of your muscle mass makes your weight drop so quickly.  This water loss from muscle is not the same as sweat.

Inaccurate Scale

My scale tells me I weigh 123 pounds and my tape measure tells me my waist is 37.5 inches. When I try to use these measurements with your body composition formulas, it doesn't compute to a real number.

It is not likely that a person could really have your waist size at the body weight your scale indicates. Assuming your waist measurement is accurate, the most likely explanation is that your scale is inaccurate. I know you like thinking you weigh less than you actually do, but you need accurate measurements to get meaningful data as you attempt to improve your body composition.

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Essential Fatty Acid Supplements

I'm an amateur bodybuilder looking to shed that last little layer of fat. I've restricted my diet to contain very low fats, yet I keep hearing about the importance of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid in my diet. Can I keep my dietary fat intake at almost nothing, but still get my healthy fats with supplements? Will this help me lose my body fat while staying healthy?

Obviously, if your fat intake is too low, or almost nothing as you say, you will not be getting enough essential fats from food. However, I do not recommend taking any supplements to replace food. Nutrition authorities state that dietary supplements are just that: they are intended to supplement the nutrients in your diet, not replace them. Well then, I guess that means you are still responsible for eating a balanced diet containing enough essential fat.

Eating a balanced diet makes taking supplements unnecessary, and taking supplements won't replace eating a balanced diet. So, the logical question is: Why bother with supplements at all? The truth is that people seek the sense of security they get from using supplements in case of nutritional deficiencies, even though it is a false sense of security! They are also attracted to the convenience of swallowing a few tablets instead of preparing and eating healthy meals. Most people agree that proper nutrition plays an important part in maintaining health, yet, recent reports show that fewer people are actually eating properly. In my opinion, the belief that supplements can replace nourishing food accounts for a large part of this gap.

The good news is that you can lose as much body fat as you want while eating a normal amount of fat. All that is required is that you burn more calories than you absorb. To do that, follow the numbers in my book, The Body Fat Guide.

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Emotional Triggers

How do you deal with emotional triggers that cause you to overeat?

Eating is naturally an emotional experience. Certain events, thoughts or objects can trigger an emotional response in us that motivates us to eat. This may not be a problem unless it causes us to overeat on a regular basis.

In my opinion, there are 2 basic steps to dealing with emotional triggers that cause overeating. The first step is to identify the trigger. By keeping track of your eating habits, you will eventually be able to recognize certain feelings and circumstances that accompany periods of overeating. Boredom, loneliness, the desire for overstimulation, physical and emotional pain; all of these may be factors that make you reach for food.

The second step is to change the behavior associated with the trigger. You may make this change abruptly or gradually, but when these triggers occur, you must substitute a different action for eating. Are you bored and lonely? Get out and get involved with people. Are you tired and need a stimulating pickup? Get more rest and build up your energy reserve with exercise. Is your mind filled with negative thoughts? Balance out the negative with more positive thoughts? Or perhaps you associate overeating with pleasurable thoughts. In this case, balance out those thoughts with thoughts about how overeating is negatively affecting your health and appearance. It really doesn't matter what you do to change your behavior, just do something other than turning to excess food!

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There are many qualified professionals that can help you resolve emotional issues. However, recognize it may not be possible to solve your weight problem entirely by emotional therapy alone. You must still deal with the primary issue of energy imbalance, and that's what this web site can help you do.

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Proportional Thighs

Hi. I am 5'6 and weigh 124 lbs. The trouble is my thighs. They are 20 inches and very flabby. I work out 4-5 times a week. Nordic Trak for 60 minutes 3X week and I firm with aerobic tapes the other 2 days. My inner and outer thighs are very flabby and my pants are tight in that area. How do I know what they should measure? Is there some kind of formula for figuring this out? Is there some way to figure out what your other body parts should measure? Waist and hips, etc.?

The proper size of your body parts all depends on what looks good and proportional to you. But one thing is certain; as your body fat percentage decreases, so will most of your body part measurements decrease, including your thighs. Generally, with the amount of exercise you are doing, if your thighs are flabby it's because your overall body fat level is too high.

Eventually, once you get your body fat percentage down enough, the size of your body parts should mainly be determined by the amount of muscle you have built up there. You can then reshape those parts according to your liking with muscle toning/building exercises. Sometimes a properly developed area may seem out of proportion only because other areas are underdeveloped.

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Protein-Sparing Effect

You say it is unreasonable to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, because one requires a reduced calorie intake and the other an increased calorie intake. Given that the muscles are properly stimulated, and you are eating a balanced reduced calorie diet, why can't the muscle take the calories from body fat for growth? This seems reasonable to me.

Experience shows it doesn't work that way. The body needs surplus proteins to build extra muscle, but unless there is also enough glucose immediately available in the blood stream to provide energy, those surplus proteins will simply be burned for energy. This is why dietary carbohydrates and fats that provide glucose are said to have a protein-sparing effect, allowing protein to be used for building purposes rather than being burned for energy. On the other hand, to lose body fat, the body draws energy from fat reserves when glucose and fatty acids in the blood plasma are low. So, as you are losing body fat, any extra protein that happens to be in your blood at the time will also be burned for energy.

This is not to say that muscle synthesis doesn't continue on low calories. Muscle synthesis is a biological process that is continuous throughout our lives, repairing and replacing broken down tissue, even during starvation. But, what we are talking about here is a net increase in muscular weight, which is not possible without an extra supply of energy. It takes extra energy to create extra matter.

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Those Last Few Pounds

I always start out well on my high-fiber, low-fat diet, but then my progress starts slowing down. Eventually, it stops before I've reached my goal, and then I quit. Why is it so difficult to keep going long enough to lose those last few pounds of excess flab?

All you have going for you are determination and an unbalanced diet, neither of which can sustain you long enough to reach your goal. Eventually, your hunger for the foods you crave starts catching up with you, and you start eating more. Then it's just a matter of time before you quit dieting and fail to reach your goal.

You don't require superhuman effort and determination to achieve your goal. With the proper weight management skills and enough time, anyone can achieve their goal with no more than a normal amount of effort and determination.

Learn to manage your weight without restricting foods or following unbalanced diets, and go at a pace that is comfortable for you. A stop-and-go dieting pace where you have intervals of dieting days followed by maintenance days also provides a refreshing break when you need it. Just don't undo your progress on your maintenance days, and you will eventually reach your goal.

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