For Your Health
Eat More, Lose Weight
Can this possibly true?
“It’s a miracle,” a friend from Texas told me. She had just lost that last stubborn eight pounds of pregnancy weight by upping her calories and cutting back on her workouts. Say what? Wait a second; aren’t we supposed to eat less and exercise more if we want to lose weight? Not in all cases, according to Brad Crump, D.C., health services manager at Red Mountain Resort & Spa in St. George, Utah. “I’ve done 10,000 metabolic tests on people from all over the country – different backgrounds, lifestyles, genetics. If they’re not seeing results, it usually comes down to the same thing: they’re exercising too hard so they’re not burning fat, and they’re eating too few calories.”
“Walk into any gym in America and 90 percent of the people look the same all the time. They’re exercising their tails off to lose weight, and it isn’t working. When we fail, we don’t change what we’re doing; we just try harder,” he says, adding that yo-yo dieters (and we all know who we are) alter their metabolism, making it harder to lose weight.
Crump puts his clients at Red Mountain through a Metabeat metabolic assessment, which is based on the idea that the body burns different fuel depending upon the exertion level. It’s designed to identify your “aerobic base,” the maximum heart rate at which you burn fat. (Above that heart rate, your body shifts increasingly to burning carbs). At the end of a treadmill test, the Metabeat software churns out a six-page printout that establishes a personal training range for each client and outlines an exercise program to broaden the fat-burning zone. I work out a lot and when I do the Metabeat test, I’m surprised to find that at the relatively low heart rate of 107 beats per minute, I’m already shifting over to carbs.
I’m also amazed by what I learn from Crump. I always thought weight is a matter of simple thermodynamics: the more calories you eat, the more you weigh; the more calories you burn, the less you weigh. “Thermodynamics is theoretical, real life is more complicated,” Crump tells me. “Yes, some people gain weight because they over-consume, but I’ve also seen people who under-eat and gain weight.”
The eat-more, lose-weight theory goes like this: too little food and too much exercise throws your body into starvation mode. Figuring that you’re a famine victim, not a chubbette trying to drop a few pounds, your body hangs onto nutritional stores by hoarding fat. “It’s an adaptive response,” Crump says. “Your body is storing calories for a rainy day that will never come.” Easing up on the caloric restriction kicks your body into weight-loss mode.
But that doesn’t mean you can consume Hostess Twinkies. The eat-more diet only works if you’re consuming the right foods. “Not all calories are created equal,” Crump says. “The fat from salmon, say, causes different physiological changes than saturated or unhealthy fat. Carbs from refined processed flour are different than carbs from a vegetable source.” To lose weight at a higher caloric level, you must consume a whole-foods diet with carbs/fat/protein ratio geared to your metabolism.
It worked for my friend in Texas. “After I had my two boys, I lost some of the pregnancy weight. Then I got stuck.” She hovered at 137, eight pounds above her pre-pregnancy weight, for a year until her Metabeat assessment. “I had been eating 1,200 calories and running hard 90 minutes every day,” she says. “My metabolic analysis showed that I needed 1,600 calories just for my resting energy expenditure.” She upped her calories to 1,800, and began an interval program that had her walking at varying speeds for 60 minutes a day. In eight weeks, the eight pounds were gone. “Before, I was hungry all the time,” she said, whereas her new diet – oatmeal with fresh fruit, hearty salads and sandwiches on whole-grain bread – is satisfying. “Before, I’d eat a bag of microwave popcorn because it was 100 calories. I didn’t look at whether it had trans-fat,” she says. “Now my body is cleaner, more efficient.” Furthermore, she says, “It’s made my life a lot more pleasant: I enjoy exercising because I’m not filled with anxiety that I’ve got to run nine miles today. I look forward to meals because I’m not shorting myself.”