Complete Wellness: The Real Story
by Carol Brown, David Mack, Debbie Reiman
Misconception:Weight gain or loss is based entirely on the number of calories we consume.
Truth: It’s not as simple as calories in and calories out. Maintaining a healthy weight is largely dependent on eating a healthy balance of foods, managing the effects of negative stress, and our daily activity levels. We recommend pairing a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, and a healthy fat at every meal, and eating small meals throughout the day in order to keep metabolic rates at an efficient burning level. Skipping meals or waiting until you are really hungry before eating leads to unhealthy spikes and declines in metabolic rates — and not-so-healthy choices. Exercise plays a major role in weight loss and maintenance.
Misconception: My machine calculates the number of calories I’m burning during exercise.
Truth: Most of us overestimate our caloric expenditure during physical activity. Even though the cardiovascular exercise machines in our fitness center have gauges that tell you how many calories you have burned, we caution users that these numbers are based on averages and may not represent the actual number of calories burned. It’s not to say that the calorie gauges can’t be great motivators for individuals, but as unfair as it may seem, some of us need to exert more energy to burn the same number of calories. At the DAC, we perform tests to determine your resting metabolic rate and volume of oxygen uptake (or VO2 max), both of which are different for everyone.
Misconception: If I drastically reduce the number of calories I consume, I’ll lose weight.
Truth: If your resting metabolic rate is 1,700 calories per day and you only eat 1,000 calories, you will lose weight, but you are putting your body into a deficit situation, which slows down metabolic rate and compromises your ability to burn calories efficiently. You often regain the weight very quickly after returning to "normal" eating. This is true for everybody — not just those who need to lose weight. We recommend calorie consumption based on your current needs.
Misconception: I had my BMI tested, and it looks like I’m about average.
Truth: At the DAC, we prefer to use the body composition test to understand our clients’ current healthy weight and use it as a baseline for charting progress. Unlike the Body Mass Index (BMI) test, which is based on average weight to height, the body composition test measures lean body mass and fat weight. Here’s the difference: Take an Olympic weightlifter in excellent physical condition who is short and stocky. According to BMI standards, the weightlifter might appear to be overweight, but the body composition test will show that he has low body fat and excellent muscle tone — he doesn’t need to lose weight at all. Conversely, if you take a person who is tall and slender and never exercises, that person might appear to be in a healthy BMI range, but their body composition test will tell the real story.
Misconception: It’s all about diet and exercise.
Truth: Your stress levels can affect your health, including your body composition. Studies have shown that the hormone cortisol is secreted during times of mental, emotional, or physical stress, and over time, if this hormone is consistently released, it causes fat to be stored instead of burned. Our approach is to look at our clients’ overall environment and encourage them to journal their habits. Through this process, if we discover an unhealthy behavior we work on ways to modify their behavior. For example, if a client tells us he or she ate an entire bag of chips one night, and journaling reveals the client was angry at the time, then we can work with the client to help recognize trigger points for unhealthy behavior and offer guidance to make healthier choices during stressful times.
Misconception: To lose weight, I have to give up all things I love, like cookies, cake, and cocktails.
Truth: We never advise giving up particular foods or beverages. After all, your health is about striking a healthy life balance, which means having a life. In our approach, we work with our clients to pre-plan for special occasions like social events. If you are going to a birthday party and you love sweets, are you going to forego the birthday cake? Instead, consider having the cake, but refrain from splurging on the other high-fat foods being offered and plan to work out beforehand, which will increase your metabolic rate.
Misconception: I never can stick with it, so I might as well give up.
Truth: Just because you have a set-back, you should never give up on healthy living. We are imperfect creatures, but we are all capable of improvement. The advice we give our clients is that nobody has absolute control over their schedules — things come up — so you have to schedule time for fitness as if it were a meeting. Plus, it helps to surround yourself with positive people who share the same goals that you do — in work, relationships, and health. D
Carol Brown is the wellness specialist at the Denver Athletic Club and can be reached at (720) 931-6742. David Mack is the director of Wellness Education at the Denver Athletic Club and can be reached at (720) 931-6814. Debbie Reiman is the wellness director at the Denver Athletic Club and can be reached at (720) 931-6741.