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Why Be Thin? (Hint: It's Not So You Can Eat Less)

February 21, 2012

This will be part of a series on weight loss.

Americans have collectively become the largest nation in the world in a very short time. On a BMI (body mass index) basis 60% of Americans are overweight.

A significant increase in obesity among Americans under the age of 21 y/o has occurred and this is trending upwards. There are a number of very important issues that need to be discussed.

Well, the most obvious is that you look better and you probably will get more dates, more gifts and nicer gifts if you are thin. You probably will have lower blood pressure, less chance of getting diabetes and will live a lot longer.

So, what are the facts?

Americans with a BMI (you will be sick of this term pretty soon) of greater than 30 have a three fold increase in diabetes a four fold chance of having hypertension, a 7 year decrease in life expectancy etc. etc.

Get the picture?

True or False: It’s Good to Be Thin and Bad to Be Fat

That actually is not totally true and that is why you need to keep reading.

We all know that it is healthier to be the “correct” weight. You, as a reader, have heard it all.” Diet’s don’t work”, “it’s a lifestyle change”, “take these pills and you don’t need to exercise” eat this and don’t eat that.

The truth is, weight is modulated by a very complicated mechanism that is made up of central information(your brain), peripheral information(your stomach receptors), blood sugar responses, and many feedback systems controlling hunger , energy levels, mood and well being.

It would be easy to just quit eating carbohydrates or just eat pickles for 6 years or eat grapefruit all day. We would all look like Cameron Diaz.

Too bad, it doesn’t work that way. We can’t eat the same things every day and we can’t cut out major food groups forever.

The Diet Everyone Has Tried (and Failed At)

Everyone has probably tried the Atkins low carb, eat lots of fat diet. This Atkins diet is a short term miracle. You eat low carb food, you eat steak and cheese, all you want and you lose weight.

And the truth is you do lose weight.

Short term.

The first thing you lose is water weight. Quite simply, when you start to eat less you start to urinate out excess water. You don’t lose fat and you don’t increase lean body mass.

Just like when you eat too much salt, you need to drink lots of water, when you don’t eat salt or much food one must discard all of that water. Early in every calorie reduction diet we lose water to match the sodium in our diet as well as the other nutrients that require dilution.

After the initial water loss you start to lose caloric weight which can be muscle or fat. We want to lose fat and keep our lean body mass or muscle. After short term water weight loss, there is real weight loss on the Atkins diet.

Why the Atkins Will Never Be Successful

But it is very hard to maintain a diet that discards a whole food group, especially a food group you need. It is also difficult to acclimate to this diet basesd on such low carbs early on. You will be tired, cranky and have very little energy.

I have researched the makeup of diets, weight loss and gain, and the natural health of dieting. If you start a diet and you have to spill Ketones in your urine for it to be successful, it’s probably not a very good idea.

In medical school at the University of Miami they taught me that spilling Ketones means you are sick and have to be admitted to the hospital, I don’t think this should be a component of your diet.

We want to be healthier and thinner, but not admitted to a hospital.

Will discuss lifestyle in the next post on this series.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer. He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

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