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Weight Loss Slower is Better

By Rebecca Conroy, NP

Current media has tricked us into thinking that exercise means tremendous and immediate weight loss. The truth is that for most of us who are not in great shape, exercise will help us to build muscle as we start to lose fat. This can mean great frustration because the scale doesn't change.  If weight is lost too quickly, it often means there is muscle loss, as well. Muscle burns calories, so keeping muscle as you lose weight is important. Slower truly is better for permanent results.

The scale is only one measure of body composition. Body composition is the amount of fat and amount of other stuff, like brain, bones, and muscles, that you are made of. You control the amount of muscle you have. You can increase your muscle size which increases the weight of muscle. Muscle is denser than fat. This means that increasing the percentage of your weight made up of muscle generally makes you smaller. Gradual weight loss is a sign that you have transformed the lifestyle habits that create fat into lifestyle habits that create healthy.

Most people are interested in losing weight when they start an exercise program. That's great. There are so many advantages to increased activity that are not limited to losing weight, all of which will assist you in healthy weight loss. The goal of exercise should be to increase strength, increase flexibility, and increase aerobic conditioning. These three things, when balanced, will lead to weight loss for multiple reasons. As you increase your strength, you increase your muscle mass. More muscle mass means more calories burned, even when you are brushing your teeth. Increased flexibility keeps you limber and helps avoid injuries. Increasing aerobic conditioning requires movement, and movement burns calories. Exercise helps your body to use oxygen more efficiently. This translates into an easier time, and less huffing and puffing, when walking, hiking, riding bicycles, and general active working or playing. Exercise increases your ability to lift, move, run, and walk because your muscles are in better shape. Exercise increases your self esteem. Do you know someone with a poor self esteem? Help them by working out together. Your body will do what you want it to and that's a great feeling. Increased activity and exercise make you steadier on your feet. If you have an elderly friend or family member, you can help them avoid a potentially life threatening injury from a fall by working out together. Consult a healthcare provider for your appropriate activity level.

Now for the bad news, activity increases hunger. In order to lose weight in a steady and safe fashion, and to keep it off, exercise must be paired with healthy eating habits. Losing weight isn't about getting skinny the fastest. It's about being healthy so you can be around for your children and their children, so you can enjoy life more fully, and so you can experience excitement and contentment. Exercise and activity are about being healthy.

Rebecca Conroy is a nurse practitioner with Community Physician Group in Stevensville, a part of Community Medical Center.