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How to lose weight and keep it off

Our metabolism slows down as we age, and if we keep eating like when we were young, we eventually get fat. Many studies have shown that people over the age of 50 appear to gradually lose muscle mass and gain weight. Paul Williams of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) investigated the question of whether vigorous exercise can prevent weight gain with age. The study showed that in 4,769 runners between the ages of 18 and 50, weight gain occurred at the same rate regardless of the number of miles run per week. The average six-foot-tall man gained about 3.3 pounds and about 3/4 inches around the waist every 10 years.

So, exercise is not the answer to keeping weight off. But we already knew that. Moderately vigorous exercise burns up only around 400 calories per hour which is about the number of calories in a medium size serving of McDonald's French Fries. We can eat more calories in five minutes than we can lose in one hour of exercise. The way to keep the weight off is to limit what we eat.

I read a recent post in Mary Robinson's CRON Diary. Mary has been a practitioner of Calorie Restriction with Optimum Nutrition (CRON) for many years, but over the past couple of years her life has changed substantially. Her son moved away to go to college, she retired, moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Austin, Texas, and she took in her mother to live with her. All these changes destabilized the predictable routine that made it possible for her to control her diet. The weight gain sneaked up on her. She says:
"I am going to return to square one on CR - well maybe square three. I've just gotten lazy about it and have let the vacation atmosphere of my current situation, my mom's slightly bad influence, Austin cuisine, and being home all day with easy access to the kitchen all derail me to some extent. The level of vigilance that was working reasonably well when I was working in Washington just does not work for me here. I've continued to slowly gain weight and now I weigh 8 pounds more than I did during my "golden" period of 3 or 4 years, when my weight was very stable."

Can you count the number of excuses in that paragraph? Vacation atmosphere, mom's influence, Austin cuisine, being at home all day, access to the kitchen... Weight gain happens so slowly that we hardly notice it. An extra 50 calories per day will result in a weight gain of one-pound in just over two months. That is just one extra slice of bread per day! The 3.3 pounds that the runners gained over 10 years corresponds to a gain of only 1/3 of a pound per year which is really imperceptible. It corresponds to 3.2 extra calories per day or about an extra teaspoon of sugar.

Here is Mary's impression of weight gain:
"What's interesting to me is that I don't seem fatter to myself. I still look slim, as far as I can see. I guess I've gained it so slowly that I am used to it, and my weight is still good for my height. Some of my clothes are a little tight, though, which always provides good incentive to get back on careful CR!"

What is the secret to keeping weight off? The answer is simple: An accurate scale that can show tenths of a pound. Weigh yourself every morning after going to the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything. This is how you can monitor how your diet affects your weight. If you pig out, the scale will show it. If you stay a little bit hungry, the scale will show your weight loss. Don't expect to see big changes from day to day. Variations of half a pound may occur due to water retention or dehydration. It is the trend that matters. You will probably find that you have to be hungry several hours per day in order to maintain a constant weight as you age.

Learn about Weight Control

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