The term “creeping obesity” was coined by Ellington Darden of the Nautilus Sports Medicine Center and has been used regularly for the last 25 years in health and wellness textbooks. At about age 25 we lose up to ½ pound of lean muscle tissue per year. And if that were not bad enough, fat cell growth may be increasing by 3 times per year.
Although this sounds as if we are gaining lots of weight really fast, in fact it is truly creeping up on us. For most people this means about a pound to a pound and a half increase on the scale per year. And honestly who really notices a pound or a pound and a half per year? No big deal it seems, but I am sure your brain has already done the math before I can finish this sentence – a pound to a pound and a half means that from age 25 to 55 I have gained 30-45 pounds. All of us have seen this because it has happened to us, or we’ve seen it in mom and pop, Uncle Sam or Aunt Sue.
The loss of lean muscle tissue means our resting metabolic rate is slowing down. When we lose a pound of muscle that means we lose the need for about 50 calories per day. This seems small, but for every 3,500 calories we consume and do not burn we gain a pound of fat. Therefore, if you are burning 50 less calories per day but consuming the same number of calories per day, just multiply 50 calories x 365 days and you will see that this is a 5 pound gain per year.
Not only do we suffer the consequences of the loss of lean muscle tissue which leads to a slower metabolism, but if our consumption of food increases, obesity is then creeping up on us for two reasons: loss of metabolic rate and increased caloric intake. If we consume just 10 calories more per day than we are burning we gain a pound of fat per year.
Finally, we all understand how increases in body fat increase our risk for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and simply a loss in quality of life. So, now that you are totally depressed, here is the good news of how to prevent this from happening or start reversing the effects.
1. Begin an exercise program. There are 168 hours in a week Commit to giving 3 of those hours as an appointment to yourself each week. Set the appointment and ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable to it, and if there is an emergency that causes you to miss then your trusted friend makes you reschedule your self appointment. Each of these hours should contain a mix of weight bearing and cardiovascular exercise. If 3 hours feels like too much start with 3 days per week of 15 minutes.
But you must start even if it is 3 days per week of 5 minutes. You get the point … just get started with what you can physically and emotionally handle for now with the long term goal of 3 times per week of 1 hour. The cardiovascular exercise will build strong lungs and heart, burn calories and prevent disease. The weight bearing exercise will add lean muscle tissue increasing metabolic rate, build a functional body and prevent osteoporosis.
2. Take a look at what you are consuming through the week and make note of the foods you could live without, and at the end of the week see what caloric value these foods have. Then add it up, and it will give you a picture of what your year probably looks like in terms of calories that were not needed and what you could potentially lose in body fat.
If you can save just 50 calories per day you will lose an extra 5 pounds per year and that does not include the calories saved through your new exercise program. What if you lose an extra 100 calories per day? … 10 pounds per year … What if you lose an extra 200 calories per day? … 20 pounds per year.
And for a simple picture of how easy this might be for you, a can of coke is 140 calories. So, if you drink a can of coke per day and you drink water instead then you would lose almost 15 pounds per year without changing anything else in your lifestyle.
Ask yourself this question: Is it easier to exercise for 1 hour or skip the can of coke? The simple nutrition goal is to eat “real whole foods”. Real, whole, naturally occurring foods are rich in protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and water all of which help you feel full. Real whole foods are calorie self-correcting without ever having to count calories.
So, simply start by avoiding one food item per day that you can part with, start exercising even if it is only for 5 minutes and start adding in more whole foods, and you will be on your way to losing weight and, more importantly, improving your health and quality of life.