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Vacation Weight Gain

I NEED HELP! I GO TO THE GYM FIVE TIMES A WEEK AND DO MOSTLY AEROBICS. LAST JUNE, I WENT TO THE U.S. FOR A ONE-AND-A-HALF MONTH VACATION AND, LO AND BEHOLD, I GAINED 20 POUNDS. ADMITTEDLY, I ATE A LOT OF CHEESECAKE (MY WEAKNESS) AND STEAKS, WHICH I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY AVOIDED DOING HERE IN MANILA. I WENT BACK TO MY OLD ROUTINE OF GOING TO THE GYM FIVE TIMES A WEEK AND EATING A LIGHT DINNER. I HAVE EVEN AVOIDED HAVING SNACKS IN BETWEEN MEALS. HOWEVER, IT SEEMS LIKE THE EXCESS WEIGHT IS HERE TO STAY. THE GREATEST DEPRESSION I HAVE IS THAT I CAN'T FIT INTO MY OLD CLOTHES THAT USED TO FIT SO WELL. I HAD TO BUY NEW SETS OF OFFICE CLOTHES! SO FAR, I HAVE LOST 8 POUNDS AND NEED TO LOSE 20 POUNDS MORE. CAN YOU PLEASE ANSWER A FEW QUESTIONS FOR ME?

IS THE ATKINS HIGH PROTEIN DIET EFFECTIVE? I WAS TOLD THAT PASTA IS GOOD FOR DIETERS BUT I HAVE BEEN READING LATELY THAT LOW-CARBOHYDRATE DIETS ARE BETTER.

MY GYM INSTRUCTOR RECOMMENDED THAT I DO STRENGTH TRAINING. HOWEVER, FROM PAST EXPERIENCE, STRENGTH TRAINING MAKES ME BIGGER. MAYBE ITS MUSCLES BUT IT STILL LOOKS BIG TO ME. I DON'T DO HEAVY WEIGHTS BUT I FEEL STRENGTH TRAINING DOES NOT HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT.

HOW MANY TIMES A WEEK SHOULD ONE EXERCISE TO LOSE WEIGHT? You have just discovered the sad truth that it is easier to gain weight than it is to lose weight. The body is made that way because its primary goal is to survive. In prehistoric times, our ancestors would face short periods of plentiful food and long periods of famine so the body developed a wonderful survival mechanism -- quick weight gain and slow weight loss. This survival trick is not so wonderful now that that there is so much rich and fattening food all around us. We don't even have to exert too much effort to find it. With just our fingertips, we can call and ask for food to be delivered to our doorstep. Unfortunately, our bodies perform as if we are still living in those ancient times so when we gain weight while on vacation, the excess pounds won't come off just like that.

Double-whammy weight gain.
Another factor to consider is that if you don't burn the same amount of calories as your five-times-a-week aerobic sessions while you are on vacation, you will gain weight even without the help of the cheesecake and steaks. Human nature being what it is, we usually make the situation worse by not only not exercising the way we used to back home but also by eating double or triple the fattening foods that we normally wouldn't eat when not on vacation. The result? A double-whammy weight gain of anywhere from ten to thirty pounds.

If it's any consolation, I have seen many clients who have gained twenty to thirty pounds after a "no holds barred" vacation eventually lose all of it - but it took them anywhere from six to twelve months. The fact that you have lost eight pounds is a sign that you are on the right track. Just be patient and the pounds will surely (but slowly) come off.

Prevention better than cure.
I'm sure you have figured out by now that prevention is better and less painful than the cure. The next time you go on vacation, practice a few techniques to prevent excessive weight gain. Eat only small portions of favorite foods. Compromise by eating a low-calorie breakfast and lunch to compensate for a high-calorie dinner. If you can, and I know this is hard to do on vacation, exercise at least three times a week. If you don't have the time or the facilities for formal exercise, try to be as physically active as possible by walking and climbing stairs.

Too much protein not good for you.
According to Mindy Hermann, a registered dietician who wrote "Diet Truths and Lies" for Fitness magazine, the Atkins diet dehydrates you and makes you feel weak and dizzy. She says that most of the weight you lose is not fat but muscle tissue that your body breaks down to keep your blood sugar up. The diet has too much protein (for the first two weeks, you eat almost no carbohydrates but as much meat, butter, and cheese as you want). Too much protein isn't good for you - it causes calcium loss and is hard on the kidneys, which has to process all that excess nitrogen (that's why you get dehydrated). Another potential danger of high protein diets is that most people think of animal flesh only when they hear the word protein, therefore, they end up eating too much saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels.

Low-fat products can be deceiving.
Pasta is only good for dieters if eaten in moderate amounts. Big servings of pasta or anything else, for that matter, will lead to weight gain. Many people wanting to lose weight mistakenly eat too many processed carbohydrates thinking that they are 'safe' since they are low in fat. They forget that calories don't only come from fat; they also come from carbohydrates and protein. Eating too much of anything will cause weight gain. Low-fat or non-fat food products made from processed white flour and sugar are usually quite high in calories. Since they have little fiber and are not very filling, it is also quite easy to eat too much of them. Add to that the psychological deception of "anyway, it's low in fat, so I can eat as much as I want" and you have the paradox of gaining weight while eating a so-called low fat diet.

Strength training a weight loss aid.
Strength training helps you lose weight in an indirect way. The heavier, not necessarily bigger, your muscles are, the more calories you burn throughout the day. It's like a car with a bigger engine consumes more gas than a car with a smaller engine, even if they both have the same size frame.

As we get older, muscle fibers decrease in size if we don't keep them strong through strength training. Atrophied muscles are one reason for the ''middle-age spread'' since smaller muscles mean fewer calories burned.

The muscles do get slightly bigger as they get firmer and harder. However, since the fat cells should also be getting smaller with the help of aerobic-type exercise and a low calorie diet, the over-all effect should be one of smaller and tighter dimensions. The exception here would be a person like a bodybuilder who purposely lifts very heavy weights to make the muscles much bigger. Then, of course, the effect will be bigger measurements.

Keep in mind too that heavier muscles can mean a slightly heavier weight on the scale but a smaller dress size. So, don't panic if after a few months of doing strength training, you "feel" heavier. It's a good kind of "heavy". It means tighter muscles and less flabby fat.

Do an experiment to prove to yourself that lifting moderately doesn't make you bigger -- take your measurements before you start your weight lifting program and then at regular intervals thereafter.

To lose weight, I recommend some type of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five to six days a week (thirty to sixty minutes) and at least two times a week of strength training. Needless to say, this should be in conjunction with proper eating.

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