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Weightloss Q & A

Q: Dear Dr. Levin,
I’m 43 years old and want to lose about 35 lbs. I have been on several diets in the last 6 years.  Some of the weight comes off each time, but comes right back when I stop dieting.  The problem is, 6 years ago I had 20 lbs to lose.  Now it’s 35.  I’m actually moving in the wrong direction.  What can you suggest?
Seattle W.A.

A: Dear Cheryl,
Yours is a very common complaint.  In fact, in my opinion, dieting is a total waste of time!! 
The key to weight management is making appropriate lifestyle choices.  Adopt healthier lifestyle habits and 95% of the time you will approach your ideal body composition and weight in a reasonable time period.  The question is: what are the changes you will need to make?  I will elaborate below, but first I want to make a critical comment on body composition during weight loss.

One should always know their body composition, what percent of your body is lean tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, bone etc.) and what percent of your body is fat, prior to the beginning of a weight loss plan.  Body composition is determined using a simple, inexpensive test called a BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis).  In fact, this is the only way that I will work with a patient who wants to lose weight. (Click here to watch a recent CBS News segment on BIA testing).  (My apologies on the commercial which will come on first).

Why?  Imagine this horrifying thought.  You go on a “diet” and lose 30 lbs.  Was the diet a success?  Who knows?  You can’t tell by just looking at a number on the scale.  The question becomes; How much of the weight loss was from muscle and how much was fat?  I will tell you right now, that most people who go on calorie restricted diets, lose as much muscle as fat.  This is a disaster.

Muscle tissue is one of the main drivers of Metabolic Rate.  This is the rate at which your body burns calories.  More muscle tissue equals a higher metabolic rate.  When your metabolism is higher you burn more calories all the time; whether you’re exercising, working or sleeping.  Muscle is highly bioactive tissue.  It requires lots of energy all of the time (energy=calories).  In comparison, fat tissue requires very little energy. 

Therefore, if you lose muscle tissue while dieting, you lower your metabolic rate.  Your body will require fewer calories than it did prior to your diet.  When you go off your diet and eat a normal amount of food, the weight comes roaring back because your calorie requirement has decreased. 

In the end you will probably gain back all of the weight that you lost plus a couple of pounds.  On top of this your body composition has changed to one that is more fat and less muscle; Total Disaster!!  You would have been far better off if you never went on the diet in the first place.  Yet this is the way Americans approach weight loss.  It’s like living in the dark ages.


Adopt healthy lifestyle choices and know your body composition prior to beginning your weight loss program.  Then continue to monitor your body composition as you lose weight to ensure that you are losing body fat and not muscle tissue.  This becomes especially important if you are over the age of 40 when it’s more difficult to add back the muscle tissue that you can so easily lose on a calorie restricted diet.

As you lose weight repeated BIA testing determines how much fat that you have lost while also monitoring your lean tissue so that you can make sure you aren’t burning  muscle tissue.  In fact in an ideal world I want to see my patients gain muscle tissue while losing body fat.  This is why exercise is such an integral part of any healthy lifestyle program. Exercise allows one to increase basal metabolic rate so that you can enjoy a meal without having to worry about gaining back unwanted fat pounds.  For a more in-depth outline of what to eat to lose weight and how our food choices have a hormonal effect, read my article: Weight Loss Secret.

Losing abdominal fat not only makes you look and feel great,
it reduces your risk of dementia

According to a new study published in the March 26th 2008 issue of the journal Neurology, obese people with the most abdominal fat in their 40's were 3.6 times more likely to develop dementia than those with the least amount of abdominal fat. In addition, people who were overweight, a step below obese, with large bellies in their 40s were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia.   Interestingly, having a "normal" body weight and BMI doesn't mean that you aren't obese.  In a recent study, 62% of people of normal weight had high levels of body fat when measured by BIA.  The study classifies this new catagory as nomal weight obesity.  Channel 13 News just did an interesting video on Normal Weight Obesity...Click here to view.

So for overall health, to feel and look great, and now, even to protect our memory and cognition as we age, it is imperative to lose that extra weight.  Let’s do it the right way by losing the fat and increasing muscle.

Dr. Neil Levin
Chiropractor practicing in East Northport, NY
(631) 651-2929