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Losing Holiday Pounds

Tuesday, December 26, 2006




Losing Holiday Pounds - Tuesday, December 26, 2006The average weight gain during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through January 1, is typically less than 2 pounds. This additional poundage may seem trivial, but it is usually undesired and not shed throughout the remainder of the year. Overeating by just 100 calories a day can increase total weight by 10 pounds at the end of the year; consuming 200 excess calories per day leads to an average weight gain of 20 pounds over the course of the year.

Weight is gained when the number of calories consumed exceeds those required by the body. To lose weight, an individual must run a calorie deficit; that is, the person needs to: consume fewer calories than required; burn additional calories through increased physical activity; or employ a combination of diet and exercise.

Many studies have compared the relative effectiveness of dieting and exercise in achieving weight loss. Multiple studies have shown that dieting is initially more effective in shedding unwanted pounds. However, after weight loss has occurred, exercise becomes more important than dieting for keeping off the pounds. Individuals who achieve weight reduction by restricting calories will usually regain most, if not all, of the weight dropped if they do not increase physical activity and engage in a regular program of exercise. Routine physical activity has been shown to be the most effective way to maintain weight loss.

It is important to realize that if weight loss is attempted through dietary measures alone (by cutting calories and not exercising), approximately 25% of the weight dropped is lean body mass; i.e., muscle loss accounts for ¼ of what is lost on the scale. The result is that the body's metabolism can slow down. This is because the basal or resting metabolic rate is directly proportional to the amount of lean body mass present. When resting metabolic rate drops, it gets progressively harder to lose weight, because the body requires less daily calories to function. The dieter may even gain pounds while reducing calories! This can lead to a vicious cycle referred to as "yo-yo" dieting or weight cycling. In this situation, body weight fluctuates up and down through several dieting attempts, with each cycle of dieting becoming less successful.

The general recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is that most adults perform at least 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. When weight loss is desired, it is suggested that a greater degree of physical activity be done. Exercise sessions of 60 minutes are preferable to those of 30-minute duration. The ACSM considers a caloric expenditure of 2000 calories/week desirable when physical activity is performed with the goal of weight reduction.

Two types of exercise that can assist in weight loss, as well as maintenance of proper weight, are cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise and resistance exercise (strength training). Aerobic exercise burns calories, such as jogging, walking, or biking, consists of repetitive movements of large muscle groups. Performing these types of activities requires energy - which means that these acitivities burn calories. Many forms of cardiovascular exercise will result in a calorie demand of 8 to 10 calories or more per minute while the exercise is being performed. Jogging one mile will often require 100 to 150 calories. The degree of energy expenditure is in part related to the person's size (body weight); larger individuals require more energy to perform most sorts of aerobic activity.

See the following table for estimates of calories burned:

Routine aerobic exercise will often lead to energy expenditure of a few hundred extra calories per day. To lose one pound of body weight requires creating a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. One pound of weight can be lost per week by creating a deficit of 500 calories per day. (A 500-calorie a day calorie deficit over the course of 7 days amounts to a 3500-calorie deficit for the week; this results in a one pound weight loss.)

Strength training, also known as resistance exercise, is also important in succeeding in weight loss. This form of training includes exercises done to strengthen muscles using dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, circuit machines in the gym, or any equipment that requires the muscles to exert extra force. Strength training increases lean muscle mass and burn calories. It helps preserve muscle tissue during weight loss. If weight loss is achieved through dieting alone, both fat tissue and muscle tissue are lost. Strength training helps to preserve muscle tissue while fat loss is occurring. The increase in lean muscle mass that can accompany strength training leads to elevation of resting metabolic rate. That is, more calories are required at rest by individuals with greater lean muscle mass. Therefore, weight loss by strength training occurs through two mechanisms: through calories burned while the exercise is being performed and through increase in lean muscle tissue, which increases resting metabolic rate (increasing the body's resting energy requirements).

Lifestyle modifications are critical to achieving and maintaining weight loss. Old habits die hard. The key to successful weight loss is realistic change in both diet and physical activity. Make modifications that can be sustained. Avoid fad diets, and exercise portion control. Increase physical activity gradually. A realistic weight loss is no more than 1-2 pounds per week. A dietitian or a physician can assist in offering nutritional strategies for weight loss. A certified physical trainer can help in exercise design and develop a personalized program of physical activity to aid in your weight loss goals.

See the following website for healthy eating suggestions: Key points to remember:
See the following links for more information: Exercise & Weight Loss Quiz:

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