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Avoiding the New Year's Dieting Blues

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You've made it through another year, and if you're like most of us, you have probably already made a pact with that New Year's resolution.

You've made it through another year, and if you're like most of us, you have probably already made a pact with that New Year's resolution.

You know the one I'm talking about. The same one that hundreds of thousands of peoplejust like youmake every year around this time: the "I'm gonna diet away all these extra pounds" one!

This month's column is dedicated to all those who believe that this year's diet is going to be different from any of the other years'. Unfortunately, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (October 1999), over 40 percent of women and 28 percent of men are on a continual search to either lose or maintain weight by dieting. North Americans collectively spend over 33 billion dollars every year on the diet industry, with very little success to show for it.

Feast or Famine Cycle

Many of us still blame our ever-expanding waistlines on our poor genetics; however, this argument doesn't hold much ground. Research shows that the human gene pool has remained almost unchanged throughout obesity's recent rise. Our genetic makeup was programmed thousands of years ago, and our genes, for the most part, are switched on to feast or famine mode.

Here lies the main reason most diets fail. In feast and famine mode, your body will do anything to ensure its survival. This means that your brain does not recognize the difference between true starvation and an unhealthy restriction of essential nutrients through dieting. It's as if our bodies go into a type of panic when we diet: "Oh no, not another famine!"

The body can actually reduce overall metabolism when faced with a food shortage by lowering the output of thyroid hormones. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine showed that obese people who followed a very low-calorie diet experienced a decrease in T3 levels by as much as 66 percent. T3 is the most metabolically active of the thyroid hormones, and any decrease in its activity spells disaster to the amount of calories your body can burn each day.

The hardest part about dieting is the lost pounds that seem to magically reappear once the diet is over. One of the reasons people experience this dreaded "rebound weight gain" is because of lost muscle tissue. Lean body mass (muscle) influences to a large extent how effective your metabolism is. Unbalanced or low-calorie dietsin the absence of proper exercisecan often cause the body to lose valuable muscle, eventually leading to a diminished metabolic rate and eventual rebound weight gain.

The Big Easy (Solution)

The obvious solution to a declining metabolism is not to go on yet another diet. Instead, consume smaller, nutrient-dense meals (making sure to include plenty of protein) approximately every three to three-and-a-half hours throughout the day. This will help recharge a sluggish metabolism. In addition, perform at least three sessions of resistance training every week, as this is scientifically proven to enhance your metabolism.

Lose the weight and keep it off, and you'll never have to sing those New Year's blues again.

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