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Ester Marsh column: You have to eat to lose fat

One of the popular questions I hear is, “Why do I not lose the fat here?” as they grab their belly fat. Well, the majority of the time, people are eating too much. Too many calories in and not enough calories out.

If you eat 3,000 calories a day and you burn 2,000 calories, you have 1,000 left. The body tries to store it first in the muscles, some organs and other tissues but whatever is left will be stored as fat, no matter how the calories came in.

For example, someone came to me and told me they were eating healthy. They me showed what they were eating and it was a very well-balanced diet. The problem was, the calories consumed were way over the calories burned, so this person was actually gaining weight. But then again, not eating enough calories while exercising hard, your body will not like to lose the fat. The fat is a wonderful energy source. It does not use any energy while “sitting” there, but can be used as energy.

So when the body does not get enough calories for the work it does, it goes into “survival mode.” It will try to use the least amount of calories possible, burning muscles for energy when necessary. Amazing really, because if your car doesn’t have fuel, it stops running completely. Try to look at your body that way — when you do not put the right foods into it and the right amount of calories, it will not “run” very well.

So how many calories do we need? Typically, around 1,500 calories a day is needed for a female and around 2,000 calories for a male. Of course, it changes with activity levels, age, size of the person, weight and genetic makeup of each person. But the fact that your body needs good calories to function properly is a given.

Your body is your temple and you need to take care of it. Too much unhealthy food and calories are bad, not enough calories for a body in need is also not good for you. And your body will try to survive and hold on to the fat and use your hard-earned muscles for energy instead.

If you are eating few calories and exercising regularly and yet you are still struggling with weight loss, not eating enough calories might be your problem.

For one week, write down everything you eat and drink. Every piece of candy, soft drink, sausage biscuit, etc. Most of us know when we have a “bad” day (eating biscuit for breakfast, burger for lunch and pizza for dinner, for example).

So when you have figured out you are eating too many calories, start cutting your calories but take small steps. Too much too soon makes your body go in “survival” mode. Cut 500 calories each day — in a week that would be 3,500 calories and it takes 3,500 calories to lose one pound.

If you keep that up, that’s 52 pounds in a year. If you need more assistance, I recommend Weight Watchers because they teach you how to eat real foods and to be healthy and learn portion control. And always remember, you didn’t gain weight overnight, so it will take you a while to get rid of it.

Ester H Marsh, ACSM Cpt and Health and Fitness Director Hurley YMCA

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