FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why do people get fat?
When you consume more calories than you burn, your body stores the excess as fat. So the problem can lie in taking in too many calories, or having too little physical activity. Some people are also more genetically predisposed to storing fat, because of their body type.
2. Why do people say that you “burn” calories?
Think of the food you eat as fuel, with its total energy content as measured in calories. If you were to add up all the calories you consumed in a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the ice cream you had for a midnight snack) that's your total energy storage. Your body taps this energy for everything, including the automatic processes that keep you alive: blood flow, digestion, breathing. However, some activities expend more calories than others, and the goal of aerobics is to get your body (and those calories) moving.
3. How many calories do I burn even before I go through an exercise program?
Everyone is different, but in one day, an average man will use approximately 1800 calories, and the average woman will use approximately 500 calories.
4. How do diets work?
At the heart of every diet is the basic principle of cutting down total calorie intake. Some of them will be as basic and practical as eating smaller portions. Others will introduce all sorts of nutritional tricks that will manipulate the body’s chemical processes. For example, a few diets claim that you can change your metabolism, or the way your body digests, stores, and uses calories. Others will try to control food cravings based on the hormones or enzymes released by certain food groups.
But regardless of the form or content of the theory, the bottom line is that your body is forced to dip into its stores of fat because you’re not taking in as many calories as you used to. Remember that the next time somebody asks you to pay thousands for a “miracle” product.
5. There are so many diets that focus on “low carb.” Are carbohydrates really bad for you? Why?
Several diet programs center around one basic principle: stay away from carbohydrates. The reasons vary. Some say that if you stay away from carbohydrates, your body metabolism actually changes so you can lose weight no matter how much you eat. Others suggest that carbohydrates are addictive, because it lowers blood sugar levels, triggers cravings, and makes you feel hungry even when you’re not. Another school explains that proteins (pretty much the only alternative you have, once you take out carbs and fat) really feel heavier on the stomach, and take longer to digest. You end up eating less amounts and taking less meals, and the decreased calorie intake eventually lead to weight loss.
As for whether or not the low carb diet actually works, it depends on who you’re listening to. There’s convincing research for both sides, and the conflicting claims are made by equally respected independent bodies. Some of the claims are getting wilder, and wider. Some claim low carb diets control epileptic seizures, lower risk of breast cancer, control Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and prevents heart disease. Others warn that without enough carbs in your body, you could develop ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition seen in Type 1 Diabetics.
If you are considering a low carb diet, you can choose from a number of programs that differ in the amount of carbohydrates you can consume. Some allow little to no carbs; others allow only certain types of carbs. Ask yourself how far you’re willing to go. If you can’t live without bread, pasta and potatoes—out of habit, preference, or culture—then it won’t work long term.
6. Can a low carb diet really cause a coma?
Whenever you cut down on carbs, you remove the body’s easiest source of energy, forcing it to burn the fat. This metabolic process is called lipolysis, which is the secondary process of ketosis. As long as you have extra body fat, ketosis is safe and natural. What is dangerous and potentially life threatening is ketoacidosis, a condition seen in Type 1 diabetics.
The only “health hazard” from a low-carb diet is that while it removes
sugar and starches, it also removes some of the best sources of dietary fiber: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This can lead to constipation, diarrhea and bloating. So take lots of low-carb, high-fiber produce like berries, broccoli and spinach.
7. How can you tell if a product is healthy?
Diets will tell you what food to avoid, or what amounts you should take them in— but applying that information when you’re going through the grocery aisle can be difficult. Is that salsa safe? How many crackers can you eat before you officially break your sodium level for the day? The secret is in reading the food labels correctly. Here is what to look for:
§ Nutrition Facts. This is usually printed at the side or back of the package, and lists the amount of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins per serving.
§ Serving Size. The package should tell you the total amount of servings, so divide the contents of the bottle into those portions to get an idea of how much you can eat.
§ %DailyValue. This lets you know about the food’s fat and fiber content, among other vitamins and minerals.
8. When should I see a doctor before going on a diet?
You should always consult your doctor before going into any diet. While there is
no condition that makes dieting per se dangerous (in fact, all health professionals will be ecstatic that you want to pursue a better lifestyle), you may need to take certain precautions. For example, those with heart conditions should never crash diet. And if you are taking any antibiotics or maintenance medicine, you need the doctor’s clearance before taking any weight-loss pills (even if they are “herbal”).
Your doctor may also ask you to stay away from particular types of diets. For example, if you have advanced kidney disease, gout, urate kidney stones or food allergies, a low-carb diet may not work very well for you.
9. What’s the different between “good” fat and “bad” fat?
Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest for your body. Nuts (like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and peanuts) and avocados are some of the best sources. Olive and canola are also considered healthy, and can be used as cooking oils.
Polyunsaturated fat is the next healthiest fat. This is found in corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and mayonnaise. Use small amounts of foods that contain saturated fats like butter, lard and meat fat, bacon, and shortening. There are lower-fat versions of foods that contain saturated fats, like sour cream and cream cheese. A healthy diet includes less than 30% of calories from fat, with less than 10% of these from saturated fat.