We don’t really want to lose weight. We want to lose fat. Other things, like bones and muscles, we want to save.
Unfortunately, when the pounds leave, blubber isn’t the only thing to go. You lose muscle, too. Let’s take a really close look inside our bodies to see why — and what we can do about it.
You think of yourself as a single being, but you are made up of trillions of microscopic cells, all going about their business of keeping you alive and functioning without any direction from you. Inside the cells are mitochondria. These are like little engines that keep the cell running. The engines need fuel to run, and the mitochondria runs on fuel from the food you’ve eaten. Extra fuel gets stored up as fat so you always have plenty on hand. We have decided that we have too much in reserve — it has made us look lumpy and it is dangerous for our health and we don’t like it. So we decide to cut down on our fuel supply.
The mitochondria are okay with that. When they run out of the fresh fuel, they are able to gas up with the reserves. But to get the reserves into the gas tank, they have to have a specific protein, or amino acid. If that protein isn’t there in your diet, it will pull it from your muscle. Your body will “eat” its own muscle tissue in order to burn the fat. That’s why when you lose weight, you lose muscle, too. When you gain weight back, this process doesn’t work in reverse. Everything you gain is fat.
Losing muscle is serious business. After the age of 35, people lose about 5 lbs. of muscle a year, anyway. Muscle burns more calories than fat — although not 50 resting calories an hour per pound like the popular myth says. More like six instead of the 1 or 2 that fat uses. Which is still three to six times as many!
So if you have less calorie burning muscle, you will have a slower metabolism and will gain more fat. Besides that, you will get weaker. A study showed that 40% of the women in the 55-64 year age range were not strong enough to lift a measly ten pounds. That means they can’t pick up their grandbabies! The numbers increase with age. By the ages of 75 – 84, 65% of women can’t lift more than ten pounds.
It’s a downward spiral. Less strength means fewer activities. Fewer activities means less calories burned. Less calories burned = more weight gain = less strength = fewer activities….. And soon you have a serious weight issue.
It’s far worse than just not looking as gorgeous as you did in your younger years. Your life is compromised. You can’t do all you want to do. Issues of poor health set in. You have joint pain from carrying around too much weight. Your liver is overworked and you are in danger of diabetes, which brings with it a whole range of debilitating conditions.
So how do you stop this downward cycle? Pick up your feet and keep adding those steps! You may also want to add strength training to rebuild some of your lost muscles. You don’t have to join a gym unless you enjoy it. (I do!) You can get an inexpensive set of stretch bands and start a muscle building program at home. Make sure you buy a set with an explanatory dvd. I didn’t and couldn’t figure out how to use mine effectively until I took a Boot Camp fitness class.
Another important thing to do is add protein to your diet so your body doesn’t have to cannibalize its own muscle to burn fat. I use a whey protein powder which has the specific proteins the mitochondria needs with the other stuff removed. That way I don’t have the unnecessary calories and I have the exact ready-to-use amino acids my cells are looking for. Be aware, though, that not all protein powders are the same. Be sure to check them out.
I know, you don’t want to look like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. Don’t worry about that. You won’t. But, it is important to have and keep those muscles! You need them to keep you going in that fulfilling, active life beyond gorgeous.