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Do Magazine Diets Sabotage Weight Loss?

July 26th, 2010

Some plans just don’t add up

I’m always a little confused when I read the details of weight loss plans that I find in popular health and fitness magazines. So I decided to crunch some numbers, and I was more than surprised with what I found.

Why popular weight loss plans concern me

Take this diet I saw in a fitness magazine. It probably sounds a lot like plans you’ve seen in similar publications. The first thing that made me uneasy was a recommended 1,400 calorie a day meal plan. No way, I thought, you don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight.

Now I’m no expert, but I’ve read what many of them have to say. Most women need a few hundred calories above or below 1,400 (it can vary by person) just so their vital organs function, which means brains, hearts, lungs, kidneys and more. If you don’t consume more calories than that basic amount you’ll be risking your health and likely setting yourself up for a failed attempt at weight loss.

What about calories burned through exercise?

Which brings me to my next point. These weight loss plans don’t end at restricting calorie intake, they also recommend regular strength training and cardio workouts. If you take in 1,400 calories a day and burn off 400 during one workout session, that leaves only 1,000 for your body to use during the rest of the day - much less than what is considered essential. And as we’ve been told by experts in these same magazines, one workout session can boost the amount of calories you burn for hours afterwards, meaning even more calories gone.

What about calories burned through digestion?

But here’s another factor. You have to eat to take in those 1,400 calories, and every time you eat you’ll burn calories. About 10 percent of the calories you take in are burned off through digestion. So if you’re only taking in 1,400 you’ll burn about 140.

What about calories burned through NEAT?

The body’s calorie burning doesn’t stop there. You won’t be lying around doing nothing all day, getting in that one hour of exercise before becoming sedentary again. Every move you make throughout the day causes your body to burn calories, even something as seemingly unimportant as fidgeting. When calories are burned this way it’s known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. Some people fidget and gesture so much throughout the day that they burn up to 350 calories.

When you do the math it’s easy to see why calorie restriction sets dieters up for failure.

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