June 26, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)

Losing Weight

I was on the grapefruit diet. I kind of goofed on that. For breakfast I ate fifteen grapefruits. Now when I go to the bathroom I keep squirting myself in the eye.

Max Alexander

Suppose that you were fat and wanted to get back to what might be considered a reasonable weight, what could you do? You could get a book by some doctor who got tired of earning an honest living. There are a lot of so-called weight loss diets. You can take your pick. All of them will work if you follow them slavishly. You could also join a group like Weight Watchers and they will tell you what to eat; for a hefty price.

There is really just one way to gain weight: eat more and use less energy. By the same token, there is just one way to lose weight: eat less and use more energy. Save your money. Finish reading this column and do what it says.

Your body utilizes food to produce energy. It uses it even if you are sleeping. The more physical things that you do, the more energy you expend, the more fuel you burn. You could change your occupation from accountant to lumberjack or professional athlete and you could loose weight that way or, a simpler approach, you could eat less and work more, which is a more practical solution. There are many ways to use energy: physical work, exercise, sit in a large refrigerator and shiver etc.

The first step to eating less is to analyze your eating habits. Some people eat all of the time and others just pig out at dinner time. Some eat 3 big meals and so on. There are as many variations as there are people. Some foods are richer than others (note that I have, until now, avoided the word calorie) and pound for pound will put on relatively more weight. A piece of chocolate cake will put on more weight than the same weight of lettuce. A tiny raisin has as much food in it as the larger grape that it used to be. What was taken out of the grape was water. If you drink a pint of water, you will immediately gain about a pound. Unless something is wrong with your kidneys or hormones, that water will not permanently add to your weight because you will pee it out. If you are interested, there are tables of caloric content that will tell you what foods contain what amount of the stuff that can be made into fat. Food can also be used to make heat or other kinds of energy, such as the kind that you use to walk, run or exercise.

The feeling of hunger is what makes people want to eat. Ordinarily, when the amount of sugar(glucose) in your blood drops to a certain level, you will get hungry. If you are frightened or spurred to activity, your liver can secrete sugar into your blood stream, eliminating hunger. Many people get hungry by the clock. At certain times (breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time, snack time, television time) some people automatically get hungry. Some people get hungry when they are anxious. Some people get hungry when they pass a chocolate shop. When do YOU get hungry?

The Russian physiologist Pavlov rang a bell every time that he fed a dog. After a while, he didn't have to offer the dog food. He rang the bell and the dog drooled. The expression "conditioned reflex" came into being. There are many many stimuli that can make a person hungry. For example, the odor of a bakery, or the odor of food cooking can make me hungry.

Some people can assuage their hunger with a cracker, while others are satisfied with no less than a full meal, including wine and dessert.

Which brings me back to what I said in the beginning; to lose weight eat less and exercise more. To keep it off, the same principle applies.

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