By: Wayne Wescott and Rita La Rosa Loud
Source: South Shore Senior News

Quincy – Although most of us look forward to the holiday season, many ofus find ourselves overindulging in theoverabundance of high-calorie foodsand beverages, which typically results in undesirable weight gain. Although we maybegin the New Year by joining a gym andfollowing a low-calorie diet plan, we tend to burn out by the end of January. What’s wrong with this often repeated procedure? Unless you approach weight loss in the appropriate manner, drastic and counter-productive lifestyle changes will fail, and you will most likely accumulateunnecessary pounds, year after year. If youfind yourself in this situation, you are not alone. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and just can’t seem to take and keep the weight off, particularly with dieting alone. In order to make permanent improvements in your body weight (and more importantly your body composition,) consider the following factual information and recommendations for looking, feeling and functioning better.

As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat, especially if we do not exercise or fuel the body properly. Our body composition is made up of two distinct components, fat weight (adipose tissue) and lean weight (especially muscle tissue). For men,15% fat weight and 85% lean weight is considered healthy, whereas for women 25% fat weight and 75% lean weight is regarded as healthy. Our body composition has a much greater influence on our good health than does our body weight. Imagine two senior women who are the same height, 5 feet 4 inches tall. One weighs 140 pounds (Sarah), and the other weighs 120 pounds (Jean). Sarah engages in resistance exercise at her local gym and eats very healthy. Jean, says she’s too busy and can’t fit exercise into her day. She eats on the run most of the time and is a yo-yo dieter, losing and regaining weight as quickly as she takes it off. Although Sarah is 20 pounds heavier than Jean, she looks, feels, and functions much better because she has a more desirable body composition. At 140 pounds Sarah’s body composition is in the healthy range of 25% and she wears a size 6. At 120 pounds Jean’s body composition is in the unhealthy range of 30%, and she wears a size 10. How can this be? Sarah simply has more muscle and less fat than Jean.

This is important for a variety of reasons. First, our muscles are the engines of our bodies, so more muscle means more physical capacity. Second, muscle is denser than fat, takes up less space than fat, and facilitates a slim, toned appearance. Third, muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and requires energy/calories 24 hours a day for tissue maintenance and remodeling. It is therefore easier for Sarah, who has a desirable body composition, to maintain her health status and enjoy an active lifestyle. Although dieting typically leads to a lower body weight, not all of the weight loss comes from fat. Unfortunately, 30 to 50 percent of the weight lost on popular diets is due to muscle loss. Consequently, dieting should always be combined with exercise that preserves and increases our muscle tissue which is essential for attaining and maintaining good health. Our weight loss studies, conducted in conjunction with some of our nation’s leading physicians and nutrition experts, have demonstrated that senior dieters who also perform sensible resistance exercise can concurrently decrease fat (about one pound per week) and increase muscle (about one-third pound per week). Our research program participants made significant improvements in their body weight, percent body fat, fat weight, lean weight, waist size and resting blood pressure, not to mention their physical appearance and functional capacity.

This winter, we are conducting a comprehensive weight loss study that will combine a well-researched exercise program and a well-designed nutrition program. The highly supervised fitness program, which includes resistance training, aerobic activity and stretching exercise, will be conducted at
our Quincy College Health and Fitness Center. The nationally known nutrition program, which includes protein-enriched meal replacements/ supplements, will be provided at no charge to all of the study participants.

The six-month program (from January 5th through July 1st, 2016) will include periodic assessments of body weight, percent fat, fat weight, lean weight, waist and hip girth, blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol. For more information about this research
project, please plan to attend our Study Orientation Meeting on Tuesday, December 29th, 5:30 p.m. at Quincy College’s Presidents Place location, 1250 Hancock Street in Quincy. Anyone age 70
years and under is welcome to participate. Be sure to call Wayne or Rita at (617) 984- 1716 to reserve a seat as the conference
room capacity is limited to 120 attendees.

About The Authors: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is professor of Exercise Science and Director of Fitness Research at Quincy College. He has written 28 books on physical fitness,and given weight loss lectures at numerous national
meetings, including four international conferences on obesity at Harvard Medical School. Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S., is director of the Quincy College Health and Fitness Center. She has co-authored many papers and publications with Dr. Westcott, including the book No More Cellulite.