New thoughts on quick weight loss

heavy exercise By Bryant Stamford, Special to The Courier-Journal

As you are aware from reading my column, I am strongly opposed to crash weight-loss schemes.

The primary reason is that, although weight can be lost quickly, the weight that is lost is mostly muscle and water. I have explained the reasons for this in the past, and it can get pretty complicated.

What's important to understand is, the faster the weight comes off, the more muscle and water you lose and the less fat you lose.

News headlines of late disagree with my way of thinking. The successful weight loss of contestants on the TV program "The Biggest Loser" suggests that rapid weight loss can come from the body's fat stores and not necessarily from muscle mass and water.

This suggests that quick weight loss -- the kind we all would prefer -- may not be such a bad thing after all.

A reader of this column gleefully pointed this out to me in an e-mail, as she nailed me on the error of my ways. She also challenged me to admit my mistake publicly.

I accept the challenge, and here is my response.

Possible versus reasonable

When I looked into this issue, I discovered that the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" engage in as much as four to six hours of exercise a day, with a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise.

Gee, no wonder the pounds come off quickly. What's more, since the contestants are not starving themselves as is typical on crash diets, they are able to preserve most of their muscle mass.

OK, I'll admit this extreme exercise approach can work. Weight can be lost quickly, and much of it is body fat.

But, let's be reasonable. In a society where the majority of the population does no exercise at all, and only about 10 percent of us do the minimal amount of intense exercise required to promote aerobic fitness, how likely is it that, without the incentive of being on national TV, any of us would willingly embrace exercising several hours every day?

The answer is simple. None.

The bottom line on this foolishness is that, indeed, there are all sorts of extreme measures that can be taken to lose weight, including an overwhelming exercise program.

But without incredible incentives, no one is likely to adopt such measures. Even if they do, you can be certain such measures will last only about as long as the typical crash diet.

As always, the only successful long-range approach to weight loss and most other things in life is moderation.

Update on soy

The latest research on soy is, unfortunately, not as uplifting or supportive as I would have thought.

I'm sure this admission will thrill some readers who prefer bacon cheeseburgers, ribs and bratwurst for their main course.

Research suggests that soy bestows only marginal benefits when it comes to lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind that clogs the arteries). This means its protective effects against heart disease may have been overstated.

I have to accept the validity of good research efforts and agree with the findings. However, I'm not ready to give up on soy just yet.

In my case, when I decided to become a vegetarian and began including soy in my diet as a staple, my total cholesterol and LDL eventually were cut in half.

I knew that much of this benefit came from deleting the dietary culprits that raise cholesterol. These are things loaded with saturated fat, like red meat and fatty dairy products. But I also embraced soy as a big part of the improvement.

Now, it looks like the soy angle was probably less important. But does that mean it played no part in my rehabilitation? No.

Although soy didn't directly help reduce my heart-disease risk, it helped indirectly because I was eating it instead of all the bad things I had been eating for years that were responsible for my horrible cholesterol profile.

A soy burger, in other words, is very helpful and healthy if it substitutes for a beef burger.

But in fairness, I have to admit, you could say the same thing about a burger made of cardboard and bean sprouts.

Although soy may not be a key player in the fight against heart disease, it may be helpful in other ways. These include helping to prevent prostate and breast cancers, osteoporosis and some aspects of menopause, such as hot flashes. But the jury is still out on this too.

So, the bottom line is soy may not be the "wonder" food we thought it was, but it's still a good addition to the diet -- especially if it substitutes for known villains loaded with saturated fat.

"The Body Shop" runs Thursdays. Bryant Stamford is professor and chairman of the department of exercise science at Hanover College and co-host of "HealthWorks" on WFPL radio. If you have questions or suggestions, go to his Web site at Or address questions to "The Body Shop," The Courier-Journal, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, KY 40201-7431.

source - The Courrier Journal