On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Overnight Weight-loss Just a Dream

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am hoping you will give me your take on a diet supplement I found that is safe, all natural, and uses “thermogenic” action to burn fat around your waist while you sleep. I have my diet under control, but what I need is a strategy to work on the weight in residence. Aside from your comments on the product, do you have any general advice to offer? -- F.S. Freemont, California

DEAR F.S.: The idea that pills can help you drop a few sizes while you slumber sounds great as a sales pitch -- but that’s all it is, so don’t be fooled.

Products that promise weight loss through thermogenesis (calorie burning) tend to contain stimulants. And since excess weight is often (though not always) accompanied by high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues and other chronic health problems, the idea of taking stimulants strong enough to have a significant effect on body weight is a risky proposition. The “all natural” descriptive is also a bit of a laugh. How “natural” is it to be attempting to sleep while on stimulants?

The more practical and lasting way to increase calories burned is through an activity program that increases the relative amount of muscle tissue in the body. We can all understand that a car with an eight-cylinder engine will burn more gas at a stoplight than one with four cylinders. It is the same way with the amount of muscle in the body, as muscle is metabolically active, burning calories 24/7, while fat is not.

Consider the benefit. First, there is the calorie burning to fuel the activity; then, if it is part of a new routine, the body will respond by enlarging the muscle mass to better handle the workload. Building muscles also takes energy.

Let’s face it: There is no universal ticket to weight loss. It helps to understand that obesity is rarely a disease of willful misconduct. Carrying around excess weight comes as a result of a complex combination of genetics, diet, activity and one’s psychological environment.

Motivation to change must come from within. Attempts to change one’s body weight solely at the behest of friends or family are usually doomed to failure. While you may find a way to drop a few pounds, your chances for long-term success are only as good as your personal commitment.

It is essential that you pick a sensible target. It’s established that parental obesity plays a role in determining one’s body type, so take a hard look at your other family members. While a large-framed family doesn’t mean you should abandon hope of losing weight, it can help you set realistic goals.

Your best approach is a long-term strategy, where changes are subtle and lasting, as opposed to radical and short-lived. This gradual shift should not place the sole emphasis on reducing dietary calories, but it also must include an activity component. Activity burns calories, but it also checks the metabolic slowdown that can accompany weight-loss dieting.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, realize that it probably took years of bad habits to gain the excess weight. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there are magic products that can make it all go away overnight. In extreme cases, medical/surgical intervention may be needed.

The main goal should be the adoption of a healthier lifestyle, not merely a loss of weight. With conviction and good planning, results can be achieved, and regardless of where you end up weight-wise, your actions will result in a healthier you.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.