The 10% Solution For A Healthy Life, Chapter 5: Your Weight

March 6, 2002

Ideal Weight

Let’s talk about how the principles of the 10% solution can be implemented in our daily lives.

I think that would be worthwhile. Why don’t we start with how to lose weight.

That is a fine place to start. Attaining your optimal weight will contribute significantly to reducing your risk of all degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, and hypertension. You’ll have more energy and will feel better in general.

I’ll look better also.

Yes, you will. And perhaps because of that particular reason, losing weight has become a national preoccupation. At any one time, 50 million Americans are on a diet to lose weight. We spend $33 billion a year on diets and diet aids.1 The sad fact is that 95 percent of the dieters will regain all of the weight they have lost or more.2 The cycle of taking off weight and then putting it back on is actually worse for your health than never having lost it.3

Then maybe I shouldn’t bother trying to lose weight in the first place.

The key is to change your attitude toward losing weight. Rather than thinking of a temporary period of deprivation, think instead of a lifelong commitment to a healthy pattern of eating.

You know, a lifetime of this seems like a lot longer than just a few months of dieting.

Yes, but you can skip the few months of dieting. You can make a commitment to a healthy life-style in just one day. While the weight won’t come off in a day, you can start feeling better about yourself and your commitment immediately. And a lot of the immediate benefits of the 10% solution will become evident in only a couple of weeks.

I suppose I could make a commitment in a short period of time.

Unfortunately, it often takes the better part of a lifetime for people to wake up to the impact they can have on their longevity and well-being. You hear of people every day who never do.

Okay, so I make a quick commitment to a slow weight loss.

Yes, that is a good way to put it. The message is patience. Now, the first thing we need to determine is the amount of food you should be eating.

Ill take a large quantity, thank you.

We just may be able to accommodate you. But first we have to determine your ideal weight.

With better tailoring I could probably accommodate a bit more weight than otherwise.

Your clothes may, but you’ll feel better to be at or near your ideal weight. There are two approaches to determining how much you should weigh. First, with a tape measure, measure the circumference of your wrist. Alternatively, use a piece of string and then mark it against a ruler. From table 1, use this measurement to determine your build. Then look up your height for the appropriate sex and build in table 2 to determine your optimal weight

So if I have fat wrists, I can have a fatter body?

As it turns out unless one is very obese, the wrists do not gain in size, and, thus, their circumference is a good indicator of one’s inherent build size. A lot of overweight people assume they have large builds, whereas what they really have are medium or even small builds padded with a lot of extra girth.

And the second method?

A more accurate approach involves body fat. Lean muscle mass is actually heavier than body fat. Thus, two people can be the same height, build, and weight and yet one may be healthier and slimmer than the other. The real objective in weight loss is to lose fat not muscle, water, or temporary glycogen deposits. It is more important, therefore, to determine if you are at an ideal level of body fat than an ideal level of weight. Use the instructions in the section “Body Fat Charts” (see appendix 4) to determine your percentage of body fat.

We need some body fat, don’t we?

Yes, for proper body composition, to cushion our bones, and as one form of energy storage, a certain amount of body fat is needed. It is not healthy to be significantly above or below this ideal of percent body fat, which is 15 percent for men and 24 percent for women.4

So women get to carry more body fat than men do?

Yes, something has to fill in those extra curves. These curves do have a biological purpose beyond their role as secondary sex characteristics, in terms of support for childbearing and nurturing.

The body fat tables tell you your current body fat percentage, but you cannot really tell what your ideal weight should be from these tables.

That’s true. If you are over or under your ideal weight, then use tables l and 2 to get an approximate ideal weight. Then as your weight approaches your ideal weight, use the tables on body fat to confirm the more important issue of body fat.

All right, so I’m about 15 percent overweight. Now what?

Ideally, you should be within 5 percent of your ideal weight. Being 20 percent overweight triples your risk of hypertension and diabetes, doubles your risk of hypercholesterolemia (i.e., having a serum cholesterol level more than 250 mg/dl),and increases your risk of heart disease by 60 percent.5

TABLE 2: DETERMINING ESTIMATED IDEAL WEIGHT RANGE – Weight in Pounds (in indoor clothing)

COURTESY OF METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY. *Women between 18 and 25 should subtract l pound for each year under 25.

Does it matter where on my body the fat resides?

Interestingly, recent evidence shows that it is the accumulation of visceral fat around one’s middle that is particularly harmful. The “potbelly” appears to be the primary culprit in terms of health risk from obesity. For example, in a study published in the October 1991 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa showed that the risk of endometrial cancer was fifteen times higher in women with a high waist-to-hip ratio as compared to women with a low ratio.6 Other studies have found strong links between obesity, particularly as it affects upper body weight (which resides primarily around the abdomen), to type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Yes, I understand. So exactly what do I do?

Maintenance Calorie Level

The next step is to use table 3 to determine your maintenance calorie level, which is the number of calories you can eat to maintain your weight.

How much exercise do you recommend?

My recommendation is approximately 200 calories of exercise per day for a 100-pound person, 300 calories for a 150-pound person, 400 calories for a 200-pound person, and so on. We’ll talk about how to compute the caloric value of exercise in chapter 7, “How to Exercise.”

So table 3 gives the amount I can eat to keep my weight the same?

Exactly, or should I say, approximately. Everyone’s metabolism is a little different, so you will need to experiment a little to adjust this figure appropriately.

So to lose weight, I just eat less than this figure.

As far as calories are concerned, yes. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat, so if you eat 500 calories per day less than your maintenance level, you will lose about a pound per week.

The table below provides an estimated maintenance calorie level based on your current weight and activity level. Use the following guidelines for activity level:

Sedentary: You sit most of the day (walking only occasionally), and do not have a regular exercise routine.

Moderately active: Your normal routine involves frequent walking or physical motion. Alternatively, your normal routine is sedentary but you have a regular exercise program equivalent to walking or running 20 or more miles per week.

Very active: Your normal routine involves continual vigorous physical activity (e.g., construction worker, mail carrier, gardener). Very active is equivalent to a sedentary life-style plus the equivalent of walking or running approximately 50 miles per week. Note that your maintenance calorie level will change as your weight changes. Since metabolic rates vary from individual to individual, this chart will provide only an approximate value, which you will need to adjust based on your own experience.


And if I eat 1,500 calories less than my maintenance level each day, I’ll lose 3 pounds a week.

Not so fast. First, it is important to obtain adequate and balanced nutrition while you are losing weight. Second, the primary goal is to adjust to a new way of eating, that is, to change your tastes and attitudes toward food. You do not want to feel deprived and hungry during this process. That would defeat the entire purpose. While losing weight, you should eat at least 10 calories for each pound of your ideal weight, and in any event no less than 1,000 calories per day for a woman and 1,200 calories per day for a man, preferably more. I lost 40 pounds while eating more than 2,000 calories per day.

Conversely, to gain weight, you simply eat more than your exercise adjusted maintenance level.

Not that I’ve had that problem, but wouldn’t it be hard to gain weight eating very low fat foods?

Actually, no. There are many low-fat foods that have high caloric density. Eggless pasta, for example, is an ideal food, high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat, but you can go through calories pretty quickly. However, if someone is chronically underweight and finds that they are unable to gain weight with very low fat foods, then I would make weight gain a priority, and increase the fat level to some extent.

I have to keep track of every calorie I eat?

Keeping Track

It’s not a bad idea, at least until you have established a pattern. But more important than tracking calories is tracking-

-fat level!

You’re catching on. Counting fat grams is crucial, at least until you have developed an intuitive grasp of the subject. It is the best way, and the only effective way, to educate oneself on the fat content of foods. Many people concerned about their weight have a high level of awareness of calorie level, but few people have a comparable understanding of the fat content of foods.

Keeping track of fat is important for all the reasons we have cited. Furthermore, with regard to weight loss, it is indeed more important than calories. A 1988 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed two groups of women who ate the same number of calories, but different levels of fat. The group that ate 40 percent of their calories from fat gained weight much more readily than the group eating only 20 percent of their calories from fat. A study at Stanford University had a similar result for men.7

Are there other advantages to a low fat diet for losing weight?

Yes, it lowers your set-point which is the weight your body tries to maintain.8 It increases your maintenance calorie level. Substantially more of the weight you lose is body fat. A low fat diet is also a far more satisfying way to lose weight. You eat a much larger quantity of food and are able to avoid hunger and feelings of deprivation. Following a low-calorie diet that is not low in fat is almost impossible for any sustained period of time. Most important, you are practicing new eating patterns that will enable you to sustain both your health and your weight loss long after the pounds have come off.

What about other approaches to weight loss?

Other Approaches

High-protein diets are a real disaster. They cause a potentially dangerous increase in uric acid level, which can leave your body in a very toxic state called ketosis.9 It also results in increased atherosclerosis, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies, and can cause kidney stones and other problems. A lot of the weight loss, particularly those early encouraging pounds, are just reductions in water content and glycogen stores, which are rapidly replaced when the diet stops.

Liquid diets work in the sense that you are reducing your caloric intake, so you do lose weight. But the recidivism rate for this approach is very discouraging. You are not losing weight by learning healthy new habits and changing your tastes, desires, and attitudes. You are, instead, temporarily living in a cocoon, eating in a very artificial way. People count the days until they are released from this gastronomic prison. They do not associate the benefit of the weight loss with proper eating habits, but rather with the artificial eating patterns that they are anxious to leave. Following a liquid diet is an exercise in deprivation, and there is little to encourage healthy habits once released. While most of these programs throw in some education on reducing fat and other guidelines, the only way to really learn healthy eating habits is to do it.

If you lose weight the 10% way, you are taking the really important step–changing your habits–while you lose the weight, and you will associate the positive feelings of losing weight with your new habits. By the time the weight is lost, keeping it up (that is, keeping your weight down) is easy because your habits have already changed. Once you have achieved your ideal weight level, you simply change the quantity of food to your maintenance level, but you do not change the type of food you eat

Exercise is also very important in terms of burning calories and increasing your metabolic level(that is, your rate of burning off calories), even while you are not exercising and lowering your set-point.

Any other tips for losing weight?

Your Goal

Yes, don’t make losing weight your primary goal. If your goal is the development of a healthy life-style, you are more likely to succeed, with regard to both your health and permanent weight loss. Don’t be too anxious to drop pounds. Enjoying the experience is crucial. You want to associate the experience of attaining a healthy weight with the experience of healthy eating. It may take a few months longer, but you’ll never have to lose weight again.

Exercise is also crucial for both health and weight loss. It will accelerate the weight loss and will keep your body composition in optimal form as your body changes shape.

I could certainly benefit from firming up this fat around my middle.

You can’t firm up fat. You have to lose the fat, but exercise will help you to do that. Then you can firm up the muscles that remain.

What about weight plateaus?

Weight Plateaus

They are a major reason that people get discouraged and drop out of weight-loss programs. Keep in mind that your weight is a function of many diverse processes in your body, there are some desirable processes that will actually increase your weight. Gained muscle mass and vascular expansion from exercise may temporarily cause a small gain in weight, but these constitute very desirable phenomena. Muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, so you can lose body fat and inches without necessarily losing weight. Increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates may cause an increase in glycogen stores, which is perfectly healthy. Changes in medication, menstruation, constipation, water retention, and other phenomena may all cause a slowing down or even a temporary reversal of weight loss. Keep in mind that your real goal is the loss of body fat. None of these factors causes an increase in body fat, so do not be discouraged by minor shifts of weight in the wrong direction.

Most important, be patient.