Healthy Eating and Exercise
Eating a healthy diet and obtaining regular exercise can be a big part of helping you achieve your goals, whether they are physical fitness, weight loss, or hormonal/fertility improvement. Although persons who modify their diet and begin regular exercise programs generally lose weight, even in the absence of any weight loss, a regular exercise program will significantly improve a woman’s hormones and cardiovascular health. There are beneficial changes to your heart as well as your blood sugar and insulin levels, and also to your reproductive hormones. Many women who are not ovulating will begin ovulating.
While it may be true that some people with a weight a problem “don’t eat much at all”, the fact is that they still have excessive food intake compared to what their bodies require. Remember that everyone’s metabolism and calorie usage differs. Unfortunately, many individuals are overweight because they burn and require very few calories compared to an average person.
In the end, it is a very simple formula that no one can deviate from. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.
Achieving an “ideal” body weight is not necessary! Research has shown that significant hormonal improvements occur with as little as 8-10% body weight loss. However, all calories
are not equal! For example complex carbohydrates ( whole grain bread, pasta, etc.) cause less weight gain than a similar number of calories from simple carbohydrates( candy, sugar, soda, etc).
There are a few general points to be made regarding diet and eating habits:
The best option for “dieting”, and the one that needs to be made a regular part of your life at some point, is simply what can be termed ‘sensible eating’. Here are a few basic principles to live by:
If you prefer to start on a more regimented diet:
Let us know if you would like to have a formal consultation with a dietitian who can provide you with a personalized diet plan. Be aware that there may be some fees involved with this as insurance does not always cover dietary services.
Regular exercise can provide two huge benefits:
You should exercise for approximately 3 to 3 ½ hours per week to achieve optimal benefits. Ideally, exercise is performed in the morning. This helps to increase your metabolic rate and calorie burning throughout the day.
Brisk walking is a type of exercise that almost anyone can perform. We generally prefer this to bike riding, swimming or other forms of exercise because it is more sustainable and does not require significant skill or coordination. However, weightlifting is an excellent addition to your aerobic (walking) exercise program, as it can increase your muscle mass, which causes increased calorie burning even at rest.
It is ideal to exercise with a slightly elevated heart rate in the 100 to 110 BPM range for the entire period. Exercise at a higher heart rate is more difficult to sustain and is not ecessary to achieve hormonal benefits, but it would increase your fitness level and help you lose weight at a more rapid rate.
A few caveats about exercise and walking in general:
One very good and new alternative to the above approach is the “10,000 step” plan. This has been found in recent studies to be an excellent way to increase calorie expenditure and improve hormonal profiles. It can also help you achieve weight loss. In this plan, you will need to purchase a pedometer. These can be found at running or sporting goods stores. They can also be found on the Internet at many places including www.new-lifestyles.com or www.digiwalker.com. An individual typically walks 4,000 to 5,000 steps per day. If you can increase your walking to 10,000 steps per day, this will provide substantial hormonal and cardiovascular benefits. Many women find that this is a little more fun and somewhat of a challenge, as you are able to assess your progress throughout the day and weeks.
Don’t be afraid to start exercising! Even if you are in very poor condition, you can begin a modest program that you can be proud of and that can become a regular part of your life with surprisingly little effort!
Finally, pharmacologic agents can be useful in helping to achieve weight loss. Unfortunately, the vast majority of women and men who use these typically regain the lost weight after stopping these supplements or medications. This is because they have not committed to the significant lifestyle changes that are necessary in order to maintain a stable body weight. Nevertheless, over-the-counter aids such as Dexatrim and Metabolife can be helpful in the short term and are generally safe if you do not have difficulties with your heart, blood pressure, etc. We do occasionally use prescription medications. If you would like more information about these alternatives, please ask.
Often, your ability to assist in dietary and exercise regimens such as noted above are instrumental in helping you achieve your desired goals. If you have other suggestions or require further information or assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.
Jeffrey A. Keenan, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.