August 4, 2006

Mysterious fat.

We're still talking about fat. Back here.

Freeman Hunt said:
[I]t ... comes down to math... There is no mystery to getting in shape.

Noumenon said:
I think it's a complete mystery. As some magazine article I read pointed out, it's impossible to do controlled experiments with diet regimens because there's no proven way to lose weight and keep it off to use as a control group. We haven't a clue.

I said:
I agree that it's a mystery, but you can extract one truth: if you're still fat, you need to eat less. It doesn't matter why other people don't get fat when they seem to eat the same thing. Look at your own situation. If you're still fat, cut down. Eat less, and weigh yourself. Do it every day for the rest of your life. There's nothing wrong with you. It's just the natural impulse that allowed your ancestors to survive through famines. You have a healthy urge and a healthy body, but in times of affluence, that will make you fat. You've got to go against your nature and eat less. Until you're not fat any more. Or, as Roseanne Barr once said: "Just be fat and shut up."
UPDATE: Some people are getting very upset at that Roseanne Barr quote -- which is from that great concert she did before she had her sitcom. It's almost as if people don't remember that she's a comedian... and that she's fat. Some folks are reading this post as insulting fat people and calling them lazy. Huh? Where is that? And many, many of the comments here and on other blogs are testament to how amazingly strong the mental defenses are. People simply do not want to face the fact that if they are fat they've been eating too much, which is all I said. It is utterly irrelevant to that point that some people can eat a lot more than others without getting fat or that if you'd exercise more you could get away with eating more. If you are fat, you are eating more than you need to fuel your body as you are using it. That doesn't mean it's easy to just eat less, and it doesn't mean that there aren't some ways of eating less that are better than others. But, good lord, it's absurd to keep denying that you're fat because you're eating too much!


Anna said...

The problem with just "eating less" is that another human survival instinct might kick in: Fear of starvation. If a person eats less thinking that they will lose weight, but also fears that they won't become full or satisfied, and that they will have to go hungry, then they will, at some point, start binge eating. You can't disregard the psychological impact of eating. It's not easy enough just to say "I'm going to eat less", if you also think that eating less means going hungry.

Ann Althouse said...

I didn't say it was easy. I just said it was true and that you'd have to go against your nature. Of course, nature is trying to keep you from starving and there's no way to tell "it" the facts, which is that there's plenty of food around here and there always will be.

Meade said...

" can extract one truth: if you're still fat, you need to eat less."

But that isn't true. Eat more -- more calories, more nutritious calories, more times per day. Now become more active and use your stored body fat for two purposes: as perfect fuel for your muscles and as weight for resistance exercises. Do your resistance excercises 2 or 3 times per week, get enough sleep, and your muscles will grow. Muscle fibers burn stored body fat even while you sleep. The secret isn't in eating less; it's in moving more.

And for those over 40, remember -- no pain; no pain.

DannyNoonan said...

Meade is right. Although some people do need to eat less and most need to eat more healthy, the most important thing is exercise. If you're exercising a lot and get yourself into that kind of mindset, you start to view food as fuel. You pick your meal based on whether it will get you through the next workout.

Mike said...

Ann said: "weigh yourself. Do it every day for the rest of your life."

For me, this is the single most important tool for keeping weight of. Eat less, absolutely. Exercise, absolutely. But I need the spectre of getting on the scale tomorrow morning to keep me on the straight and narrow.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

I think that exercise is the key, too.

If you work out (responsibly and intelligently) then your body will be healthier, period. You may or may not loose a lot of weight, but you will improve the health of your body.

You will learn to value your body. You will come to perceive it more as a thing itself, and not as some playground for your emotions to act out in. You will be more sensitive to what your body needs nutritionally, and less reactive to what your mind craves.

Jennifer said...

It's not *just* eat less. It's eat less, move more.

madawaskan said...


I spent too many years overweight and was surrounded by this advice from articles, friends and DOCTORS.

If you've gained weight suddenly-and you just can't lose it give yourself half a chance and see an endocrinologist.

There are diseases that effect the metabolic rate and they ar becoming more and more common it seems like.

Mike said...

I saw a program on one of the science-based cable channels a few years ago that claimed that if you just cut back on calories your body fights you by conserving fat, since it thinks you are starving. If, however, you also exercise, this cycle is broken. The program backed this up with the physiological mechanisms by which this occurs. I've forgotten the details, but the take home message agrees with my personal experience.

Bruce Hayden said...

That is the problem with just eating less - your body goes into "starvation" mode. Worse, most people dieting go off their diets after awhile. They may get bored, or may have hit their weight target. The problem is that when your body is trained this way, you will pack it back on in short order, as your body prepares for the next famine.

You need exercise to lose weight, but not just aerobic exercise, but also exercise that builds (preferably) muscle. One of the big problems with putting on weight as we age is that our metabolisms slow down - but they do that primarily because we lose muscle mass - approximately 10% per decade, unless we work hard at maintaining that.

John A said...

Meade is right that exercise is good for weight control - but as my doctor said last month "We both know you should exercise, but we also know you can't. I don't quite know what to tell you."

Oh, and another qute for you if you are collecting, from Victor Buono: "I am not overweight, I am underheight. My weight is perfect for a man of seven foot ten inches."

Anthony said...

Exercise, or at least physical activity, is really the key. It takes care of the starvation response, but I think it also tends to regulate your appetite without you having to think about it.

Once I began working out really regularly (I've always tended towards scrawny-with-an-inner-tube rathter than 'fat') I found that my appetite more or less naturally fluctuated with the amount of activity I was getting. If I went on vacation and didn't work out for several days, I just didn't feel like eating as much, and when I started back at the weight room, I wanted to eat everything in sight.

miked0268 said...

I finally got frustrated with being out of shape a few years back, and decided to start working out and fix up my diet.

After just a few weeks working out (and this did include a fair amount of resistance training) I had lost a good amount of weight and felt very noticeably better. I never quite got around to setting up a diet, and don't plan on ever doing so now.

I suspect that most people, if they start a proper workout program (which means, it includes resistance training), would discover that they don't have to bother with dieting at all.

The odd thing is, after a few weeks of lifting weights, it actually becomes kind of enjoyable.

Editor Theorist said...

Everybody has an opinion on diets , exercise etc. - but the interventions to lose weight still don't work when scientifically controlled...

The tough thing is that you can't give-up eating like you can give up smoking or alchol - you have to keep eating, three times a day for the rest of your life, and you have to control it.

That really is tough - dieting is like making an alcoholic take a shot of whisky three times a day, but he has to voluntarily stop drinking after just that one shot - yet you expect him not to lose control, keep drinking and relapse into alcoholism...

Joseph Hovsep said...

I agree with mike that adding moderate exercise to your diet is probably all most people need. One of the reasons Americans are so fat is that we tend to have an incredibly sedentary lifestyle, working behind a desk all day, rarely walking even small distances if driving is an option, increasingly opting for sedentary leisure activities like video games, TV and other media rather than athletics. I don't think there's any reason to attach moral guilt with being fat and/or sedentary, but I also think "its the way I was born and I can't do anything about it" is a cop-out. Be fat if you value the pleasures of food and a sedentary lifestyle over thinness or optimal physical health, but don't pretend you're helpless to do anything about it.

Harkonnendog said...

"If you're still fat, cut down. Eat less, and weigh yourself. Do it every day for the rest of your life."

Terrible advice for weight loss!

Weighing yourself every day is the surest way to get discouraged and start a cycle of starving yourself and then bingeing in a moment of weakness. Choosing simply to eat less is the second surest way. Combine those two and yikes!

You aren't asking overweight people to deny their own nature, specifically the part of their nature that made them fat, you're asking them to deny HUMAN nature. You may as well say:

"Run/walk a marathon every day. You'll be sore and tired, but igonre your nature, and you'll lose the weight."

Mike said...

"Weighing yourself every day is the surest way to get discouraged and start a cycle of starving yourself and then bingeing in a moment of weakness."

Yes, I've heard this argument, and it makes absolutely no sense to me. Set a goal (lose weight), but don't monitor your progress because you might get discouraged. Unfathomable.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think weighing yourself everyday is particularly important once you reach your goal weight. Keeps those extra pounds from creeping up on you.

Joan said...

I weigh myself every day at home. I just got back from a six week sojourn and I think I only weighed myself two or three times over that entire period. According to the scale this morning, I didn't gain (or lose) anything.

I know some people who freak out when they weigh themselves, so they limit it to once a week. I know more people like me, who need to be nudged into reality with that daily check.

I've heard anecdotally from many, many people that their metabolisms just slow to a crawl if they restrict calories too much, even if they are getting moderate exercise. My sisters have both experienced having to eat more, and more regularly, to lose weight.

It's complicated, that's for sure.

Ron said...

I feel the need to exercise, but for my health, not my weight. If I got on a regular routine, I wouldn't give a damn if I lost weight, gained weight, or stayed the same. I tried eating less for years, and didn't lose a pound, so to hell with that!

37383938393839383938383 said...

Ugh. These comments have nothing to do with Ann's feet!!!

JB said...

Talking about weight and fat...what fun. A big part of know thyself. Really, you have to know what makes you work, and what doesn't. I hate exercise for exercise's sake. I loath it, and most of the time it does my little good, one good hamburger is worth about an hour on the treadmill (one of the most time efficient ways to burn calories.)

So exercise is nearly useless, at least to me. Also, the starvation mode thing is cr*p, I'm sorry it just is. Try going without eating for 2 days you will lose weight, you'll probably lose a decent amount of weight. And fact is, you'll probably do just fine. My theory, if God appreciates it when we fast I very much doubt going a day or two without food is going to hurt someone. I can do this, in fact, it is nearly the only way I can lose weight. It's just who I am.

Saying eat less, is easy for people who get to eat as much as they want...
if the key to being thin was only engaging in sex once a month for say 25% of the population, would they have to accept it when the other 75% say have sex once a month as though it's easy? I mean really, just saying "eat less" is not really an answer it's more a copout that lets those who are thin without much effort feel morally superior, while those who are overweight just kind of bear it.

There have been some studies recently that have shown that breastfed babies tend to stay at normal weight throughout life more than formula babies. See here. Why in the world should that be? I have no clue, but it is funny, I'm in the only one of my siblings who struggles on and off with weight problems, and I'm the only one who was formula fed. No blame or anything, it's just interesting. Means I have to work harder at it than some. And that's my lot in life. Oh well.

Moral, know what works for you, I can get exercise through sports like basketball but I can't stand on a treadmill. I can say I won't eat for two days, but I can't go on a 6 month diet. Find what works and go with it, and like I said, the starvation thing is a crock, it might be the case for some people, but it sure as heck works for me.

(Disclaimer - Going without food for 2 days when you are genuinely overweight 220 - 6'1 is not in my mind a bad thing, this should not in anyway be confused with anorexia however.)

Harkonnendog said...

Wighing yourself every day is the problem. Once a week or couple weeks i enough. Doing it every day is inaccurate, first of all, but more important it leads to impatience and frustration. On a reasonable diet losing a couple of pounds a week is a lot, and weighing yourself every day makes that seem like a failure.

Plut there are other, healthier ways to measure progress, such as simply seeing if your clothes fit looser, if belts can be notched a bit better. These are actually more accurate, since the goal of most diets is actually to lose fat, as opposed to muscle.

Once you're happy with your weight I think it is good to weigh yourself every day, just as a habit, so that weight gain can't sneak up on you.


Maxine Weiss said...

The Eskimos......

But, they didn't/don't have the pollution that we have, to deal with.

Pollutants and toxins that are stored in the fat.

If you live in a polluted, toxin-rich environment, it's easier for your body to deal with that if you are thin.

Back in the 1950s etc... it was a cleaner environment, and you could be fat without the side effects, mysterious symptoms cropping up out of nowhere.

Easier to deal with if you're are thin.

Don't the Eskimos live in a pretty clean environment?

Peace, Maxine

Freeman Hunt said...

Just as a general guideline, most women won't go into starvation mode as long as they're eating at least 1200 calories. For most men it's about 1800.

In any case, eating less isn't always the end of the world. For plenty of people, eating less can mean as little as switching to diet soda and cutting out the daily candybar or potato chips. Having a daily 500 calorie deficit (about the equivalent of a 20 oz. Coke and a Snickers bar) isn't too difficult for someone who is significantly overweight, especially if he starts exercising, and it comes out to about a pound of weightloss each week.

Morven said...

The problem with weighing oneself every day is that there are plenty of reasons other than body fat that your weight can change. In many respects (although not all), excess body fat is what we're trying to get rid of, not weight per se.

If you're going to weigh yourself, which you probably should so as to measure progress in an easy form, day-to-day weight doesn't matter - long-term trend does.

I think it's a big psychological trap to fall into to be ecstatic at every few-pound loss and despondent at every few-pound gain.

Instead, write down those figures - put them into Excel and do graphs with them, if you're computer-savvy enough. What you want to see is that the average trend of the graph is downward over time.

I'd also second the poster who said that body measurements - e.g. waist - can be more instructive than weight, especially if exercise is a big part of your regimen. You'll be putting on muscle, and this may mask the loss of fat. But having to buckle your belt a notch or two tighter IS a great way to notice progress.

Me said...

Dannynoonan is right.

I've had diabetes since I was about 11. I had to learn to count carbohydrates very early on (like 16 years ago) to balance my intake of food (fuel) with my intake of insulin (which allows my body to use the fuel). I took nutrition courses in university. I'm also a cyclist. Bottom line is, I'm tuned in to the whole weight management and healthy living thing.

I'm going to share the secret to maintaining a healthy weight. It's easy, but requires some math.

There are four nutrients: fat (9 calories/gram), protein (4 calories/gram), carbohydrates (4 calories/gram), and alcohol (7 calories/gram). The bottom line is, if you take in more nutrients than you burn, you will store the excess as fat. It's how your body works - and your body actually needs a balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates to function properly.

Balancing your fuel intake and how much fuel you burn is the only trick to maintaining a healthy weight (which doesn't necessarily mean skinny!). It's not easy in the beginning, but if you incorporate it into your life, you will reap the benefits.

Jennifer said...

Saying eat less, is easy for people who get to eat as much as they want...just saying "eat less" is not really an answer it's more a copout that lets those who are thin without much effort feel morally superior

There *are* some people who stay skinny with very little effort. But there are a LOT of people who you just *think* come by it easily.

I can't count the number of times fat people say things to me like oh, you can eat that, you don't have to worry about getting fat. Riiiiiight. My weight has nothing to do with the fact that I DON'T and WON'T eat crap. I'm just a ninny who doesn't eat things that I *can* eat.

Noumenon said...

I like the point about it being a natural urge in a natural body but still harmful. That was worth bringing to the front page. Most often I'm looking for a "natural" way of hunting and gathering that will keep me thin like I was designed to be, but it might not exist.

I'm surprised I'm not getting pilloried in the comments. That looks like a pretty stupid argument up on the front page. I liked my Merck manual and mice post better.

I thought I read that weighing yourself every day made you statistically more likely to keep weight off in some study or other. What you think about whether it would motivate or discourage you is not necessarily going to be how your psychology reacts to the actual daily activity of checking. I say do it.

I can't decide whether "eat less for the rest of your life" is a reasonable argument or not. The two counters I am thinking of are "if you're still fat, you need to cut off a piece of yourself every day. Today, and for the rest of your life." It would work, and probably at the same rate as dieting. Or "If you want to get things done, you need to sleep less. Just don't sleep, and drink coffee." But these are pretty much arguments that you can't overcome your nature using free will, so they're not very convincing.

By the way, anyone who's guessing, I'm a 5'6" 135-pound male who eats way too much but hasn't gotten fat yet and can't imagine trying to eat less every day.

Jennifer said...

Noumenon - Freeman Hunt already made this point, but eat less doesn't necessarily mean put less bites in your mouth. It can - and probably usually does - mean eat less calories. Drink water not soda. Eat a carrot not a candy bar. Eat two servings of vegetables and one starch with each meal. Eat more vegetables, less dessert. Etc...

Starfox5253 said...

My Hubby is a researcher in Exercise Physiology... The surest way to shed pounds is cutting calories and exercising. The "starvation mode" is true... it has been studied in anorexics that their metabolisms will slow down as they eat less and less. If you are cutting calories and you are still within a healthy range, it is unlikely your body will go into starvation mode, however.
About weighing yourself every day... It's whatever you need to do to motivate yourself, but you can gain and lose from one day to the next based on water retention or dehydration. (Or bowel movements) so once a week weighing is probably more accurate. Or, track it every day and average it for a week.
This is an interesting subject, and one that we should be talking more about in this country. Obesity is the number one cause for many other health problems in this country. Is it any wonder that insurance rates go up as our country gets bigger? I believe that one day, obesity will be a risk factor that may exclude people from getting coverage. Or that obese people will have to pay a higher rate. I am conflicted about this because on the one hand, it would be nice to be rewarded for maintaining a healthy weight, but on the other hand there are thyroid problems and such that cause obesity in some people and they shouldn't be punished for that.
Obesity is the silent killer in this country because no one dies of "being fat." But they do die of diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and a whole host of other problems that obesity contributes greatly to.

altoids1306 said...

Since I am (too) thin, I'm probably in no position ot answer this, but this being the blogosphere, I will anyways.

I think one important thing is no matter if you eat more or less, to eat consistently. Otherwise the body will just pack on fat to survive what it thinks is unstable food environment.

You don't need to exercise to lose weight - if your body is burning 2000 calories a day, and you eat 1500, you will lose weight. The question is, what kind of weight? If you want to lose fat an retain muscle mass, you need to exercise.

Mike said...

Weigh yourself everyday is so powerful for me because it makes me think twice about what I'm eating. Everyday. Long-term is built from a string of everydays. Sure, your weight flucuates, so you do what Morven said. Put the data in a spreadsheet, plot a moving average. A 4-day moving average seems to work well. And as things drift up and down a few pounds, don't get excited or discouraged. Just know what direction things are going and that you need to tighten up (or not). Every one needs to do what works for them, of course. But, I fear, for a lot of people, not weighing themselves is more avoidance and denial rather than a working strategy.

JB said...

Some thoughts

There *are* some people who stay skinny with very little effort. But there are a LOT of people who you just *think* come by it easily.

I can't count the number of times fat people say things to me like oh, you can eat that, you don't have to worry about getting fat. Riiiiiight. My weight has nothing to do with the fact that I DON'T and WON'T eat crap. I'm just a ninny who doesn't eat things that I *can* eat.

No doubt, more or less, I was referring to Ann's remark in her leading post:

I said:
I agree that it's a mystery, but you can extract one truth: if you're still fat, you need to eat less. It doesn't matter why other people don't get fat when they seem to eat the same thing. Look at your own situation. If you're still fat, cut down. Eat less, and weigh yourself.

That being said if the thought of steamed broccoli brussel sproats, and carrots to you is bliss and think fries are "cr*p", you're going to have a much easier time keeping the weight off compared to someone who enjoys French Fries occasionally.

The starvation mode point too...

My Hubby is a researcher in Exercise Physiology... The surest way to shed pounds is cutting calories and exercising. The "starvation mode" is true... it has been studied in anorexics that their metabolisms will slow down as they eat less and less. If you are cutting calories and you are still within a healthy range, it is unlikely your body will go into starvation mode, however.

What I still don't understand though is how this affects the overweight individual who "fasts" for 2 days. That a study of anorexics shows that they go into starvation mode seems like it might not be a relevant sample. Also, I don't see how, my body can selectively choose to burn less calories just because I'm eating less. If it can then the whole eat less thing is a real pain because it's like a game I can't win, the differential (intake vs. output) is always there. Now, if "fasting" for two days makes me sleep all the time, etc. sure there's some marginal calories to be cut out, but it's not all that great. Anyways, if you go about your normal day, I can not see how "starvation mode" means much to the average overweight individual.

One thing for myself, it's fairly easy to maintain my weight, it's really hard to lose. Which suggests to me, that my body has some control over the amount of...hmm 'efficiency' as it processes food. If this is the case, then truly "starving" is one of the best ways to lose weight. You can't extract any greater efficiency from nothing, you're body has to move through Carbs to Fats...and break them down.

"Obesity" as a killer is also pretty much a crock. Obesity (in the latest study) was no worse than being underweight in regard to overall mortality, and being slightly overweight was best overall. Now, I want to be thinner for the aesthetic benefit of it all, but we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that a country of BMIs of 26-31 is the end of the healthy world. It might be a less attractive place, but hey.

I do readily concede that excessive obesity is genuinely unhealty.

miked0268 said...

Call me a lifting-weights zealot, but I really don't think it is worthwhile for 90% of people to calculate their BMI or even weigh themselves at all. A properly designed excersize program will add significant muscle mass - especially to men - and a simple calculation of BMI can indicate that people in really superb shape are "overweight". I think it is ridiculous.

When I was 19 I was in pretty good shape: 6 feet, 180 lbs., 32 inch waist, with no thought given to staying in shape at all. My BMI was right on the button. Now, after lifting weights for two years, I'm (obviously) the same 6 feet, but at 225 lbs. with the same 32 inch waist. There's no way I'm in worse shape now - in fact I feel better than I did at 19 (I'm 38). But my BMI calculation says I'm "overweight". BS!!!

Oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure I actually eat more now than I used to - although I'm not certain, having never counted calories.

Planning and following a diet is a big effort - much more demanding, IMHO, than planning and following a workout routine. No carefully planned cooking and shopping - just do the workout. Tolerate being tired for a few minutes instead of hungry all day.

Morven said...

Part of me suspects that obesity itself is not the largest real danger; the danger is that of which the obesity is a symptom, which is lack of exercise and poor physical condition.

Obesity is part of the PROBLEM in that (a) as you get heavier, exercise becomes harder to do; (b) fat, as an insulator, makes you overheat easily, making exercise more uncomfortable, and (c) the attitude that exercise is something only thin, good-looking people should do.

That (c) is a very damaging thing, and a major problem. Part of it is purely a part of the fat person's psychology, and not from external sources - in other words, it's their belief, not supported by externalities.

However, a portion IS externally caused. People are uncomfortable about fat people exercising. They are more likely to say nasty things about an exercising fat person than one covered up and doing nothing. Fat people are criticised for looking bad and showing people "things they don't want to see" when they simply dress comfortably for exercise.

Now that's a fucked up motivation.

Personally, when I see a fat person working their heart out at the gym, I'm impressed.

LindaSoG said...

Jeepers Ann, it sounds like you think all overweight people are lazy ane have no self control.

There are medical conditions that can contribute, in fact, some medications make you gain weight regardless of what you do or how you eat.

I am a little insulted, and very disappointed in you.

Beth said...

I'm terribly disappointed in Ann's pronunciations about body weight. It makes her sound like a rude high school cheerleader who makes fun of the nerdy girl who is 20 pounds overweight and is just not a cool person - in the minds of the skinny cheerleaders.

I am fat. I didn't want to be fat, but circumstances happen. I'm 53 years old. 12 years ago, I was overweight, according to the BMI, but I was in great shape, I had the time to go to a martial arts class for 2 hours, 4 nights a week. I was a size 8 for the first time in my entire life. But then, my knees got injured, and I had to stop martial arts. I managed to keep the weight down until I got my current job. I have a great job, I do techie stuff that the majority of you would not understand. But, it requires that I travel 4 to 5 days a week. When I am at a client's site, I often put in 12 hours a day working - mostly on systems, but doing some training.

I have a great income, but I work very hard. I frankly do not have the time to work out, or the energy!

Sure, I would like to lose some weight, but I am not willing to sacrifice the rare free hour to working out amoung a bunch of people like most of you who will just mock me while I'm doing it.

By the way, I have not missed a day of work due to illness for over 13 years, unlike the many skinny people I work with who seem to pick up every virus that comes within a thousand miles of them.

It's just so easy for Ann and commenters to gleefully state how easy it is to lose weight - insinuating that those of us who are fat are immoral and lazy.

Agent Bedhead said...

Yeah, people like to explain weight issues so easily - I think that naturally thin people enjoy giving themselves backhanded compliments for having so much "self-control" or whatever concerning food.

I am "thin" by most people's so-called standards, yet my weight fluctuates constantly - ten pounds up or down, no matter what I eat or how I exercise. This is maddening, because I'd like to make sense of it all, but I cannot seem to correlate it to any food or exercise patterns. It just happens.....

I heard a cool comeback line once about how if someone is fat, they always have the potential to lose weight - but an ugly person has no possibility of reprieve. Poor them.

Ann Althouse said...

Beth: It's just not true that I'm saying it's easy. Try to reread what I said without feeling too defensive. I think the whole issue of exercise is bogus. You need to eat less, a lot less, until you lose the weight. And it's not easy. In fact, it's most likely you'll fail. But the fact is, there's a lot of talk, and a lot of defensiveness and detail and emphasis on exercise, but the truth is that it's really about eating less, a lot less, until you lose the weight. I realize it's hard, but that doesn't make it not the truth.

Beth said...

The question is, Ann, why do you care whether anyone else is overweight anyway?
If you don't care, why spend time telling other people how to lose weight (as if they didn't know, anyway)?

Have you considered the sometimes "eat less" doesn't do a thing? You know, some people eat tons of food--fatty junk food, even--and don't gain a pound, even without exercise. It is NOT as simple as you make it out to be.

Weigh yourself every day? I couldn't disagree more. I haven't voluntarily stepped on a scale in at least 20 years, and I weigh 20 pounds less than I did then. I think obsessing about weight is not only counterproductive, it adds unnecessary worry, which is also bad for your health.

And to be perfectly honest, Ann, seeing people write about others being fat and tell them to eat less/quit being lazy/whatever really chaps my ass. You must not see how incredibly arrogant it looks.

Beth (a different Beth from the one above)

Beth said...


"the sometimes "eat less" doesn't do"
"that sometimes..."

Caltechgirl said...

Are you actually promoting starvaion and obsessive weight checking? Because frankly, that's what it looks like. And those are two of the major symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa.

Funny how it's really not that simple.

Oh and BTW, I don't hear the fat people flapping their traps, just you.

Wild Thing said...

Ann I have never heard of you before, but t hat is OK you have never heard of me either.

I just want to tell you how wrong you are giving this kind of advice. Ask any bodybuilder what they eat, how they diet and they will tell you Ann that it is small meals every three to four hours and exercise.

You recommend eating less, a lot less. You are promoting starving and that is never good. If a person were to follow what you said, they would gain every pound back after they lost weight once they went back to any kind of NORMAL eating.

Eating small frequent meals tells your body it is getting fuel and then it lets go of fat much easier and in a healthy way.

And IF a person is able to exercise they SHOULD. Not only to get weight off but for their heart and to be healthy. Our bodies were designed for exercise they were NOT designed to sit around at a keyboard 24/7.

When a person ages the muscles in the legs and the heart are two very important muscle areas. The legs get weaker with age and to exercise keeps them strong. Have you not seen old people shuffle when they walk? Many times it is because they did NOT exercise in life and are paying the price in their old age.

It is NOT eating less at all, it is eating the right foods and yes exercise.

You state this...."but in times of affluence, that will make you fat."......wrong again. There are many more people that are fat that are in the medium tax and lesser tax bracket then the affluent.

Why? Because they are holding down sometimes 2 jobs and do not have time to exercise, and their diet is a high fat diet for energy which keeps them fat.

Then there are people on medication. Medication can really mess with ones body. Pain pills, anti- bionics etc. can mess with metabolism, surgery as well. Surgery is a HUGE thing that mess with ones metabolism for a long time. Read about it!

The only other thing I want to say is that I could care less if a friend is fat, thin or exercises. I care much more what kind of person that they are on the inside. Other then health reasons our society is way too obsessed with appearance and it makes me sick!

Please stop telling people to eat less. I am shocked to read that from anyone that has even a small level of intelligence.

Have you never met a person that eats one meal a day and maybe one snack and is fat? That person's diet is high fat and has nothing to do with the amount of food that individual eats. God help us if that person were to eat even less and then starve to death. Tell them to eat right not less good grief.

Ann Althouse said...

Shocked to read that fat people need to eat less?

Jeez, this comment thread is a monument to denial.

Jennifer said...

Yes, it sure is. And too serious defensiveness.

Look, some of the disconnect here may be due to the fact that it *is* easier to keep yourself from getting fat than it is to get yourself back to skinny. But, wake up! You're delusional if you think that when you're not looking, the skinny people around you are cramming doughnuts in their mouth and spending all their free time planted butt first. They just have magical skinny genes. Whatever.

Cassandra said...

Yeah. I monument to denial.

I weigh exactly the same as I did in high school and I'm 47. So, does my husband, an active duty Marine.

But we have also watched people in the Marine Corps who PT every single day and can max the PFT and still have problems keeping their body fat under control. Because believe it or not there's this odd little thing called inherited body type and body chemistry and we still don't completely understand it.

And if you stop eating your metabolism just adjusts itself accordingly, so that really doesn't work very well.

It always sounds so easy if you happen to be one of those people who doesn't have one of "those" bodies. And yes, maybe some folks could be doing more.

And maybe some folks could be talking less. It's not that simple. At least, not for everyone.

Ann Althouse said...

I agree some people should be talking less! Try not asserting that I've said things I haven't said. Take note of the first thing I said, which is that there is a big complex mystery. I've restated numerous times that people are different, etc. My point, which I stand by, is that whatever your situation is, if you are fat, you need to eat less. You are eating too much. Whether you have a genetic predisposition to fat or a medical condition, if you are fat - unless you accept remaining fat - you've got to eat less. The resistance to this crushingly obvious point is denial. Denying that it's denial doesn't make it not denial! It compounds the denial.

Vinnie said...

I think Ms. Althouse should stop looking for the cure for obesity and start concentrating on seeking the cure for ugly.

I'd recommend starting by looking in the mirror every day, Ann.

Marghlar said...


One point I think you may be overlooking is that fat only gets burned when you elevate your heart rate a bit, usually through exercise. When you cut calories far enough to start losing weight without exercising, you in fact burn muscle rather than fat. You end up losing weight, but not achieving a more attractive shape, and in fact become less healthy than you were when you started. Furthermore, because your total amount of muscle mass is a key part of your ability to burn fat and keep it off, you actually make it harder to reduce fat as you keep dieting.

In my experience, exercise has always worked far better than dieting for controlling weight. I think the two together work the best. But dieting without exercise can lead to the phenomenon known as a thin, fat person. This is a very unhealthy stage -- a person with no cardiovascular fitness, a very high body fat ratio, and little muscle. They don't look attractive, despite being thin (this happened to a good friend of mine a while ago).

Also, exercise tends to make you feel better overall, with more energy and stamina. You sleep better, all kinds of good stuff. Dieting alone saps you of energy, and is anxiety producing.

So, while I agree that better eating habits are an important part of maintaining an attractive shape, I think they are the less important part. The key is a more active lifestyle.

Beth said...

Marghlar is right. You cannot lose weight and keep it off by only eating less. In fact, I'll go so far as to say you don't have to diet at all to lose weight if you are exercising 3 to 4 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour each time.

I know because I did it back when I was 40 - lost 65 pounds in about 4 months - and the only difference was taking a martial arts class.

However, as we age, our bodies can get creaky and painful, and it is harder or impossible to exercise.

And anything any of us say here could never apply to someone with an endocrine problem.

Beth said...

OK, now this is just ridiculous.

You're delusional if you think that when you're not looking, the skinny people around you are cramming doughnuts in their mouth and spending all their free time planted butt first. They just have magical skinny genes. Whatever.

Guess what. I'm 39 years old (well past the age of "slowed metabolism") and weigh between 100-105 pounds. I know this because of doctor appointments, not weighing myself.

I am planted "butt first" in all my free time, right here at the computer. I don't exercise. I hate it.

I also eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Chocolate is a staple of my diet. I do drink Diet Coke, but only because I prefer the taste of it to regular coke.

Tell ME again about "delusional."

There's no "denial" or "defensiveness" on this end, nor is it on any of the others. I find this arrogant holier-than-thou preaching from people who aren't overweight--but whom I could easily call "fat" compared to oh-so-skinny-me-who-knows-all-about weight (lol)--offensive and appalling.

TRY to imagine the following scenario:
SuzyQ, age 23:
"Those people" who are showing signs of age (wrinkles, whatever) really ought to get with the program, fix their awful wrinkles and gray hair. Those lazy 30- and 40-somethings! And GAWD, those even older ones! And when they don't fix their ugly aging, it's just laziness. ANYONE can stop that from happening! I know because I've known "old" people who did it!

Oh, but you say, it's genetics.

Exactly. Think about it.

Or what about rich people who blather on about how poor people just need to do this-or-that, and their financial troubles will be gone? It might be true in SOME cases, but definitely, absolutely not all.

Get down off your high horses, ladies. You may fancy yourselves as shining examples of feminine beauty and wisdom, but you really just look arrogant and clueless. It's definitely not "pretty."

(the other Beth)

Kat said...

Jumping on...

1) As a size 14 person, I'm tired of having size 6 people talk about fat.

2) If another size 6 woman asks me if something makes her look fat it p*sses me off. Why? Because they aren't asking their size 14 friend if they look fat because they are worried about their own health. It's very freudian. Size 6 women who ask their friends if something makes them look fat or talks about other people's fatness do so because they have their own self esteem issues that they relate to or associate with their own looks and they need re-assurance. Apparently their careers, family, education and sparkling personality is not enough.

I mean, think about it. How jacked up is it that a bunch of skinny people are making pronouncements and giving "advice" on weight loss to "fat people".

3) Are you really worried about the health of America and the rising healthcare costs from "obesity"? We are talking about a nation where the average life span of this generation and the next is more than a decade longer than people from the early 20th century.

Obesity is just the current reason du jour. If we jumped in the way back time machine, maybe some of these folks would like to explain to their pioneer ancestress that pushing a plow all day, stooping to milk the cows, washing clothes over a tub all day and then using the lye soap to scrub your body with along with eight or more child birts was going to lead them to a calcium deficiency, crippling osteoarthritis and death looking like a dried up old hag by the time they were 54 (but, hey, they ate natural foods and got lots of exercise keeping them nice and skinny).

The point is, "fatness" is in the eye of the beholder. It's also a sign of affluency. I wonder if anyone here is an art major and knows why Greek and Roman women statues didn't have boyish hips, ribs sticking out and AAA boobs? Why did the renassaince painter Ruben spawn a word describing the figure of a woman (rubenesque)?

Because as nations grow wealthier, the people grow rounder and our ancestors actually thought that was good. They would have themselves painted with round rosy cheeks, double chins and a little girth for the sole purpose of showing how "affluent" they were. This current phase of ultra healthiness and being "skinny" is just that, a phase, no matter how much psycho-babble and psuedo concern for the "health of the nation" or "fat people" most of you folks spew.

4) If anyone wants to lose weight, don't listen to any moron writing on here. Go see your doctor get advice and recommendations from him or her. They can even recommend physicians or dietitians that specialize and can assist you based on your medical needs, health issues and weight. There are far too many health issues that can be effecting your weight from diseases to maintenance medicines to even depression. None of which you want to jack with trying to meet the standards of the bozos on this blog.

John of Argghhh! said...

Get some Kat!


We probably don't want to open the can of worms about the more than $1K of tax-free VA disability I get because of my nuke-service related hypothyroidism.

After all, it's so simple. I just need to eat less and exercise more.

They said so here, so it *must* be true. Leave aside the fact that when I did *just that*, in an effort to maintain my physical fitness from a military perspective, it literally ruined my health, causing me to retire from an otherwise promising career.

Now I realize it was just willpower.

Thanks, all. That's *so* good to know.

Beth said...

Well, John and Kat, you could just start chain-smoking. That might help. ;-)

/running away

Jennifer said...

Other Beth, I clearly said above that there *are* some people who are skinny through no effort. Do you honestly believe that is the norm? If not, what's your point?

What is it that I could say that would make you people happy? All fat people are fat due to tragic circumstances far beyond their control. Does that work for you? Because, apparently, eat less, move more is not only shocking, its offensive and couldn't possibly work.

Freeman Hunt said...

Not only a monument to denial, defensiveness could be thrown in there too.

No one is telling anyone to lose weight if he doesn't want to. Information is for those who want to lose weight.

Acting like losing weight is impossible rather than difficult for a person without a special medical condition is silly. Go to John Stone Fitness and hit the message board. There are many many people there who have lost large amounts of weight (some upwards of 100 lbs.) and kept it off.

If you think that a person has to starve to lose weight, then you don't know enough about food. Read about high and low GI carbs, higher protein intake, higher fiber intake, higher water intake, etc.

A family member of mine is in the middle of losing over 100 lbs. About forty pounds in, he runs a caloric deficit of 2500 calories per day, is never hungry, and hasn't lost any lean body mass (yet). He can do this because he's done his homework.

If losing weight is something one wants to do and is willing to take the time to learn about, it is not at all out of reach. Why someone would believe that message to be negative, I have no idea.

John of Argghhh! said...

Freeman, Jennifer - of course, you're right.

We'll just slink back off into purdah.

I just tire of the pious sanctimony involved in many of these types of posts and, more often, the commenters.

Yes, yes, painting with a broad brush.

Goes with the broad shadow.

I'll retire back to lurking having been spanked by my betters.

Marghlar said...

Marghlar is right. You cannot lose weight and keep it off by only eating less.

Actually, that's not quite what I said. I said it is very hard to lose fat by dieting, not to lose weight. It is easy to cut down your muscle mass by starving your body of calories. It makes you thinner, but not more shapely or healthy.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say you don't have to diet at all to lose weight if you are exercising 3 to 4 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour each time.

I agree, although it would take a long time for most people to lose much weight with this little exercise.

However, as we age, our bodies can get creaky and painful, and it is harder or impossible to exercise.

Switching to low-impact exercise can work wonders, though. My dad ran for most of his life, but now has a myriad of knee and back problems. However, he still stays in good shape (he needs to, for his heart and other medical problems) through low impact activities like cycling (mobile and stationary) and light use of elliptical machines.

Freeman Hunt said...

One note: I am not at all advocating that most people should use a 2500 calorie per day deficit for weightloss. The family member described is a large man with a large frame and a great deal of muscle mass who burns about 5200 calories daily. A 500 calorie deficit per day is a more reasonable starting point for most people.

David Dunn said...

I'm sorry, but there seems to be a fair bit of whining going on here.

There is no mystery to obesity. Not in the slightest. Where this consternation stems, I'm afraid, is the fact that a whole lot of fat people just don't want to admit that it's their own fault that they're fat. It's not the fault of their "body", their "metabolism", or "society". It's the fault of their hands shoveling too much food into their wide open mouths, and their backsides being far too comfortable on the couch. And that's it.

I can say all of this, because I'm fat, too. I have been, to varying degrees, for over five years now. But I'm doing something about it - I've lost about 38 pounds since June 1st, with none of it being lean body mass so far. I have much more to go, but I will get there if I just keep doing what I'm doing.

Yes, I had done various "diets" before. Atkins, low fat, extreme low calories, etc. All of them produced weight loss followed by gaining the fat back and then some after I returned to my normal habits. This was because I just didn't know what I was doing at the time.

Now, I do. It only took a little bit of research, and following the track that others have taken(many, many others) online to successfully eliminate their extra weight and KEEP IT OFF.

Weight loss is simply a math problem.

A pound of fat is 3500 calories. If you eat more than you burn, you will gain weight. Eat the same, you'll stay the same weight. Eat less, you'll lose less.

All you must do is find your RMR(Resting Metabolic Rate) calculator online and calculate your resting metabolic rate. This is how much you burn just to stay alive - If you do NOTHING all day. Then multiply by an activity factor that they'll list with it to reflect how active you are each day. The number you get will be the calories you burn in a day.

There is a misconception out there that there are differences in a person's "metabolism". "My metabolism is just slow!!! That's why I'm fat." I'm sorry, but that's almost certainly not true. Glandular or hormonal problems that actually affect metabolism are extremely rare in people - near lighting-striking-you rare.

Using the Harris-Benedict equation, or the REVISED Harris-Benedict equation, for instance, will get almost everybody within about ten percent of their actual RMR. Countless studies have shown that people's metabolic rates at rest simply don't differ that much at all for people with the same lean body mass. Most likely less than five or even three percent actually. The ten percent number accounts for different methodologies to come up with the RMR, as well as for mistakes in your own measuring, the activity factor you decided to use, etc.

But RMR is based almost entirely on LEAN BODY MASS. Nothing else. Even the idea that your "metabolism slows as you age" is simply a myth, though one partially based on age-related muscle loss. It "slows" not because you're aging really, but because we lose lean body mass as we get older from inactivity and some age-related hormonal reasons which make it harder to build muscle. But a 65 year old man with the same amount of lean body mass as a 20 year old has been proven in studies to have the SAME RMR.


1. You almost certainly don't have a "slow metabolism". Your metabolism is pegged to your lean body mass, just like everybody else. If you're shorter, it means you're going to have less than a tall person, obviously. Muscular, you're going to have more than an average person, etc.

2. You can calculate the calories you're burning very easily, and within about 10% of the actual total with online calculators.

3. Decrease the number of calories below the number you're burning each day, and you WILL LOSE WEIGHT. It's that simple.

It's easy to track calories these days. Nutritional information is everywhere, and with online food databases you can guess what you're eating even at a restaurant pretty accurately.

So get your numbers and dial back your calories. Shoot for 1000 calories below what you're burning each day through diet and excersise. That'll be 2 pounds per week. Daily weights will be up and down due to water weight, sodium, etc. But do this for a few weeks and you should get a good idea what you are losing. You can then fine-tune your numbers based on this data - "I lost X pounds, which means I had about a X calorie defict per day, which means my real RMR is X".

That way you can find out what numbers you should really be using for your activity factor off of your RMR, and get a very accurate gage of how much you burn at that level - elminating the 10% or so error.

I am losing about 4.5 pounds per week when I am on plan(I have cheat days every now and then to treat myself). I can predict what I will lose each week, based on these numbers, to the quarter pound.

Again - it's all math. And that's it. Anybody can do it very easily.

Now - the more advanced level comes in making sure you lose the right KIND of weight. Most dieters yo-yo because they lose a great deal of muscle mass, or lean body mass, with the fat when they lose a chunk of weight - often 1 pound of muscle for every 3 or 4 pounds of fat they lose.

This is because they aren't lifting weights(and I mean really lifting, not half-assing it at Curves or something - but actual weightlifting), they aren't getting nearly enough protein, they are eating far too few calories, or all of the above. Do those three things, and you will lose very little muscle, or even none at all.

You want to retain as much muscle mass as possible, because remember, your metabolic rate is tied to the amount of lean body mass you have. Most people gain back more weight than before after a diet, because they start eating like they did before the weight loss, but now their metabolisms are slower now becuase they lost a lot of lean body mass on their ill-advised diets.

Feeling hungry? You shouldn't. Just eat six meals per day, spaced out, work out, drink plenty of water, and shy away from high GI carbs. And oh yeah - eat a good amount of fiber.

I'm on about a 2500 calorie per day defiict, and I'm never hungry. I also eat about 2500 calories each day, including things like a double cheeseburger and small chili from Wendy's - every day. It's within my calorie limit and I like it. I eat healthier the rest of the time.

I burn so many calories because I have lots of muscle mass, and I do 45 minutes of cardio five times per week, and an hour of hard weight-lifting three times per week.

Again, this is all regulated by the laws of physics - calories are just energy, and the things you do take energy. And no, you don't take "less energy" to do something than somebody else - if you're going to move a twenty pound object a certain distance, that requires a certain amount of energy expenditure to achieve. The same amount every time.

I apologize for this rather rambling, long, stream-of-consciousness-style post, but I just feel that there is so much misinformation out there about a subject that is so easy at it's core. About something that is literally just about matter, energy and physics - just a matter of math.

If you want to get into the more advanced stuff - like good things to eat to avoid hunger, how to lift weights, what the best protein powders are for the money, etc. It's all out there on internet forums. The aforementioned "" is one of the best places for this - and hundreds of people have lost significant amounts of weight doing these very simple things and kept it off. You can find pictures and discussions about these people on that site.

Weight loss is not mysterious. It's not about "finding something that works for you" - there's no question about what works - burn more calories than you eat.

And you can do this with just a little planning and some math.

The short route:

1. Find out your RMR and your activity factor. Realize that weight loss is not mysterious - that your body isn't "different", and that it's all based on numbers which you can easily get and easily track. Meaning you can know almost exactly what you'll lose and when. There's a power to that.

2. Eat for a calorie deficit that you're comfortable with. To avoid hunger or eating too little, women shouldn't go below 1200 calories per day and men shouldn't go below 1800. Stay above these, and you don't have to worry too much about "starvation mode" or any of that stuff.

3. Exercise to burn off additional calories. Eating is most important, because if you eat too much, no matter how much you excercise it won't matter. But if you're eating well and at the right calorie level, then exercise can rapidly accelerate your progress.

4. LIFT WEIGHTS. And really tax yourself doing it. None of this aerobic weightlifting nonsense. Don't worry about "bulking up" - you won't as long as you're on a caloric deficit. Your body needs extra calories to build muscle. You just won't have them if you're losing weight. Lifting weights will just help you maintain your lean body mass.

5. Eat six times per day, drink plenty of water, get plenty of protein(two of my "meals" per day, at night, are just protein shakes), and learn about high and low GI carbs to help control your hunger. And get plenty of fiber. You don't have to feel hungry at all doing this - I'm losing 4.5 pounds per week and I'm not hungry at all.

6. Go to the forums where other people are losing weight this way - meaning not on some fad diet that won't work in the end - but just using the math. Lots of good tips and advice there.

7. Weigh yourself every day, and realize that what you weigh is of YOUR OWN MAKING, and if you weigh too much, you're simply eating too much and excercising too little, and that's all there is to it.

It's pretty easy in the end. It's quantifiable and real, not "mysterious" or "mystical". Again, I'm able to predict what I'll lose over a week or two just based on simple math.

Use the math for the rest of your life(recalculating your RMR from time to time), and eat and excercise accordingly, and you shouldn't have to worry about fat anymore after you've arrived at your goal.

Losing weight is a challenge, but not because of any "mysterious" biologic mechanics. It's a challenge because it requires one to change their lifestyle - to eat healthier and more intelligently, and to get off their ass. And such a sea change can be tough.

But like it or not, that's simply all there is to it.

Now, I gotta get going. My Wendy's Double Cheeseburger and small chili is waiting!

David Dunn said...

Another thing related to the whole "starving yourself by eating less" stuff that I'm seeing here.

Many of you are using examples of people "ruining" themselves by eating less, and thus declaring that it must not work.

Well "eating less" is not all the same thing, you know. There are many different ways it is done, some of them good and some bad.

Again, if you're a man, don't eat below 1800 calories. A woman - 1200. That's a general guidline(obviously, if you're a 6'1" 250 lb. woman your calculation changes a bit).

Just about everybody who "starved" themselves by not eating enough ate WAY too little. I've done it before. I was on a diet once where I was eating less than 1200 calories per day, and working out for three hours per day as well - As a 6'1" 200 pound plus man! I lost 60 pounds, but of course gained it all back later, because I started eating badly again and I had lost between 15 - 20 pounds of Lean Body Mass during that weight loss.

I didn't go into "starvation mode" even at that level - I was losing about a pound a day doing that. Your body can't really "compensate" if you're eating very little and taxing it very much - again, it's a matter of energy and physics. It's just not possible. But I gained after the weight loss quickly for those reasons.

Currently, a friend of mine has lost 40 pounds - but he did it by eating only 1200 calories a day, running, and doing no weight lifting. He looks better, but he still looks "skinny fat" because he burned off so much muscle in the process. He will probably gain it back.

These things are a much different animal than eating 2000 or 3000 calories per day when you're burning 3000 or 4000. Or what I'm doing, by eating 2500 calories per day when I'm burning about 5000. Yes, those are big deficits, but when eating that many calories, in addition to lifting weights and taking in lots of protein, one doesn't need to worry about "starvation mode" - the body is not going to think it's starving when it's eating 2000 calories per day! And you're not gonna be hungry, either, if you eat correclty.

In fact, one study fed two groups only 800 calories per day, on a liquid diet. One group did aerobic excercise six days per week. The other lifted weights hard but did no aerobic excercise.

Both groups lost weight - the aerobic group lost much MORE weight - about 50KG(these were very overweight people, obviously), but they also lost a big portion of lean body mass with that weight.

The group that engaged in weight training lost less weight, but they also RETAINED their Lean Body Mass because they lifted and their liquid diet was high in protein.

See here? Even at such a low calorie level, their body did not go into "starvation mode" and eat up their Lean Body mass - because of the weight training and the high protein intake.

Also, it's just wrong to say that the body "only burns fat" when excercising. This just is completely untrue. There is a "fat burning zone" during excercise where the body burns mostly fat during the excercise - this is when your heartrate is between abou 6% to 80% of maximum heartrate.

However, this really doesn't mean that much. And has been far overblown by aerobic instructors and such ever since. Because the body at rest also burns fat, along with carbs, etc. A person CAN lose weight by not doing any excercise and only eating less. And MOST of that weight loss will be fat. Their body fat percentage WILL decrease. But up to a fourth or a third of the weight loss, in this situation, will be muscle as well. This is not desirable.

So yes, your body is burning fat even when you don't excercise, if you're in caloric deficit.

Also, many bodybuilders and people losing weight use HIIT instead of the "fat burning zone" excercise, and it works very well - many say it works better.

HIIT is "High Intensity Interval Training" - instead of 45 minutes "slow" cardio at "target heart rate", you do about 20 minutes of very high intensity in intervals - maybe 1 minute as hard as you can, then 1 minute moderate, then another minute as hard as you can, etc.

Now, you burn LESS calories during this kind of excercise, because you're not doing it as long. But not much less, because it's so intense. But since your heart rate is above the "fat burning zone", you burn more carbs and sugars than fat during the excercise.

Many people took this to mean - "why would you want to do that? Don't you WANT to burn fat?" Well yes, but again, fat is NOT only burned during excercise, and numerous studies have shown that while HIIT doesn't burn nearly as much fat during the workout, for the next 24 hours your body is so revved up that you burn at least as much, and in many studies MORE FAT, yes, FAT, overall, than you do with the slow cardio.

Once that heartrate comes down, and your'e burning fat in a caloric deficit throughout the day, you're burning more than normal because your activity factor has jacked up your metabolism through the HIIT. With the slow cardio, you don't really get much of this effect, and are only burning fat during the actual excercise.

Many people have shed bodyfat - great amounts, using HIIT. Concerned about burning off muscle during HIIT? Do it after you've eaten. You'll just burn the carbs, then the fat will be burned the rest of the day from the increased metabolism.

So the question is - do you want to spend 45 minutes a day working out moderately, or 20 minutes working out very, very hard? That's really up to the individual. I'm doing the slow stuff now, but only because I'm not yet in good enough shape to do the HIIT.

But I plan to move to that in the next month or so.