That which makes things grow...The gates of Hell
About the most important thing you can do for your health is eat less and be trim. I believe that even the slightest overweight is cancer causing. This is explained as "that which makes things grow (high calorie food turning into body fat), makes things (cancer and heart attack plaque) grow." You will probably think what I write here is stupid. And it may very well be. However, I will start with a dumb joke that I heard many years ago: a professor is standing in front of his college class and he instructs all the women in his class to cross their legs. Then he says, "now that the gates of Hell are closed, we can get down to work." Obviously, that is about the normal attraction for/distraction of young men and their interest in young women - to paraphrase Howard Stern's "Private Parts."
Well, medically, to me, the gates of Hell, are any percent elevation of body fat beyond trim. And what is "trim" you might ask? The answer to that is when the skin clearly reveals the muscle bundles underneath. Said another way, that is when the percent of body fat is so low that you can see the muscles underneath. Generally we think of our basketball players (not Shaq or Charles Barkley), Janet Jackson, a yoga teacher, or female beach volleyball players that way.
In my examining room, I have the pictures of these men and women which show a combination of well developed muscles with very low percent body fat. I show these pix to my patients to demonstrate the concept of "cut" which translates as low enough percent body fat (approaching 5-10% in men, acceptable is up to 15% and 10-15% in women, acceptable up to 20%) to show the muscles beneath the skin.
I read a very interesting study not long ago that showed when people had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, etc., it did not matter whether or not they were somewhat or greatly overweight, both groups had the same abnormal values. What information did I derive from this? Well I might be wrong, but here is what I think. It does not usually make any difference how much overweight you are, it only depends on if you are overweight. In that sense, "the gates of Hell" are opened in people by even the slightest elevation of percent body fat above the numbers that I just gave. I am not trying to be absolutist, I am trying to be lucid so that you understand what the real deal is. If we have an "inch a pinch" which, for most men will be a 34-inch waist or more, and for most women will be above size 6-8, they are already overweight.
I am not talking about people becoming obsessed with becoming Twiggy, I am talking about disease prevention and the facts of life. If you do not want the diabetes, the cancer, the diverticulosis, the high blood pressure, and while all of those are not due exclusively to elevated percent body fat, I still believe that the single most important issue that causes most (of these) diseases in the United States today is elevation of percent body fat beyond trim!
How to achieve being trim? It absolutely demands some exercise, and I especially recommend weightlifting because it tends to be better at reducing body fat. To this end, I promote The Power of 10: The Once a Week Slow Motion Exercise Program because it is so simple - I even have my own simplified version of it. I also recommend bicycling, aerobics, yoga, walking with hand weights, just plain walking, treadmills, elliptical trainers, etc. etc.-whatever works for you. But ultimately, I believe that diet is the most important part of becoming trim. And if you are overweight, Atkins, South Beach (protein) and I all agree that you should avoid the carbs, which are the breads, the cereals, the pastas, the potatoes, rice, chips, crackers, cakes, and cookies. Atkins permits berries, I permitted berries long before he did.
Fill up on the cooked vegetables and vegetable soups. I prefer that you use beans as your meat to replace the South Beach and Atkins diets, which have recommended chicken/low fat dairy products in the former and meat/regular dairy products/bacon/sausage/eggs in the latter. Beans are healthier as a protein, have no cholesterol, are full of antioxidants, have plenty of good fiber, and are low in sulfur - causing less osteoporosis.
So then, to get down to trim, one needs a combination of both aerobic and weightlifting exercise, but also a very high-fiber whole foods diet with cooked vegetables, vegetable soups, berries, and beans. I call it "B-V-B." You can call it how to lose weight effectively.
P.S. Keep a food diary of everything you eat until you have internalized your own meditative awareness of the food you pick to buy/eat.
H. Robert Silverstein, MD