Just shoot me.
This is what I’m thinking as I listen to Dr. Jonas Leibowitz tell me about metabolism.
“Think about it,” he says. “Metabolism is the amount of calories a person needs in a day to do the functions of daily living: digestion, breathing, sweating, sleeping, going to the bathroom. You have a certain amount of calories you need to burn every day. Menopause won’t change that amount of calories. It’s that simple.”
This was not what I wanted to hear when I was assigned this story. I wanted to hear that metabolism is destiny. That it’s not your fault you can’t lose that baby weight or that mid-40’s spread. That stress hormones make it worse. That your body changes.
But Yonkers, NY, endocrinologist Dr. Leibowitz has decided to disabuse me of my long-held and cherished beliefs about weight loss. In fact, during a 20 minute interview, I think he may have said, “It’s that simple” five times – each time after telling me something I didn’t want to hear.
So, I ask, is this whole “It’s-my-metabolism-that’s-the-problem” thing a myth? “People can try anything,” Dr. Leibowitz explains, “but they just have to take in less calories, or expend more calories. It’s that simple.”
And what about Atkins and other low-carb diets? “Everyone wants a quick fix,” Dr. Leibowitz continues, “but it’s very simple. No diet can overpower the fact that energy is not lost, it’s only transferred. Forget about calling it food and just call it energy, or calories. If you eat a certain amount of calories, it doesn’t disappear into thin air because you followed an Atkins diet.” If you don’t burn that energy in the form of calories expended, it has to go somewhere…so it gets stored as fat.
South Beach? Sugar Busters? Dr. Leibowitz patiently repeats his sobering equation. “If 3500 calories is a pound, and if you’re excess a hundred calories a day, roughly every month you’ll gain a pound. So all you need is 100 calories a day excess of what you burn and you’ve gained a pound a month. It’s very simple.”
And depressing. 100 calories. That’s an eight-ounce glass of orange juice. One extra-large egg. One medium banana. How did this happen? In college, we lived on a daily diet of McDonald’s, Lucky Charms, Hostess Twinkies and coffee. And we were thin as rails. It simply has to be a metabolism thing, I insist to Dr. Leibowitz. Maybe it’s thyroid.
“Even if it is a thyroid problem,” Dr. Leibowitz says, “the possibility of losing weight just by treating the thyroid is not very high. You may give someone more energy and they may feel better, but you still will have to go back to the simple equation of calories burned vs. calories taken in. If there’s a deficiency they’ll lose weight, if there’s an excess they’ll gain weight, and if they’re meeting their metabolic rate, they’ll maintain weight. Food is a form of energy. Calories are a form of energy. And a person burns energy by doing their daily activities or extra. It’s that simple.”
In today’s society, Dr. Leibowitz maintains, we are more sedentary overall: everyone sits at a computer all day, kids don’t walk to the school bus, it picks them up at the corner, activities are scheduled for 30 minutes here and a half hour there – nobody’s on the street for three hours playing. “Nobody has to hunt, nobody has to gather,” says Dr. Leibowitz. “Nobody has to grow or plant, nobody builds their own house, nobody chops wood. You’ve taken away all the sources of energy expenditure and given society easy access to calories — drive-thru’s, stores open 24/7, processed foods, super sized portions. We don’t burn and we have access too. And as we age and can’t physically do what we used to do, if you don’t change your caloric intake, you’ll gain weight.”
It’s that simplee. According to Dr. Leibowitz, people can try anything, but they just have to take in fewer calories, or expend more calories. I didn’t have a faster metabolism in college than I do now; I just burned more calories. Today, I live in the suburbs. I drive everywhere…even to the gym! I sit at my desk and write for a living. I sit on a bench and watch my son at the playground. The more I sit, the more out of shape I get. The more out of shape I get, the less exercise I do. The less exercise I do, the fewer calories I should be taking in. And therein lies the rub.
I should get up and take a walk immediately. But writing this has made me late! It’s time to pick up my son from school and drive him to his tennis lesson – I’ll grab a protein bar since I missed lunch. That sounds simple enough.
Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, can help slim people to mingle more with the bulky ones in a friendly manner as the latter can shed those extra pounds and the former can relate to them more.
David Robson is the founder of Complus Alliance. He has been writing about different topics for almost 10 years. He’s main focus is delivering quality insights to a wide array of audience.