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Ep. 3 – Losing weight under extreme conditions

Would you believe you can lose weight under the most extreme conditions, even if you’re completely sedentary? It is possible if you can do just do one thing. Here’s Dr. Chet with this week’s Straight Talk on Health


Welcome to Straight Talk on Health, I’m your host Dr. Chet Zelasko. Let me give you this statement to start with: Weight loss is always possible if you do just one thing. Can you lose weight even under the most extreme conditions? Even if you're completely sedentary, I would wage to say that most of you would say, I don't think so.

Let me tell you a little bit about my mother-in-law, Ruth. Now she's passed on, many years now. But she had struggled with your weight for decades. I don't really know what her peak weight was, but I would have estimated it was around 240 pounds. Lifetime member of Weight Watchers. She could lose weight and then she put it back on. But as she got into her 70's and then her 80's she had maintained her weight around 200 pounds for most of that and that I knew her. That's when Paula and I met, got married et cetera. Here's the thing: she had severe arthritis in her knees and because she wouldn't have been able to do the rehab, the decision was made to replace them both at once in that was good decision. She did great at lifestyle therapy, getting in and out of a car, doing other things like that, being able to stand up from a toilet, et cetera. And she did well in occupational therapy, and it for her, that would be doing some cooking and things of that nature. But she never quite got back the mobility that she thought she would get because the physical therapy was more of a challenge than she could handle. She was able to get around the house, and for those of you heard me in the past, my in laws, we built our house so that they had a place to stay. It was wide, it was handicapped accessible in all that. But for the most part, she used a wheelchair around the house or scooter in public. Could it have been her weight that impeded her progress, her ability or maybe her willingness to do the rehab? Maybe. It was a possibility; it isn't that she didn't try but was not always successful. A few years later she had a very bad reaction to changing statins that damaged a great deal of muscle.

Let me explain a little bit about this, about how it occurred and why it happened. She had taken Lipitor for years. That was at a time before we're in the era we are now where you have more government controls…the…patents have expired, so you got a lot of generics and so Lipitor was expensive medication. I was taking Zocor, that was back when I was taking statin, that was a lot less expensive, because there was a generic available for it. So she talked or a cardiologist, had him switch, and from the moment that she began taking it, she got weaker and weaker and weaker. Now, how bad did this get? Well, she developed Rhabdomyolysis. What does that mean? Rhabdomyolysis is something that occurs with severe muscle damage. Let me give you this is an example: Creatine Kinase is an enzyme they check to see if you're having a heart attack. Now there are 3 forms of it. There's also one that's available if you get a lot of muscle damage. Someone who runs a marathon, for example, like that. Another normal Creatine Kinase is between 20 to 30 units, the upper limit someone who has a real strenuous week training session runs marathon that could be upwards of 200 units. Hers, now listen, I'm not making a mistake, hers was over 20,000 units. And, her urine was completely black. That's what happens when you have that kind of muscle damage.

So I remember the day clearly when my father-in-law just couldn't get her up should go to a doctor's appointment. I was leaving to go on a business trip. And I told her, my father-in-law, and my wife; you got to call 911 she needs to get to the hospital and that's when they did all the testing to find out that that muscle damage had occurred. Now you may be sitting there wondering: Okay, when you get to the point? I’m going to get to it right now. She never quite recovered. Could she have recovered if he had been willing to do more of the exercises? I think so, but coincidentally, Alzheimer's disease struck her. I don’t want to say hard, but it became more and more of a challenge for her. And one of the things that happens with people with Alzheimer's, that my observation was, they have to take different priorities and she was very comfortable, they treated her so well at the nursing care facility. She got used to a new routine. And one of the things that she felt that she needed to do was to lose some weight. And so she organized her life so that… she still wasn't able to exercise…she got around there in a wheelchair as well, but she controlled her diet. Now, was there anything special in her diet? No, there wasn't. Same old diet that everybody criticized the day myplate.gov, maybe adjusted a little bit because she had a little bit high cholesterol, but certainly not an extraordinarily low fat diet or anything like that. But it was full of carbohydrates. And so she cut back on some of the things that she was eating and over a period of a couple of years lost 30 pounds.

Those are the most extraordinary conditions that I can think of for not being able to lose weight because I'm an exercise physiologist as well as an expert in nutrition. Exercise is critical. Well, maybe not so much. And so if you're someone who has orthopedic issues, not able to get around very well, take heart. You can do it yourself as long as you do the one thing that I opened the show with. But before I get to that, here's the things that you don't want to do for losing weight. When you’re going to make a change in your lifestyle, one thing that you don't want to do is announce it on social media. Now those of you that are younger, more inclined to do that. But if you're a little bit older, over 60, and unless you want to form a Facebook group or something like that on social media, don't do it. Because people can be extraordinarily cruel and they would also make you the target of every fly by night weight loss program out there. You will get the people that search for those things, in social media, and you will be one of their targets. So if you're going to do something like that, make it a closed group. Just in advance, do yourself a favor because like I said, people can be pretty cruel there. Also, you don't have to throw everything that's in your refrigerator or freezer out or clean out your pantry completely. Yeah. It's a good idea to get rid of food that’s 2 years or more past its best by date. But that's about it. Where you get your calories from is not critical, okay?

As I tried to illustrate with the example with my mother-in-law, you don't have to do keto or paleo or any of that stuff. I'll talk about more about that later. Because, in my opinion, you don't have to follow any specific diet or exercise program when you begin. Eat a little less, eat a little bit healthier and move a little bit more, if you're able. And if you're not, just eat little bit less. But try to eat just a little bit healthier. One of the things that my mother-in-law did was something very simple. She would change from having ice cream as a dessert to having grapes as a dessert. That's what she did. And that's about the simplest thing that you can do. But it saves her about 200 calories each time that she did it and that was her ability to maintain fewer calories in. You don't have to focus on that. Maybe you can have a small salad. Maybe you can use fruit. Maybe you can eat fewer refined carbohydrates because that's where a lot of fat comes from and it would take a while to explain it, but your body learns very quickly if you're not going to burn up those carbohydrate calories might as well turn it into fat and then you store it.

So if you don't take them in to begin with. Guess what? You'll be okay. You'll be able to get through it and you'll be able to lose weight. Now does take extra time to do that? Yeah. But let me ask you this question. Did you ever just sit down at the table, let's say you're 20, 50 or 100 pounds’ overweight, whatever it is...Did you ever just sit down at the table and decide today is the day I'm going over eat and I'm going over eat until I put on 20, 30,50, pounds? Nobody ever does that.

How did you put it on? You put it one calorie of the time. One meal at a time. One day at a time. And that's the way you've got to approach it to be able to lose the weight. So what's the magic word? What is going to get you your weight-loss objective? You have to be consistent week to week. Now, you notice I said week to week, not day to day. Look, research clearly shows you can have some days that are better than others. So you make up for you compensate. But as long as you calculate the number of calories that you need to lose weight, safe is a pound a week, then stick to it and take the average for the week. But in order to be able to do it, and if you can add exercise so much the better, in order to get the results that you want, the most important thing that you can do is be consistent. It worked for my mother-in-law. It took time. But for some was completely sedentary, she accomplished her goal. You know what? So can you! Be consistent.

That's all the time we have for this show, so until next time, this is Dr. Chet Zelasko doctor saying health is a choice people, choose wisely today and every day.


Straight talk on health with Dr. Chet Zelasko is recorded in the studios of WGVU Public Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views and opinions expressed on straight talk on health are not necessarily those of WGVU its underwriters or Grand Valley State University episodes are found at WGVU news, dot org and wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribers.


Dr. Chet Zelasko is a scientist, speaker, and author. Dr. Chet has a Ph.D. and MA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education from Michigan State University and a BS in Physical Education from Canisius College. He’s certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist, belongs to the American Society of Nutrition, and has conducted research and been published in peer-reviewed journals. You can find him online at drchet.com.
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