J-term class offers truth about fad diets

Huntington, Ind.— With all the fad diets on the market and many traditional New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, a Huntington College January-term class is focusing on the healthy way to control body weight. January-term is an intensive three-week interim between semesters offering unique learning opportunities for students.

The class, entitled Controlling Body Weight: Enhancement of Metabolism and Loss of Fat, is taught by Dr. Paul Smith, professor of physical education and exercise science at Huntington College. The goals of the class are to discover the most effective way to control body fatness, to clarify the myths about dieting and to understand the role fitness plays in everyday life.

“It is becoming more and more clear that the key to weight control is exercise,” Smith said. “The idea of weight control has to do with caloric balance: calories in—calories out. If you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll have a positive caloric balance and you’ll store those calories as fat. To avoid this positive caloric balance, you need to raise the body metabolism. This is where exercise comes in.”

The class focuses more on the physical fitness of an individual, rather than on physical appearance.

“There’s a certain level of fat that predisposes us more for disease and that’s why we should be concerned about fat,” Smith said. “We shouldn’t be focusing on the way we look, which is the main thing the average American is concerned about. Science is interested in whether the person is healthy and how functional the body systems are. Exercise is the most influential factor in all of this. The muscle needs to be trained to burn fat, which is generally labeled as ‘raising metabolism.’”

According to Smith, the most important part of weight loss is getting to the cause of weight gain rather than focusing on losing weight. He disagrees with low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins diet.

“Dieting doesn’t get at the cause for gaining weight,” Smith said. “Low-carbohydrate diets hamper the ability to burn fat because fat burns in a carbohydrate flame. The average body stores about 2000 calories of carbohydrates, and it is used to burn fat, but the Atkins diet reduces carbohydrates, so the body feeds more on protein and loses water weight.”

Ultimately, Dr. Smith suggests a person cannot make his or her body be any way or look like any other person. An individual can only change his or her behavior in order to improve health. The main two behaviors are what a person eats and what an individual does. He says it’s not about physicality; it’s about healthy choices. Contrary to how many people look at it, weight control is not central in life. It is only a piece of a much bigger puzzle of determining life purpose.

In order to be fit, Smith recommends that the average person burns about 2000 designated calories per week: 1000 during moderately active physical activity and the other 1000 during everyday ‘healthy’ activities. That breaks down to about 30 minutes of power walking or jogging three times per week apart from active choices in the daily activities of life. An individual can increase the amount of calories burned in daily life by doing simple things like walking from a place farther out in the parking lot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Unfortunately, it takes more exercise to change weight than to be fit. To truly make a difference in weight, the moderate physical activity must be done at least five times each week for a minimum of 40 minutes each session. So, fitness is achieved earlier in an exercise program but it is also the most important aspect in improving the health of the individual.

Huntington College is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 60 academic concentrations. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington College is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in Huntington, Indiana. The College is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

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Heather Barkley
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Joanne Green
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