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Frequently asked questions about exercise

Q: What's the best way to get rid of my problem spots, like my belly and "saddlebags" (outer thighs)? I do crunches, but I am no closer to having a flat stomach.

A: Reducing fat on the belly and thighs is very difficult, and it may not be possible to remove as much as you want. The best way to lose fat is through a comprehensive effort that includes diet and exercise. Once you have a normal BMI (see step 2), you can try to tone your so-called trouble spots with exercises that target these areas. You should also work the muscles opposite those areas. However, even with these exercises, you may never have a perfectly flat stomach or the thighs you think you should have.

Q: I have been walking or jogging 1 - 2 miles every day for almost 2 years. Why can't I shed those last few inches?

A: It's great that you are so diligent with your exercise. Even though you are no longer losing weight, you are toning your muscles and strengthening your heart.

Now that your weight loss has slowed down, try increasing the intensity of your exercise by walking or jogging faster or going up hills. Add weights to your exercise plan to make you stronger and increase your metabolism.

Q: I just had a baby and am trying to get rid of the extra weight I gained while pregnant. How can I lose the weight in a way that will be safe for breastfeeding my baby?

A: You gained weight during your pregnancy for a reason -- to nourish yourself and your baby. While breastfeeding, your body needs to use some of that extra fat to produce milk. It is especially important for you to get enough nutrients while breastfeeding because your baby depends on the nutrients that you consume.

As with most people, the best way to lose weight is through improved diet and increased exercise. But losing weight too quickly may be dangerous for both you and your child, so take it slow. You should lose only about 1 pound per week.

Q: What is liposuction? What are the potential hazards of it?

A: Liposuction, also called "lipoplasty" or "suction lipectomy," is a medical procedure in which a surgeon removes fat deposits from the body by dissolving the fat, then sucking it out from under the skin. Liposuction is not a substitute for diet and exercise to lose weight and is recommended only for people who are already normal weight. Liposuction is used as a spot reducer, a way to remove small areas of fat from specific areas of the body. It is not intended for all-over weight loss.

Though liposuction is usually safe, all surgery carries some risk. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of the surgery before you proceed. Some potential risks are infection, delayed healing, formation of fat clots or blood clots, excessive fluid loss, damage to the skin or nerves, puncture of the vital organs, and side effects from the medication. Some of these can be fatal.

Q: Are there any nutritional supplements or herbs that can help me lose weight?

A: There has been some controversy about the herb "ephedra" because of its use as a weight loss aid in some over-the-counter products. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved it for that use.

There is no such thing as a safe and effective dietary supplement that can help you lose weight. The only effective way to lose weight is through improved diet and exercise.

Q: I have several friends who have lost weight with high-protein diets. Why don't you recommend them?

A: While a high-protein diet may produce weight loss in the short-term, it does not provide enough dietary variety (enough different kinds of food) and may therefore harm the body's ability to function. Because the human body is not designed to process large amounts of protein, high-protein diets can put stress on the kidneys and liver.

Instead of cutting carbohydrates out of your diet, eat a variety of foods that keep you satisfied without too many calories. In general, you should eat a large proportion of vegetables, fruits, and grains. By combining this with regular exercise, you should be on your way to healthy, lasting, weight loss. Click here to read more about nutrition.


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Review Date: 6/28/2011
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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