Body Fat Reduction 101

by Karl Lenser

The accumulation of excess body fat is a major risk factor for heart disease and impairs the function of many systems of the body, including the pulmonary, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Excess body fat also increases the risk for some cancers.

Carrying an excessive amount of fat tissue also increases the chances for back pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease. In addition, having extra body fat limits daily functionability and makes living more difficult.

Sixty percent of Americans are considered overweight/obese. Recent studies have now indicated that obesity has caught up with smoking in terms of burdening the health care system. Smoking has actually decreased by almost 20 percent since 1993, while obesity rates have increased by 85 percent.

What is the best way to reduce body fat to healthy levels? The best strategy or plan incorporates an energy balance system that reduces calories that you ingest and increases the calories (energy) that you expend.

It sounds simple, but it usually is more complicated as this process involves a total lifestyle transformation for many individuals. It is a lot of work, but it can be done! Make a plan, be disciplined and dedicated and you will reap the benefits.

Here are some general guidelines that may help:

Find some activity you can do and enjoy.

MAKE time to exercise.

Find a workout partner.

Keep an exercise logbook/journal. Record something every day — even the “skip” days.

Examine what you eat and how much you eat per sitting. How much do you really need to be satisfied?

Use smaller plates and bowls for meals. Reducing portion sizes is very critical!

You need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day if you are serious about fat loss.

Exercise at least five days per week if you really want to lose excess fat.

You need cardio activities like walking, cycling, swimming, elliptical machines and group exercise classes to burn plenty of calories.

Add strength workouts to your routine. Three times per week is ideal. Muscle is your friend! The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism becomes.

Have your body composition measured to establish a baseline. Then you can set short-term and long-term goals. Reality checks are worth it.

Establish an exercise schedule. Exercising on a whim may not get you thin.

Domestic chores count toward caloric expenditure. Cleaning, mopping and dusting require the body to move and expend calories. Same thing applies to spring time gardening and yard work. FIND WAYS TO MOVE!!

Keep a food journal and record the calories you ingest.

Remember there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat.


A Conway resident, Karl Lenser is the director of wellness programs at Hendrix College. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. An accomplished runner, he can be reached at [email protected].