How a person know if he or she has a food hangover or not? The answer is simple: when one’s belly fat is hanging over the waistband of one’s skirt or trousers. Food hangovers are usually the result of weekend binging. The stark reality of the post-weekend morning weigh-in and the resulting “Oh-my-gosh” shriek is the one of the world’s prime reasons that people seek fad diets with promises of quick weight loss.

A lot of the fad diets have penetrated society in general and the the Jewish world in particular. People think they can compensate for their unhealthy eating in quantity and in quality over the weekends by starting a crash diet on Monday morning. A typical Sabbath-day eating spree begins with a post-prayer brunch in the synagogue that features Cola, liquor and pastry. The midday meal at home consists largely of white-flour Challa, potato and noodle kugels and cholent and desserts of more cakes and parve ice cream. Sure, one “cheat day” a week is legitimate, when we loosen up on our diet discipline, eat a bit more and partake of a sweet or two, but that doesn’t mean binging in a carb-crazy total lack of restraint.

What happens? Many have turned to fad diets that promise quick weight loss. And guess what – the quickest weight loss results from loss of muscle mass. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Therefore, don’t be impressed when you see that adherents of the fad diets have lost tons of weight, fast. Notice that they don’t exercise. As a result, their bodies look like big empty burlap sacks draped on bone. At least when they were fat, their muscles had to work to carry the extra weight. But now, nothing. No muscle tone, just empty flab.

Modern society has become so focused on weight loss, that any weight loss seems to be good. It certainly is not. You look better and feel better when you increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, by exercising and increasing caloric intake – especially with quality protein and good HDL-producing fats – you gain weight big time without adding a millimeter to your waist or hips. In fact, your trousers or skirt fits better than ever.

The impressive initial weight loss of the “effortless” fad diets comes from losing the strategic and vital area of your body – your muscle mass. Therefore, the goal of dieting should be to improve body composition, the percentage or ratio of muscle to body fat, like we said. You do that by losing fat without losing muscle tissue. Maintaining and even increasing muscle mass is critical to weight control, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. What’s more, as you exercise and add resistance/strength training to your routine, you can actually look thinner and have a smaller waistline, but the scale shows that you gained weight! How can that be? Simple – muscles take up less space in your body, so body weight may stay the same or even go up as you add compact, tight muscle mass. In density, muscle is 22% more dense than fat. In other words, if you’ve been doing strength /resistance training, your waist is thinner, your skirt or trousers fit great, you look and feel great, but you weigh more! Maybe at 145 lbs, you could only do 20 pushups, but now at 155, you can do 50! Yes, you weigh more but you’re much more healthy. Keep on liftin’, bro and sis, and put the bathroom scale in the closet!

If you take on a healthy-eating lifestyle and exercise regularly, you can forget about your weight. You’ll be strong, energetic and healthy. When you eat right – as natural as possible – and exercise, you’ll burn fat and build muscle anyway. Enjoy your Shabbat and weekend, but don’t abuse your body. Eat responsibly and you’ll discover that your visits to doctors become much less frequent. Every blessing, LB

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