Thank you for your question.
I believe what you really wanted to know was this: "What is the
fastest, easiest and least time-consuming method of getting her tummy
back into shape?"
The truth is (and I'm sure this comes at no surprise to you) that
there is no fast and easy way to weight loss. The "best" way to lose
weight though, is a combination of dieting and aerobic exercise.
That's it. A maintained schedule of running and dieting will result in
weight loss. I can attest to this from personal experience. I will
explain this in detail further in my answer.
That said, let me address a point you raised in your question:
"Much advice seems to suggest that exercise that targets the muscles
in the stomach area (e.g. sit-ups) would help. To me that seems
illogical, or perhaps misleading. In its most simple form, is weight
loss not a simple equation involving a=amount of energy input to body
from food and b=amount of energy used by body and c=weight gained or
lost expressed as energy: a-b=c ? with weight loss acheived by either
1) decreasing energy intake through dieting, or 2) increasing energy
consumption through exercise or 3) both. When fat is burned up by the
body as reserve fuel, is the physical pattern of 'burning' dependent
on the location of the muscles requiring the energy, or a uniform
pattern, or a geneticly-determined pattern, or something else?"
Doing situps does burn calories, and will burn fat, if done correctly.
However the same and better results in terms of calorie loss can be
achieved by doing any form of aerobic exercise. I believe your friends
were operating under the myth that fat can turn into muscle or muscle
can turn into fat. See the article "Can Muscle Turn To Fat?" at
What sit ups does do is tone your abdominal muscles. However, it does
not "target" the fat in your tummy any more than any other form of
aerobic exercise. In fact, if you only do situps as your aerobic
exercise, what will happen is that you will build up abdominal muscles
in your abs, but it would be still covered in the same layers of fat
"The first place we usually lose fat is on our face (so our mothers
can tell us we look too thin). Unfortunately, it is not possible to
direct our bodies to burn fat from a particular area."
"Take sit-ups for example. It is important to keep your stomach (and
back) muscles in shape, and firm abs can even help to hold in your
stomach. But to reduce the size of your mid-section, you would do just
as well to perform any exercise that you enjoy."
The only way to reduce fat is through aerobic exercise. From personal
experience, the most effective form of aerobic exercise would have to
be running or jogging. I'll explain why in response to the next point
"It seems to me that while there's probably variation from individual
to individual, the variables involved (e.g. calories ingested, current
body fat proportion etc) must be interrelated and subject to a set of
laws which could form useful graphs or simple programs that would
allow a person to predict weight loss, armed with a knowledge of the
Actually, the variables involved are not limited to calories in/out
and body fat proportion. I think one of the most important factors
involved in the equation is metabolism. Metabolism is a measure of how
much fat you burn from doing no activities. It depends on the fitness
level of your heart and other muscles. For example, long distance
runnners would have higher metabolisms than normal people due the
their muscle mass and fitness levels. What this means is that they can
effectively eat more than other people can, without weight gain.
(Unfair, I know!)
The best way to increase your metabolism is running. This is from
personal experience. I used to be fairly overweight, until I joined a
competitive long distance running training program. In just a month, I
noticed significant amounts of fat loss all over my body. What is
interesting is that my calorie intake was more, not less, than before.
This leads me to conclude that the increase in metabolism contributed
to my weight loss.
So to sum up, aerobic exercise and dieting is the best and only way to
lose weight. Dieting though, involves counting calories. You have to
count your calories in any diet. Even a small snack here and there add
up. I've provided links to tools where you can keep track of your
metabolism and calorie count as well as additional articles that will
be of interest to you:
BMI, BMR Calculator
Basal Metabolism Calculator
The Fat Bloke's Guide to Becoming Less Fat <- highly recommended
Google Search Strategy:
metabolism fat loss
If you need any clarifications, please don't hesitate to ask. I would
be more than happy to assist you further. Pass on my best wishes for
Request for Answer Clarification by
17 Jul 2002 16:35 PDT
Thank you, Blader for a prompt reply. While your answer is a good
starting point, I don't think you've fully addressed the question.
The comments have filled in many gaps already (a particular thank you
to Rebekah for finding what amounts to the equations I wanted, and to
insideinfo for a good general answer), so I'm left with just the
following points for clarification:
1) Your answer, and most of the comments, rely heavily on personal
experience. What scientific or statistical resources can you find on
the relative effectiveness of different methods of weight loss?
answers this question for you (but only for exercise-related methods),
but can you find a better list, and in particular what is the
calorie-burning potential of yoga?
2) If exercise really must be a part of the weight loss (boo!), can
you find a few websites that have good instructions on performing
useful exercises, particularly exercises that can be undertaken in the
comfort of one's own, slightly cramped, home?
3) What about 'miracle' cures? I myself believe that most if not all
such schemes, programmes, pills etc are either ineffective or
dangerous, but I do remember seeing a recent, credible news story on
TV about a slimming pill currently undergoing testing that promised
some really good results (e.g. 2lb weight loss every week without any
change in eating or exercise habits - a dream come true?) Can you find
anything on this, or any other credible method? FYI, the pill was
estimated to finish its testing phase in about 2 years, I think. The
story was featured on either a national or regional UK TV station (the
pill is possibly of UK origin), and quite possibly on a regional news
programme (East or West Midlands region)
I don't expect the earth for $20, but have a reasonable stab at
answering these final points and earn 4-5 stars! ;)
Clarification of Answer by
17 Jul 2002 17:37 PDT
Thank you for your clarification request. Let's see what I can do for
1) I've found a very, very comprehensive list of calories burned per
unit time at Nutristrategy.com. It is not limited to exercises, and
includes work related actions such as farming. Here is the website:
However, although it lists hundreds of activities, it does not include
yoga. Here is a different calculator that does included Yoga in its
list, from Yahoo! Health:
2) Yes, unfortunately, the truth is real weight loss can only be
achieved through exercise. You can ask any one this question, and the
answer will be the same. However, you can make exercise easier by
setting a plan. The free service I use is Workoutplan.com. You can set
a workout plan and even choose to do only indoor exercises. The
website will custom configure your workout plan based on your
individual situations, and can even limit its workouts to at home, in
door exercises. Instructions are given for all exercises with simple
Related Google Directory: Health and Fitness Advice
3) As for miracle pills, I don't doubt that they help you lose weight.
For a little while. However, unless it is combined with a proper
exercise regiment, the weight WILL come back. That is a guarantee. I
have found information on the miracle drug you have heard about on the
BBC website and other sources. Its name is Xenical (also known as
Orlistat). Here are some articles on it:
Orlistat: A Miracle Slimming Pill <-- highly recommended
Green light for slimming drug
Pill gets go-ahead for battle of the bulge
Successful trial clears way for anti-obesity drug
Drug hope for obesity
New drug to beat obesity
Obesity drug to be available on NHS
Europe signals approval for anti-fat drug
If you need any further clarifications, please don't hesitate to ask.
I would be more than happy to assist you further. Good luck! =)