Column: Challenging those weight loss woes

Just one of many legitimate reasons why old folks get grumpier

There are any number of really legitimate reasons why old folks get grumpier with every passing year.

So far this year, my grim countenance has been fueled by the less-than-stellar results I have been experiencing since midnight Dec. 31 when I vowed to set temptations aside – red wine topped that list – and drop 25 pounds.

No, I don’t want to be so slim I can tread water in a test tube. And, yes, vanity is a major player in this battle to reverse the seemingly irreversible conversion of star-quality muscle mass to ugly waist-clinging fatty tissue.

Forget all those vital medical reasons for achieving an age and height-appropriate weight. I just want to get back into my expensive Italian suit … the same suit that has been languishing in my wardrobe for three years.

For two months now, I have been doing it by the book. I’ve been measuring calorie intake and I’ve been spending 30-plus sweaty minutes every day on the rowing machine and treadmill to augment my routine dog walks. I’ve lost seven pounds. That’s it. Seven measly pounds. In fact, just the other day, I gained a pound. It simply isn’t fair. A couple of decades ago I could drop 25 pounds in three months. What’s gone wrong?

Now I discover that major components of my reclamation program may be based on seriously outdated science. New research suggests that spending hours working out in an attempt to shed unwanted flab is probably a waste of time. Apparently, the body adapts to higher activity levels and changes its metabolism so that fewer calories are burned.

A U.S. study measured the daily energy expenditure and activity levels of more than 300 men and women. Those with moderately active levels – such as a daily walk to work – were found to burn about 200 calories more per day than couch potatoes. That’s nothing.

After reaching a certain workout threshold – described by scientists as a “sweet spot” – the extra time working up a sweat made no difference to the amount of calories burned. Experts say this may explain why those who embark on gym routines often see weight loss hit a plateau after a few months.

Lead scientist Dr. Herman Pontzer, from City University of New York, said the findings showed that exercise alone is not enough to prevent or reverse weight gain.

His study revealed that men and women with moderate activity levels were found to expend the most calories. Pontzer said such lifestyles might involve walking or cycling to work, taking the stairs rather than the lift, and a couple of bursts of exercise. But, doing more than that made no difference.

“The most physically active people expended the same amount of calories each day as people who were only moderately active,” Pontzer said.

Meanwhile, another study from the University of Alberta suggests that drinking a glass of red wine may have the same effect on the body as an hour at the gym.

Hello! They never mentioned this at the doctor’s office.

A component in the wine, resveratrol, was seen to improve physical performance, heart function and muscle strength similar to the affect exercise has on the body. Principal investigator Jason Dyck said: “I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do.”

Hum … red wine “could mimic exercise.” The path ahead seems clear to me now. I’m going to stash the rowing machine and treadmill in the basement and grab a nice bottle of Spanish Rioja.

Oh, alright, I’ll keep walking the dogs.