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your look ● fitness Cheating Your Way to Synergy Shedding even one pound can be a difficult task if you aren’t willing to create a synergy between your diet and exercise routines E veryone knows that eating less calories and get- ting regular exercise helps shed pounds, but a study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, led by Anne McTier- nan, MD, PhD, director of the Prevention Cen- ter and a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division, has proven that when it comes to losing weight and body fat, diet and exercise have a syner- gistic relationship and are most effective when done to- gether as compared to either strategy alone. Synergy is the interaction of multiple elements in a sys- tem to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia from synergos, meaning “working together.” The ground-breaking research determined that the women in the exercise-only group lost, on average, 2.4 per- cent of their starting weight (with a mean weight loss of 4.4 pounds) as compared to an average weight loss of 8.5 per- cent among women in the diet-only group (with a mean weight loss of 15.8 pounds). The greatest weight loss was achieved by women who both changed their diets and ex- ercised regularly, as these women shed an average of 10.8 percent of their starting weight (with a mean weight loss of 19.8 pounds). Two-thirds of the women in this group achieved the study goal of losing at least 10 percent of their starting weight. Honestly, it’s the most overlooked area of fat loss. Most people simply pick a diet or an exercise program, without ever really thinking how those two programs can work hand in hand, or if they even provide any additional bene- fit to one another. When diet and exercise are utilized to- gether, they can team up to achieve a much greater result 78 PAGEANTRY CHEAT TO WIN: Not so fast! Shoveling cake in your mouth on a “cheat day” is not a sound method for weight loss, but there are a lot of other tasty alternatives. than any benefits you get from either of them alone. That kind of relationship is a synergy. Unfortunately, most diet and exercise programs aren’t designed to work together in a strategic, synergetic fashion. When you’re talking about the most effective method for the most rapid fat loss, things get a little more complex than simply “eat less and exercise a lot.” CRASH AND YOU WON’T BURN Dieting can actually have a negative impact on your me- tabolism by messing with important fat burning hormones like leptin. Leptin is a thyroid hormone in the body that controls hunger and feelings of satiety. Leptin is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue, so the more overweight a person is, typ- ically, the higher his or her leptin levels. Too much body fat leads to too much leptin being released—a condition called leptin resistance. When this occurs, your brain becomes numb to leptin’s signal and leptin is unable to produce its normal effects to stimulate weight loss. Leptin resistance is sensed as starvation, so multiple mechanisms are activated to cause you to eat more and increase storage of fat, rather than burn excess fat stores. This is why “crash” diets do not work in the long term. Leptin sensitivity is heavily mediated by your calorie in- take. When you decrease calories, leptin levels recede. When you increase calories, leptin levels recover. And while it takes about a week of moderate dieting for leptin levels