Home Truths about Weight Loss
Tuesday, 10 March 2009 04:52
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 July 2010 11:25
Is everything that you're doing for weight loss actually effective? Is it enough or too much? Are you under-estimating or over-estimating, just how much work you need to do and how much or how little you need to eat? Then there are those 'good' supplements you keep hearing about too...
A half-hour of leisure doesn't equal a chocolate brownie
I remember going out to eat with some friends after a bike ride. Someone jokingly mentioned how we could now have a chocolate brownie, because we'd just exercised. The clinical truth was, that we'd just had a leisurely half-hour bike ride! This probably burned the calories in a small slice of bread, but would definitely not calorifically equate to a chubby chocolate brownie.
And while it's easy to underestimate how many calories something has, it's also equally easy to significantly overestimate how many calories we burn whilst exercising!
Even if you exercise a lot, it's not automatically open season for eating whatever you fancy. Unless of course you exercise to lunatic levels and have the metabolism of a frenzied 13 year-old, then you can eat whatever you want! A report investigating the commonly held beliefs about exercising was published in the USA in the 'Journal of the American Dietetic Association'. It concluded that although exercise does burn calories both during and after the exercise, for overweight people it stated quote, 'œexcessive calorific expenditure has limited implications for substantially reducing body weight independent of nutritional modifications' unquote. To you and I that means, for weight loss, you have to cut calories and increase exercise!
No excuses, because you certainly DO have time to exercise
If you have time to check your email, sit down and watch a sitcom or two, go surfing the Internet, have drinks/coffee/dinner with friends, go out clothes shopping, and so forth, then you certainly do have the time to exercise. Yes, sometimes you have to sacrifice some telly or leisure time to fit it in and yes, sometimes you have to prioritise your exercise time over some other things. However, your improved state of health and the feeling of wellbeing youâ€™ll get after having exercised intelligently and properly, are well worth it.
Eating more of something won't help you lose weight
The food industry is very keen indeed to latch onto weight loss research and milk it for sales purposes. A classic example is the claim that eating more of some dairy products will help you lose weight. However, a review of forty-nine clinical trials from 1966 to 2007 showed that "neither dairy nor calcium supplements, significantly helped people lose weight."!
Pushing this concept that eating more of a certain type of product will help you lose weight is constantly thrown at us from the supermarket shelves (think low-fat cake, low-carbohydrate crackers, whole grain biscuits, and trans fat-free crisps), but it's in direct opposition to the very first law of weight loss and that is we need to eat less, not more.
Calories in = calories out?
There is a lot of controversy over the basic question as to how people actually gain weight. Is it simply a matter of energy intake being greater than energy expenditure, or is there more to it? Do the type of calories we eat matter and can avoiding certain types help to lose or prevent weight? The low fat, low-carbohydrate, and glycaemic index advocates and devotees simply can't agree on it!
Common sense tells us most of us, that drinking 500 calories of sweet lemonade is not the same as eating 500 calories of chicken and broccoli. Lemonade is simply 'empty' calories, being those that have no real nutritional value and do precious little to combat hunger. Whether you're a person who ascribes to the simple idea of trying to burn more calories than you take in, or someone who focuses on avoiding certain types of calories, you need to minimise your intake of those 'empty' calories, and increase your intake of nutritionally rich calories.
Your body is working against you
Most people are aware that it's not easy to lose weight, but pretty easy to gain it. This is an inheritance of more ancient times, when food was not as abundant as it is today. Our genetic taste buds made energy-dense food very desirable because it was vital to store away calories so we could make it through the harder times. We feasted whenever and wherever we could, to prepare for inevitable famine periods that would come along
But now that we live in a time of plenty in most parts of the world, that biological legacy makes so many of us more susceptible to putting on unwanted weight. For the very overweight who intensively diet to address their situation, this system is even more difficult to overcome; because after drastic weight loss, they become even better at storing fat, making it much harder to keep weight down in the future!
However, not all of those who lose weight by drastic dieting put it all back on again and then some! It just means that those who do stay slim, remain so by being permanently more diligent.
Our very environment often works against us
Society doesn't make it any easier easy for those of us trying to eat healthily and exercise correctly. We get a tremendous amount of pressure to eat for reasons other than nurturing ourselves, and over time, people lose sensitivity to hunger/fullness/appetite signals meant to keep them healthy and well nourished. It's hard for people to come to a healthy sense of themselves given the cultural climate, and nutritious and pleasurable options for healthy food are nowhere near as accessible as the vast arrays of the less nutritious varieties.
However, that doesn't mean this can't be overcome, but it does require perhaps putting other parts of your food intake on a 'diet'. Television is one of the biggest sinners, since many food advertisements, especially for children's junk foods are in our faces far too much. Other areas to put on a 'diet' are chain and fast food restaurants (where portion sizes are distorted) or driving, the reduction of which whenever possible, may help increase walking and biking.
Perhaps you don't need to lose weight
Quite a few people feel that the medical problems associated with excess weight are exaggerated. Science writer Gina Kolata questions the concept that thin is a realistic or necessary objective for most folk. In her book, 'Rethinking Thin', she asserts that weight loss is an unachievable goal for many, and that losing weight isn't so much about health as it is about money, fashion, and impossible ideals. Recent research actually challenges the idea that being overweight is 'bad'. One Canadian study actually found that being twenty-five pounds overweight did not dramatically increase the participants risk of heart disease and cancer, and may even help stave off infections. Granted it's only one study, but it certainly keeps the think tank buzzing!
It's true that people can be fit and healthy and not necessarily be thin, just as it's equally true that thin people may not necessarily be healthy either. Good health, rather than weight, should be our aim, but all too often it's not! Striving for unhealthy level of thinness is seriously detrimental to our health and understanding the dramatically negative implications of obesity is instrumental in helping to comprehend why striving for balance is so important.
Remember, this is not a diet; this is your life
The slimming industry would have us all unquestioningly believe that we can lose weight fast, and that's that! But the vast majority of those who do competently maintain their weight, understand that sensible eating and sensible exercise are not temporary conditions, to be dispensed with once a pair of jeans fit. They are lifestyle choices, made precisely for that duration - life.
By: Alan Gordon MSc. Biomechanics & Applied Human Movement. BSc. (Hons 1st) Sports Nutrition.
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