Often times over the course of a life time, most people who have troubles with obesity will find that they can easily lose weight and next thing you know, they have gone off the rails and regained all of their lost weight and then some. This is a true struggle for far too many and there are a few causes of this problem which I am going to address.
While we can certainly acknowledge there are a good many people who have no will power to keep their weight off, I am of the opinion this problem is much deeper than a matter of will power. We can look at the folks who have grown up with food being consumed as comfort, therefore that is their go to when times are bad, but still, there is more to the problem of returning to old ways once a commitment has been made to getting healthy. My premise is there are issues beyond anyone just being weak that should be addressed.
The issue is nutritional and biological knowledge, or rather, the lack there of. Obesity is a multifaceted epidemic, a battle with many fronts with enemies coming from every direction. Some of the enemies are obvious, some not so obvious. Bottom line, is to win a war, you must know your enemies in order to conquer them. Just having a desire to beat these enemies in itself is not enough. You must educate yourself on how to proceed with a healthy weight loss journey because, as with strength training, the biggest cause of failure is not understanding that even though it is not rocket science, most do not understand there are parts of the subject they do not know that they do not know. To put successfully put together a puzzle requires that you have all the pieces.
What happens many times is an individual decides to get their weight off and there are a few common bits of information which are just common sense in order to lose weight so they go at it while not knowing the minutiae of how to get past the many hurdles they will encounter on their journey.
I want to get back to the weight I was back in high school.
The fallacy in this thinking is that a particular weight is going to make you healthy or happy. You need to just get to a healthy percentage of body fat for your frame more than you ever need to obsess over a number on the scale. Food for thought is even if you can get your body fat percentage and percentage of lean muscle mass the exact same as (which year in high school was it?) your bones have not met their peak mass until you are about 30 years old. With the other factors being the same, how much more will your skeleton itself weigh with another 10 to 15 years of development?
Of course we know the real issue is getting back to that size, which is cool, but do not obsess on that scale number.
Obsessing on a number on the scale.
This obsession actually gets unhealthy for some. I say forget that number and pick a healthy body fat percentage where you will look and feel good. Ask yourself how you came to believing you need to hit a certain number on the scale. What difference is 5 pounds either direction of that target going to make? Ease your stress and do not get hung up on a set random number and then freak over a few pounds deviation. Really, no one is going to look at you and notice a difference of 5 pounds. Think of how many pounds it takes you to lose before anyone notices you are even losing in the first place.
Body fat percentage over random scale number.
Think about this. If you think you want to weigh a random number such as 120 pounds. What body fat percentage do you want to have? If you weighed 120 pounds at 28 percent body fat, or 135 pounds with 19 percent body fat as a woman, which body is going to not only look better, which one is going to be healthier? Men, even though the weights and body fat percentages are going to be different for us, the concept is still the same.
Losing weight is just a matter of cutting calories, right?
Short answer is yes, long answer is “Oh hell no” it is not just about cutting calories. Of course when we cut calories we are going to lose weight, but do you understand where all of this body weight is going to come from? From my many interactions with a lot of people on a weight loss journey, I am convinced that a large percentage do not know what is going on within their bodies when they cut calories. This lack of understanding is large part of failing at weight loss and then regaining more than you lost.
- You cut your calories and lost weight quite drastically in the first week or two. Most of this intial weight loss is water weight. Yes, lets say you lost 8 to 10 pounds in your first two weeks of dieting. News flash, you only lost 2 to 4 pounds of body fat in this period. Weight is gained or lost in different body tissues, all dependent on how a person goes about it. Most quick weight loss diet schemes promote a large loss of fluids that create large temporary changes in a persons scale weight with little change in body fat.
- You have cut your calories and now you have hit a plateau and are getting frustrated. Many dieters experience a temporary plateau after about 3 weeks. Not because they are slipping, but because they have gained water weight temporarily while they are still losing body fat. The fat they are hoping to lose must first be turned into energy. To use it, the body must combine it with oxygen to create carbon dioxide and water. These compunds are heavier than the fat they are made from because oxygen has been added to them. The carbon dioxide will be exhaled rather quickly, but the water takes longer to leave the cells. First it makes it’s way into the spaces between the cells, and then it enters the blood stream. Only after the water has arrived in the blood do the kidneys remove it and send it to the bladder for excretion. Meanwhile this water creates a temporary weight gain, but one day the plateau will break. You will know this is happening if you have frequent urination.
- If you cut back drastically the number of calories you consume without exercising for, say, a month or two, you’ll probably lose a great deal of weight each week, in the form of not only fat but also lean muscle. Then, if you later put the weight back on, the regained pounds may be primarily fat, not muscle. Thus, you may weigh the same as you did when you began the diet, but your body is now composed of more fat and less muscle. Because muscle burns more calories just to sustain itself than fat does, your body needs fewer calories to maintain its weight than it did before. If you go back to eating the way you used to, chances are you will gain even more weight.
Adopt a physically active life style.
Physical activity also offers the psychological benefits of looking and feeling healthy, and the increased self-esteem that accompanies these benefits can enhance the motivation to maintain a healthful lifestyle for the long run.
Compared with lean tissue, fat tissue is relatively inactive metabolically. Metabolic activity burns calories, lots of them. Thus, the more lean tissue you develop, the faster your metabolism becomes, the more calories you spend, and the more you can afford to eat. This brings you both pleasure and nutrients. Physical activity, by shifting body composition toward more lean tissue, speeds up the metabolism permanently—that is, for as long as you keep your body conditioned. Furthermore, the more muscle and lean tissue you have, the more fat you will burn—all day long, even when you are resting.
Eat a well balanced diet.
This should be a no brainer, but when a lot of people begin dieting, they not only cut out calories, they also cut out required nutrients which the body requires for healthy living. This is especially true for those who, for any number of reasons, decide to cut out entire food groups. If you decide you are going to drop entire food groups, be sure to ensure that you are still consuming needed nutrients. A scenario where this commonly occurs comes is when a person decides to go Vegan while also not having the knowledge of which vegetables and or fruits will give them all their nutritional needs, such as the 9 essential amino acids most people derive from protein. If you quit eating meat, and dairy products, it is incumbent upon you to find alternative sources of these nutrients or at some point, your health is going to suffer.
Really, all I want to do is spot reduce in my abs…
People sometimes ask about spot reducing. Can you lose fat in particular locations? Unfortunately, muscles don’t “own” the fat that surrounds them. Because all body fat is shared by all the muscles and organs, spot-reducing exercises that work only the flabby parts won’t help reduce the fat located there. The good news is, however, that tightening muscles in trouble spots by way of a balanced, all-over exercise program may improve the appearance of the fatty areas.
How many calories can I burn with exercise?
Keep in mind is that the number of calories spent in an activity depends more on how much a person weighs than on how fast the person can do the exercise. For example, a person who weighs 125 pounds burns off 78 calories by running a 9-minute mile. That same person, walking a mile in 15 minutes, burns almost the same amount: 82 calories. Similarly, a 200-pound person spends 125 calories on the 9-minute mile, and a similar amount—131 calories—on the 15-minute walk. The rule seems to be that you don’t have to work fast to use up calories effectively. If you choose to walk rather than run the distance, you will use up about the same energy; it will just take you longer.
A good suggestion that you may have heard already is to incorporate more physical activity into your daily schedule in many simple, small-scale ways. Park the car at the far end of the parking lot; use the stairs instead of the elevator; do a round of sit-ups before you get up in the morning. If you do these types of things and also incorporate regular aerobic exercise and strength training into your schedule, your heart and lungs as well as your skeletal muscles will be fit
4 Comments Add yours
This is a very useful article. Knowledge is power and there are “tricks of the trade” of weight management. You busted it wide open. Good work!
Great information, David. Weight loss occurs in a physiological complex way. If we understand the processes, (which you have explained so aptly), we’ll be less inclined to give up. Weight loss requires discipline, patience, hardwork and knowledge. Without all these factors, success will be inhabited. Thank you for educating us.
Thank you Frieda. We have a passion with educating others towards being healthier individuals as I know you do as well.