Society’s obsession with weight loss is unhealthy, but by the same token there are many people who could be far healthier if they changed their diet and exercise habits. We know that obesity takes a hefty toll on the body and mind and that a healthy weight sets the stage for bones, muscles, the brain, heart, and other body parts to function smoothly in the years ahead.
Excess weight, especially obesity, diminishes almost every aspect of health, from reproductive and respiratory function to memory and mood. It increases the risk of many debilitating diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Obesity, quite simply, decreases your quality and length of life. But the good news is, taking just 5 to 10% percent of body weight off can bring meaningful health benefits. Even if you never reach your “ideal weight”, the loss of a few kilos can make a big difference to the way you look and feel.
Weight loss is important for your health, but it pays to approach it in the right way.
If your quest to lose weight is about better self esteem you should try:
1. Letting go of toxic relationships and thoughts
One of the best ways to instantly improve your self esteem and body image is to surround yourself with people who love you and not your waist size. Real friends and family would never reduce your worthiness as a result of your weight, so filter your friends and be with people who make you feel good about yourself. You should also try tossing those fashion magazines that hurt when you look at them.
2. Hide away the scale
In today’s world it’s normal to have a scale in your bathroom, but according to some psychologists, many people have an unhealthy relationship with their scale. Your body’s biggest component is water (around 60%) and in any given day, your weight can fluctuate by several kilograms. With this in mind, the scale isn’t always accurate and weight fluctuations can give false readings that drive you into panic mode.
3. Stop engaging in fat talk
Everybody talks about “being too fat” or not looking “good enough” once in awhile, but for many it’s morphed into socially acceptable chatter. This constant talk raises comparisons and causes you to feel betrayed by your body. It’s really important to pay attention to how you talk about weight, especially in front of children. Many people with weight insecurities grew up with parents or other role models that seemed to be on a permanent diet or ended mealtimes with words such as, “I better only eat a carrot stick tomorrow after that big feed”. These sentences may appear innocent but they breed bad habits that demonise food. Food isn’t something to be scared of - it’s crucial for your health. Be a good role model by choosing good food instead of fearing it and stop making it out to be the enemy.
If your weight loss goal is about being healthier, you should try:
Diet and exercise
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and combining it with physical activity is the best approach to staying healthy and managing your risk of disease. To maintain a stable weight you must consume equal energy (kilojoules) as you use each day, so if the goal is to lose weight, you need to consume less kilojoules than you use, or burn more kilojoules than you consume.
Your body uses fuel for energy, storing excess energy as fat. This means that if you eat more than your body needs for its daily activities and cell maintenance, you’ll gain weight.
This is why reducing your calorie intake while increasing your levels of activity is the perfect recipe.
Calories in, calories out
The idea that weight loss is about consuming less energy than you burn means that the simple equation of calories in versus calories out should make a simple job of weight loss. So why then is weight loss so hard?
There are a number of reasons why people find losing weight a challenge using this format:
- Weight loss isn’t linear and despite eating a reduced number of calories, after a few weeks you may still not have lost any weight. This is because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, which changes the way your body manages food. In order to successfully lose weight, you must continue to drop calorie intake each week while gradually increasing your level of activity.
- A calorie isn’t always a calorie. Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup will have a different effect on your body than eating 100 calories of kale. Judging diet solely on calorie numbers instead of finding low calorie foods that keep you feeling full is a recipe for disaster.
- Lowering your food intake is a form of deprivation, and as with any deprivation, there comes a time when you just have to let loose. Everyone needs a break from counting calories, but that comfort slab of cheesecake once a week can be your undoing.
- Onus needs to be put on both elements for weight loss, and concentrating on just calories in or only calories out won’t give you the result you want. Each is equally important, so don’t prioritise one over the other. Remember, it’s diet AND exercise.
- Portion size is a major contributor to weight gain, even when only consuming “healthy” foods. Many people think that swapping a burger for a salad is enough to spur weight loss, but if that salad is too big, the effect is still the same. Just because something is deemed the “healthier option”, doesn’t mean you can eat endless amounts.
Losing weight fast
Many people who need to lose weight try ‘crash dieting’, a diet plan that entails foregoing one’s usual regimen to make way for a diet with a substantially smaller allowance of nutriment. Essentially, it’s a way of losing weight quickly by eating very little.
Crash diets may produce instant results for a day or two, but they do not work for long-term weight loss. The body responds to this semi-starvation technique by lowering its metabolic rate, which means you’re actually slowing down your ability to lose weight. Yes you may lose fat, but you also lose muscle. Muscle burns calories, but fat doesn’t. As soon as you start eating normally again, your body will burn even fewer calories than before because the relative amount of muscle in your body has decreased and your metabolic rate is slower.
In other words, people who crash diet by missing out food or greatly cutting down on their daily calories tend to put weight back on quicker than those who follow a healthy, long-term diet plan.
Instead you can try to speed up weight loss using these tried and tested techniques.
- Drink water
Drinking water throughout the day and during your meals promotes proper digestion so you won’t get backed up and bloated. But some researchers suggest drinking two glasses of water just before a meal, as it will give you a full feeling and cause you to eat less.
- Eat breakfast
When you skip breakfast, your body is tricked into thinking it’s being starved and will start conserving energy by slowing down your metabolism and increasing your insulin response. The next thing you eat will cause a spike in blood sugar, leaving you hungry almost immediately.
- Ditch liquid sugar
Removing liquid sugar from your diet is one of the easiest ways to reduce your calorie intake without giving up the foods you love. Water might not quench your thirst in the same way as a can of coke or iced tea will, but if it means you can be a bit more relaxed with your food, it’s worth giving up.
- Have dessert
Ending your meal with something sweet will leave you feeling satisfied, but sweet doesn’t have to mean chocolate cake. Plenty of fruits can satisfy a sweet tooth, as can no-fat yoghurt or an all-fruit popsicle.
Control emotional eating
Eating isn’t always about satisfying hunger and quite often it’s a tool we use to destress, fuel our energy, or bring a touch of comfort. Recognising your emotional eating triggers can make a big difference to your weight loss efforts. If you eat when you are:
- Bored - find a different activity to keep you occupied, one that will take your mind off eating. Call a friend, rearrange the tupperware draw, run the vacuum over the house or take the dog for a walk.
- Stressed - find healthier ways to calm yourself. Practice yoga or meditation, take a soak in a hot bath or get a massage.
- Low on energy - find other mid-afternoon pick-me-ups such as a walk around the block, a quick jog, a ten-minute shut-eye or some lively, heart-pumping music.
One of the main reasons why people struggle with diet is time. We live fast-paced lives and that means constant snacking instead of several proper and well thought-out meals throughout the day. While this isn’t ideal, it is reality, so it pays to have some quick healthy snack ideas up your sleeve. KFC and McDonalds aren’t your only “fast food” options, so keep a list of healthy snack ideas on you for time-pressed days. Ideas to add to your list include:
- Mixed nuts
- A piece of fruit
- Vegetable sticks with guacamole, cream cheese or hummus
- Hard boiled eggs
- Greek yoghurt with mixed berries and muesli
- Apple slices with peanut butter or shaved parmesan
- Cottage cheese with flax seeds and cinnamon
- Kale chips
- Corn thins with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
- Tuna jacket potato
- Chia seed pudding
- Whey protein shake
- Pear or pineapple slices with ricotta cheese
- Turkey salad wrap
- Air popped popcorn
- Crackers with smoked salmon and hummus
- Sweet potato with cottage cheese and cinnamon.
Keeping the weight off
Keeping the weight off means taking general weight loss rules and making them part of everyday life. Once the excess weight is off it’s all about maintenance and that means:
- Eating a healthy breakfast EVERY morning
- Choosing foods that nourish your body (ie avoiding refined, processed food)
- Always having fresh fruit and vegetable in your fridge
- Replacing sweetened drinks with unsweetened beverages
- Cutting down on refined carbohydrates
- Eating food from the five healthy food groups
- Paying attention to portion size
- Removing tempting foods from the house
- Enlisting family members to eat healthy with you
- Quieting your inner critic by talking positively to yourself.
The trick to weight loss is to understand what healthy weight is and the best way to achieve it. Ignore the thousands of quick weight loss tips out there and simply make smart choices. Playing around with ‘high protein, low carb’ diets, herbal weight loss remedies and diet pills, and avoiding important food groups out of fear they’ll make you fat, are all confusing ways to approach healthy living.
The simple fact is that controlled portions of healthy foods, combined with regular physical activity, works. It’s tried and tested, scientifically backed, and the best way to not only lose weight, but keep it off long-term.
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