The Basics of Losing Weight…A Three Step Approach.
In the world we live in today, there are so many different ways to lose weight. We see and hear about them all the time, everywhere- on our TVs, in our cars, in our workplaces, at our schools… and the list goes on and on.
But let’s face it. This is not how people used to lose weight 50 years ago. Heck, the weight loss smoothies, pills and contraptions we have now may not even have been invented yet. In fact, losing weight back then was not as luxurious as it is now, in the sense that we are privileged to have help that makes the weight loss process much easier.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that getting a little help is a problem or that you should not seek alternative ways to give you a little boost. Even I need a boost sometimes. They are really useful and get eliminate a lot of the struggle of weight loss.
What I am saying is that, the way people lost weight in the past and the way we lose weight now are completely different. Generally, we have built upon the basics of weight loss that were utilised by those before us. In making weight loss simpler, we have made it more complex with more components.
However, that is not what this post is about. So then, what are the basics of weight loss that were common and used before? It is essentially a simple three step approach- decreasing intake, increasing activity and changing behaviour/ attitude.
Before we begin to talk about “decreasing intake”, let’s talk calories and pounds.
Calories are the basic unit of energy and it is from the calories in food that our bodies get our energy. We need this energy to do work- to carry out our daily activities and even, to breathe.
If we consume more energy than our bodies need, we will gain weight as the body stores this excess energy as fat. In the same way, if we consume less energy than our bodies need, we will lose weight as the body will use eventually use these fat reserves.
It is a well known fact that 1 pound of body fat provides 35oo calories. Therefore, to gain one pound of fat, you would need to consume 3500 more calories than your body needs. To lose one pound of fat, you would need to consume 3500 less calories than your body needs. If you were to either gain or lose one pound in one week, you would need to consume 3500 calories more or 3500 calories less in that week or 500 calories more or less each day.
As said, to lose weight, we need to consume less calories than our bodies need. It therefore means that we would need to eat less food or change the composition of the foods we eat.
Many people take “decreasing intake” to mean to take drastic measures in reducing their food consumption. However, this usually means that we compromise our body in terms of getting the nutrients we need. In order to lose weight safely and healthily, our diets must be low in calories but we also need to ensure that we are giving our bodies the nutrients it needs.
A nutrient-dense diet therefore becomes important. The foods we consume must be high in vitamins and minerals as well a provide us with fewer calories. For example, a salad with various fruits and vegetables and some sort of protein is more nutrient-dense than a cheeseburger and fries.
Because everyone is different and we require different things, you should also take into consideration any medical or physical conditions that require a specific diet.In cases like these, it is paramount that you consult your doctor before going on any weight loss regime.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself when you are choosing a healthy diet pattern- particularly one that can be followed for life.
- Does it meet all your nutrient needs?
- Does it meet your particular health needs?
- Are you able to make healthy eating choices?
- Does it take into consideration your eating habits and preferences?
- Is it flexible? Can you stick with it in different settings and occasions?
The other part to losing weight deals with energy expenditure. The body needs energy to do work. Therefore, to increase the amount of energy we use, we should increase the amount of work or activity that our body does. And if we do this, whether we change our eating habits or not, we should lose weight as fat stores will be used to supply this energy.
However, you should not think that increasing activity only raises your chances of weight loss. Exercise has other benefits to the body (some of which deal with weight loss, as funny as it is). It promotes muscle development, which uses more calories than fat does, aiding weight loss. This muscle development also ensures that, as you lose weight, a drop in your metabolic rate does not occur. Exercise also improves your overall fitness and can have the effect of stress and anxiety relief.
While weight can be lost through a decrease in intake, it is better maintained when exercise or physical activity is added.
Changing Behaviour/ Attitude
For me, changing my behaviour and attitude towards weight loss has been the greatest determinant of the success of my weight loss and also the most challenging.
The first two steps -decreasing intake and increasing activity- require a change in behaviour and attitude.
This involves identifying old patterns of eating as well as exercising that led to or can potentially lead to weight gain and replace them with new ones that would promote or maintain weight loss.
And in order to lose weight and keep it off…to maintain your weight loss…your new behaviour must be made part of your life for the long term. It cannot be a one-off thing.
Don’t get me wrong, changing your behaviour is extremely difficult. I struggle with it everyday but it is necessary. If it is not done, your weight loss journey would be one of constantly losing weight and gaining it back a short while after.