Obesity has become a serious health problem today. According to statistics in 2017, about 36% of American adults are obese. Globally, the ratio is more than 1 in 10 people (1). What’s more alarming is that kids are starting to gain too much weight too! The incidence of childhood obesity has more than doubled among kids aged 2-5 and nearly tripled among youths and adolescents (2).
People who are overweight or obese, are more likely to develop serious health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer, regardless of the presence or absence of other risk factors (3). This explains why most people would want and try to lose weight very quickly.
But losing weight is never easy. It requires commitment and the use of correct strategies. How can you lose weight healthily? In this article, we’ll look at the process and the benefits of losing weight as well as some tips to help get you on the road to better health.
How Does Weight Loss Occur?
As soon as you start burning more calories than what you are eating or consuming less than the number of calories you burn, you’ll start noticing the difference in your scale. By simply increasing your energy expenditure in reference to intake, you can start your weight loss program immediately (4). If you happened to take the opposite route by eating more than what you are burning daily, weight gain is sure to happen.
This sounds fairly easy, right? If it is that simple, why is it hard to lose weight? There are numerous factors involved in determining one’s body weight. The idea of negative calorie intake is just a way to get your body started. It is a general idea, but not the whole truth.
What Are The Factors That May Affect Body Weight?
As mentioned earlier, different factors may affect one’s body weight. Unfortunately, people have no control over a few of these factors, including genetics, developmental determinants, age, and gender. Others are controllable though. These include physical activities, social factors, environmental factors, and of course, diet (5).
Men have a less fat-to-muscle ratio as compared to women. This factor is a significant determinant of one’s ability to lose weight. Women have a 5-10% lower resting metabolic rate as compared to men of the same height (6). Women, when at rest, generally burn about 10% fewer calories, thus men are believed to lose weight faster than women.
Our body composition is greatly affected by aging. Our fat mass increases and our muscle mass decreases as we age. Lower RMR results from this particular change and several other factors, including the decline in caloric needs of major organs (7). People over 70 years of age have 20 to 25% lower RMR compared to younger individuals. This will make it more difficult to lose weight as you age.
Not getting enough rest is a commonly overlooked factor in why someone is not losing as much weight as expected, despite all the dieting efforts. Evidence shows that sleeping for only 5.5 hours every night for two weeks will cause you to lose just 60% of lean body mass and 55 % less body fat as compared to those who had a restful sleep of 8.5 hours a night (8).
- Drugs. Antipsychotics, insulin, steroid hormones, and other drugs for epilepsy are associated with weight gain. Some cause water retention while others put on additional fat due to their mechanisms of action (9).
- Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can also hinder weight loss. Depression can cause excessive weight loss for some, but for others, it can go the other way. Hypothyroidism can slow down weight loss and cause weight gain.
- Genetics. Genetic components are associated with weight loss as they an effect on diet. Many studies agree that some human genome variants can play a role in how the body regulates weight gain. Others have proven interactions between dietary factors and genetics in cases of obesity, and weight loss, including its maintenance (10).
Why Is Weight Loss Healthy?
Aside from reducing your risks for obesity, there are several other great health reasons why you should lose weight.
1. Reduces Risk of High Blood Pressure and Stroke
Controlling your weight can help reduce high blood pressure and stroke risks. Extra pounds strain the circulatory system and may cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Losing at least 10% of your current weight can help decrease your blood pressure and stroke risk (11, 12).
2. Reverses Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is also a severe health condition that causes elevated blood glucose levels. There is a link between type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence showed that almost half of the people who were given a strict weight loss diet for 3-5 months, which consists of milkshakes and soups, with a max of 853 calories a day, had normal blood glucose level after a year as compared to just 4% in the control group who had the traditional diabetes care and medications. Experts think that the reduction of fat inside their liver and the pancreas caused their organs to return to normal function (13).
3. Controls Asthma and Allergy Symptoms
Weight loss and allergies are also related to excess weight may decrease respiratory function, which exacerbates asthma symptoms (14). It also negatively affects the adrenal glands, which take part in controlling asthma and allergies.
4. Relieves Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Weight loss and arthritis also have a strong connection that is tied to inflammation in the body. Did you know that a weight loss of as low as 10% can help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis (15)? Newer evidence showed that overweight and obese patients, aged 55 and above, who lost 20% or more of their body had fewer episodes of pain and inflammation. This has allowed them to walk farther in a 6-minute test as compared to others (15).
5. Boosts Memory
Mental weight-loss benefits can go further, boosting memory. Evidence suggests that obesity-related problems in memory function are reversible with weight loss. Brain-activity has increased in regions that are very important for matching faces or identification (16).
Another study concluded that regular aerobic exercise could help boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in learning and verbal memory (17).
6. Improves Sleep
The prospect of getting a good night’s sleep is a strong weight-loss motivator. Studies showed that overweight and obese patients who mostly complain of sleep apnea and insomnia had improved sleep quality after weight loss (18, 19).
7. Changes Mood Positively
People who are overweight normally have imbalances, which includes the hormones that affect mood. As a result, losing weight can change your overall well-being positively and decrease the risk of depression (20).
Things You Should Avoid to Lose Weight Healthily
Needless to say, smoking is bad for your health. With health implications ranging from an increased risk for heart disease and lung cancer, we don’t see any reason why smoking should be considered as a viable option for weight loss. It’s hard to say exactly how smoking can fend off weight gain, but others say it works by suppressing their appetite.
If appetite suppression is what you want, there are far healthier options you can try to achieve the same result. When you get hungry, grab some carrots and hummus for snacks!
You surely have heard the stories of famous runway models and celebrities using this technique to lose weight. Most of us are aware that this is dangerous, yet eating disorders like bulimia remains to be a common health problem in western countries, especially among young females.
Purging can cause several major medical complications (21), including dehydration and weakness, hair loss, slowing of heart rate, and kidney failure. It can also affect teeth due to erosion caused by constant vomiting and cause decay and cavities. In severe cases, death may occur as a result of organ damage.
The best way to fight purging and other eating disorders is to create a meal plan filled with healthy foods that can satisfy your taste buds. It is also important to know that anorexia and bulimia are both physical and mental health disorders, so feeling good about what you are eating is important in providing comfort and relief.
3. Supplementing with DNP and Ephedra
Evidence showed that the use of DNP as a weight-loss supplement is extremely dangerous (22). More than 60 deaths were accounted for the use of this drug. While it has been labeled as not fit for human consumption in the UK, many are still purchasing this agent over shady trading sites online because of appetite suppressing effect.
Ephedrine came from Ma-huang roots and has been used for centuries around the world for asthma and its symptoms. It works as a CNS stimulant that is believed to increase BMR. It was officially banned in 2004 by the US government because of its high potential for abuse.
Look for alternatives! Other weight loss supplements have proven to be effective and safe. You just have to remember that any use of these agents with no long-term healthy meal plan is useless. You have to understand that quality results don’t happen overnight. Eating healthy and exercising are always the smartest manners to lose weight.
4. Following Strict Protein Diet
We get nutrition from eating a variety of food groups. However, some dieting fads encourage people to cut out on some foods while increasing the intake of others. Followers of a strict protein diet may lack fiber intake, experience constipation, and suffer from decreased liver function, in severe cases (23). Other high-protein rich foods can likewise put people at greater risk of heart diseases like red meat and full-dairy products.
It is highly recommended that you include steamed complex carbohydrates like kale and broccoli in your diet. These are best paired with small portions of whole grains like quinoa or brown rice.
5. Trying Tapeworm Diet
Have you ever heard of the use of parasites for weight loss? Though not commonly used, some dieters ingest microorganisms and grow them in their intestinal walls to absorb most of the nutrients that they get from food. Aside from being disgusting, this may cause vitamin deficiencies. There’s no better way to do this! Just don’t!
6. Using Laxatives
This is yet another popular trend seen among patients who are diagnosed with eating disorders. Repeated use of laxatives delivers food and calories fast enough through the gut before nutrients are absorbed, and this may cause some serious complications. Abuse will also disturb the body’s mineral balance, depleting important electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are essential for proper cell functioning. This may cause severe dehydration, which may damage vital organs.
It is highly suggested that you eat healthy fibers and complex carbs. Rather than depleting your body of essential minerals, a nutrient-packed diet will assist both digestion and cell functioning.
7. Drinking Narcotics
For sure, you have heard of famous celebrities suffer from substance abuse problems. It is all over the news! Whether explicitly stated or implied, the use of coke and other stimulants are associated with fending off hunger pangs and staying thin and skinny. Of course, the use of drugs to lose weight and prevent hunger is a terrible choice. The active ingredients of cocaine and methamphetamine work similarly to nicotine. It may help suppress hunger and appetite for extended hours or even days. But, starvation is dangerous for the body. Its long-term effects can be severe.
Always remember that real and long-lasting results can only be obtained through proper dieting, smart exercises, and enough rest and sleep.
8. Starving Yourself
Surprisingly, not all people are aware that eating consistently is the key to a healthy metabolism. Of course, we are talking about healthy foods. However, the method of starving yourself is perhaps the most counterintuitive way to keep off weight long-term.
Starving yourself will not just affect your metabolism; it will also make you lose the wrong type of weight. Instead of shedding off internal body fat, you will lose water weight and muscle mass. And the fact that your metabolism is slowed down during starvation, you will not burn as many calories.
A better alternative would be to eat smaller portion sizes of healthy food consistently throughout the day.
9. Performing Too Much Exercise
While we have discussed the importance of exercise for weight loss, compulsive workouts add extreme stress on the body. This approach often goes hand-in-hand with self-starvation and purging. You will be at greater risk for injury, insomnia, and low immune system, causing you to become sick easily.
Try establishing a daily routine of short, high-intensity cardio, combined with resistance training and healthy meal plans. While exercise is important to lose weight, overdoing it can be dangerous to your health and must be avoided completely.
10. Working Out On An Empty Stomach
You might have also heard that working out when you are hungry prompts your body to burn more fat. This isn’t true! Experts have concluded that when you hit the gym without fueling up, you are more likely to end up losing more muscle than fat (24).
11. Adding Coconut Oil to Just About Everything
Some evidence suggests that the fatty acids present in coconut oil can give your metabolism a good boost. However, there is no evidence showing that it can actually help with weight loss. Also, similar to other fats, a tablespoon of coconut oil has 120 calories, so it is quite easy to overdo it.
You may enjoy it if you like its flavor, but do it in moderation!
12. Cutting Out Carbs Drastically
Refined carbs like sugar, white pasta, white bread, and desserts can increase your blood sugar levels, causing weight gain. However, fiber-rich complex carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes can actually help you shed off excess pounds. Instead of helping you reach your weight loss goals faster, skimping on these slimming foods will more likely deplete your energy levels, making you hungry and more apt to skip your workout.
Be mindful of which types of carbs you eat. Lessen refined carbs without cutting them out completely!
Choosing a healthy diet that will work for your lifestyle is the best thing you can do to lose weight. Use common sense and listen to your body. Be mindful of what you eat and pass on risky weight loss techniques or products that are not proven safe and effective. Ask for professional help if you are concerned that your weight loss strategies my border on unhealthy or extreme.