Weight Loss is something that many people attempt at some point in their lives. There are many reasons why people feel the need to lose weight. The most common, and arguably the most valid reason is to improve the general health. This might be because the person is already experiencing health problems due to being overweight, or it may be a preventative measure, aiming to protect future health.
Why Is Weight Loss Important?
It is well known that being overweight is a major risk factor for many different illnesses, diseases, and health difficulties. Weight plays a huge role in the risk of an individual for major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Losing weight can reduce fat around the organs, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, all of which help reduce the risk for serious health issues.
Another major reason for losing weight is to feel better about how our bodies look. The media is full of beautiful bodies, usually slim, toned, and fit. The pressure to look a certain way leads many people to try to shift some pounds in order to match up to society’s idea of beauty. Being able to fit into a smaller size of jeans, looking good in swimwear on the beach or slimming down for a big event such as a wedding, are all motivating factors that encourage weight loss.
The Obesity Epidemic
It is not just adults who struggle with weight issues. Evidence suggests that obesity in children is at an all-time high. The World Obesity Federation states,
“Childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century, affecting every country in the world. In just 40 years the number of school-age children and adolescents with obesity has risen more than 10-fold, from 11 million to 124 million (2016 estimates)”.
Teaching children from a young age about the importance of making good food choices and encouraging a healthy active lifestyle is crucial to fighting back against these statistics. On a wider level, governments across the world are legislating to try and make a difference to their populations’ caloric intake. Many have implemented ‘taxes’ on sugar and fat, increased investment in healthcare and broader education programs to help people understand the risks of obesity and embrace healthier lifestyles.
Weight Loss Methods
There are many ways of losing weight; there are weight-loss groups, diet plans and a whole industry has built up around supplements and meal replacement products. Most diet plans will work for a while, but the key challenge is finding a way to lose weight that is sustainable so that the weight you lose doesn’t creep back over time. Drastic diets can be successful in the short term, but they are very difficult to sustain and typically the weight will return. Slower and steadier diets that involve lifestyle changes that are tailored to the individual are more likely to succeed. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) states,
“It’s natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly. But people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a “diet” or “program”. It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits.”
Essentially, the body loses weight when the energy (measured in calories) expended (or used up) is more than the energy taken in (via the foods we eat). We can take in fewer calories by changing the types of food we eat, and the amount of food we eat. We can expend more calories by moving more, through exercise or a more active lifestyle. This makes weight loss sound pretty simple, and yet it can be very difficult, especially as we typically live busy lives and we are surrounded by easy convenient foods that are usually high in calories.
Healthier foods, for example, natural, unprocessed food like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, are less calorie-dense than foods laden with sugar and fat, and so most weight loss plans are focused on these types of foods.
The Psychology of Weight Loss
One of the key things about weight loss that it is important for any dieter to understand, is the role that psychology plays in your relationship with food and how this plays into your eating habits. It is not just about reducing the amount of food you eat, swapping unhealthy meals for healthy ones, or even embarking on a strict exercise regime. It is also about identifying the reasons why you became overweight or have gained weight in the first place. Eating certain foods has a similar effect on the brain as any addictive behavior; it releases a flood of feel-good chemicals that activate the reward center of the brain. Because it feels so good, we want to repeat the experience. This is at the root of why many of us are emotional eaters. Emotional eating is when we eat to help us cope with stress or feelings of sadness. For those who tend to comfort eat or ‘eat their feelings’, it is important to identify the triggers that make food so appealing during difficult times. Exercise also creates a flood of feel-good endorphins, and so replacing comfort eating with exercise has helped many emotional eaters to manage their weight.
Busy modern lifestyles are the enemy of maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy meals are generally less convenient; most restaurants and cafes offer foods that are tempting and convenient, but not necessarily healthy. Cooking at home requires time that many of us simply do not have due to the demands of work and family life. However, investing time in cooking and eating well is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
The weight loss journey may not be an easy one, but for those who are overweight or threatened with health problems, the benefits are always worth it.
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