Whether it’s to slim down a bit and fit in last year’s jeans or lose weight because your physician told you to, this article will serve as a guide to achieve your “healthy dream” weight. Notice that healthy is also in the quotation, because being underweight also has its own set of health consequences. Slimming down to a size 8 is not a good idea!!!
This article does not contain “hacks” or “quick fixes” to lose weight (because unfortunately there is none). Instead, it will provide you with science and evidence based information to help you lose fat quicker.
Information is without a doubt the most important weapon in modern day warfare. This is also true of day to day life. Performing a task without knowing how to do it is just an exercise in futility. Like blindfolding yourself and trying to scale a mountain unassisted. Sadly, that’s how most people approach weight loss and that’s why the stubborn fat around your belly is not going away any time soon. So lets get to know our enemy, “FAT” till we are intimate.
What does it mean to be overweight or obese?
“Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”
Being overweight though, is not the same thing as being obese. So there needs to be a an accurate tool to differentiate between those two. And that tool is the BMI. BMI or Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. Based on BMI an individual can be:
- Underweight, if BMI is less than 18.5,
- Normal if BMI is 18.5 to <25,
- Overweight if BMI is 25.0 to <30,
- Obese if your BMI is 30.0 or higher.
As you can surmise from the list above, obese people generally have a higher level of fatness compared to overweight individuals. And generally, that’s what distinguishes the two groups from each other. Additionally, obesity is classified both by the WHO and the CDC as a disease. Losing weight for obese individuals is a matter of life and death.
Note, although your BMI might be used as a guide to lose fat, it is by no means diagnostic of your current health status. To find out your health status visit a health professional. Moreover, BMI measurements vary for children and other special groups such as pregnant women. You can find out your BMI here.
Understanding how we gain fat before trying to lose weight
In order to understand how to lose fat effectively, we need to understand how we gain it.
Our body requires energy (calories) to function. And as humans, we acquire calories through the consumption of food. We need to understand that when we consume excess food, i.e. Calories, our body stores these excess calories for later use. And these excess calories are stored in the form of fat. Conversely, when our body’s energy demand is greater than our calorie intake our body uses local energy stores (fat). Thus, in relation to our body’s energy demand and general calorie intake we can have three outcomes:
- Calorie intake is greater than body energy demand, therefore individual gains weight and is in a hypercaloric state
- Body energy demand is less than calorie intake, therefore individual loses weight and is in a hypocaloric state
- Calorie intake equals body’s energy demand, individual is in a steady state and there is no change in individual’s weight
Genetics and environment are important factors that determine if an individual gains fat or not. We all know a person who can lose weight quickly or doesn’t put on extra kilos regardless of the food he/she eats. This down to genetics. Our genetics determine the body’s energy metabolism, which translates to our body’s energy demand. Evolutionarily speaking, being able to store more energy was considered advantageous, as we didn’t know when we would “get” the next meal. But in this time of food abundance it is not. An individual blessed with a higher rate of metabolism (demand) loses fat quickly and will struggle to put on weight. In contrast, a person with a lower rate struggles to lose fat and can gain weight rapidly.
In conclusion, if you want to lose the weight, then you your body should stay in a prolonged hypocaloric state
Our environment determines whether we lose weight or gain it
Our environment is just as important as our genetics. We all know that there is no such thing as a “400 pound baby”. We are not born obese nor do we become overweight overnight. Small daily decisions, such as whether or not to exercise or choosing to snack on those “tasty donuts” add up, and the result is fat gain. If Mr. X has a genetically slower rate of metabolism and lives an athletic lifestyle he there is no reason as to why he won’t be fit and healthy. Contrast this to Mr. Y who has superior genetics, but has always lived a sedentary lifestyle and followed a bad diet. Mr. Y is most likely overweight and unfit. But Mr. Y can potentially lose weight quite quickly were he to adapt a healthy lifestyle on the account of his good genetics.
Our genetics load the gun, but it’s the environment that fires it
What Makes Junk Food so Irresistible?
After spending hundreds of thousands of years hunting and foraging for food in the wild, the human brain has evolved to place a high value on salt, sugar, and fat. Such foods are often calorie-dense and they were quite rare when our ancient ancestors were roaming the wilderness. When you don’t know when your next meal is coming, eating as much as possible is an excellent strategy. Today, however, we live in a calorie-rich environment. Food is abundant, but your brain continues to crave it like it is scarce. Placing a high value on salt, sugar, and fat is no longer advantageous to our health, but we still continue to crave them because our brain’s craving and reward regions have not changed significantly for approximately fifty thousand years. In essence, we face this modern day temptation with a 50,000 year old brain.
The modern food industry is fully aware of this and relies on stretching our primal instincts beyond their evolutionary purpose to drive sales. By creating products that are more attractive to consumers and with every food in a bag, box or jar enhanced in some manner, they drive our brain’s craving center into a frenzy. Thus making junk food so irresistible
Why You Should Consider Shedding a few Kilos
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for most of the major chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Obesity affects all aspects of a person’s life, including the person’s social interactions, quality of sleep and even fertility. Obesity is a complex disease and should be treated as such and should not be normalized.