Weight loss - The theory is simple

In theory, controlling your weight is a simple matter of mathematics. If you eat more calories than you burn through exercise and daily living, you will put on weight. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs each day, you will lose weight. And for every 3,500 calories or so either way, you will gain or lose a pound in body weight.

Which means that in theory, if you do 200 calories worth of exercise every day for a week – which equates to around forty-five minutes of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk – and cut your intake by a modest 300 calories every day, you will lose a pound in weight every week.

Unfortunately, theory and real life are two entirely different things.

This article on weight loss is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

The application is hard

In our everyday lives, the best laid plans can falter for a variety of reasons. A busy day at work can disrupt your lunchtime exercise, working late can mean dinner is a high-fat takeaway instead of a healthy homemade meal. Having children in the house also brings a wide range of temptations, from pinching their high-fat snacks to finishing their dinner as you clear the plates.

Add in nights out, celebrations, comfort eating, reward eating, lethargy, tiredness, convenience and a whole raft of other daily factors, and keeping to the simple theory is anything but simple.

So what can you do to avoid these temptations?

What makes it difficult?

To identify the changes you need to make, you have to first sit down and look at where you’re going wrong. You have to be honest with yourself and admit your weaknesses. There will always be a good excuse to not make the right choice, but most of the time it isn’t really good enough.

Your weight is determined by a combination of factors, including genetic, metabolic, behavioural, environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic causes, and each makes it hard to lose weight.

  • Metabolism is a big factor in how easily you can lose weight. While most people will put on a pound for every 3,500 extra calories, heavier people will find it easier to lose a pound than lighter people, because their metabolism is faster. This means that weight loss will get harder the more you lose. Your metabolism also slows down with age, often coinciding with a less active lifestyle, making losing weight doubly difficult.

  • Behavioural factors include reward eating (when you deserve that tub of ice cream) and comfort eating (when the boss has been mean to you and that bar of chocolate makes you feel better), along with other more complex psychological factors. You need to find alternative ways of rewarding and comforting yourself, or in the case of deeper issues, seek the help of a qualified therapist to help you deal with your problems instead of hiding your feelings with food.

  • Environmental factors are the easiest to blame – there are always biscuits at work, the chippy is so convenient when you’re running late – but are also the factors that are most under your control. Simply not having fattening foods in the house will create a less tempting environment, while buying easy-to-prepare, yet healthy meals, will lessen the draw of the fast food outlet.

  • Cultural factors, such as it was someone’s birthday so the cake had to be eaten, or everyone went for a curry so I had no choice, are also convenient excuses for eating the wrong kinds of foods. These peer-pressure moments require a combination of strong will on your part and understanding on the part of your friends and family. If you cannot rely on either of these, it may be better to just say no and stay home.

  • Socio-economic factors are often blamed because people believe that it’s cheaper to eat badly. However, with a little careful shopping it is just as easy to shop healthily on a budget.

How to lose weight and keep it off?

The most important factor in successful weight loss is to make long-term, permanent changes to your lifestyle. You need to look at changes you can make for life, not short-term diets or exercise regimes. Short-term solutions may yield impressive results, but as soon as you go back to your previous lifestyle, original habits kick back in and the weight will soon return.

So instead of expecting to fulfil the equation discussed earlier, of exercising every day and cutting 300 calories a day, you could look at exercising two or three days a week and trimming 1,000 calories from your intake over the course of the week. This will be much easier to achieve and sustain than a more demanding regime, and will still yield results over time.

Go easy on yourself

As we discussed at the start, weight loss may be simple in theory, but is really difficult in practice; so go easy on yourself. Your chances of losing weight and keeping it off are better if you set reasonable, achievable goals that you can incorporate into your daily life.

Remember, you are human and you will fail and be tempted sometimes, but don’t just give up. Allow yourself the occasional slip and then move on to your next day of healthy eating. Six good days out of seven is better than no good days at all.

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