Obesity is mainly caused by consumption of calories beyond the metabolic needs of the body. Being overweight or obese is an invitation to many diseases. Therefore, one should always strive to maintain the correct or healthy body weight at all ages. However, this is easier said than done. The energy requirement of our body, metabolic rate, and amount of physical activity change as we age.
Therefore, our daily calorie intake also needs to change with age so that a healthy balance is maintained between calorie consumption and calorie utilization. This requires regular monitoring of body weight, diet, physical activity levels and amount of calories consumed on a daily basis. One may feel overwhelmed by all the things that one needs to monitor in order to maintain a healthy body weight. This has resulted in the emergence of many quick weight loss programs that are based on myths or fads.
Read more on obesity.
Myths about Weight Loss
Weight loss programs based on myths and fads do more harm than good. Some may even make one lose weight in a short time. But these results are usually short-lived and the additional pounds eventually return. Some of these myths and fads result in extreme weight loss practices that can harm the body. The aim of a weight loss program is not just to lose weight but to also keep additional weight off in the future.
One should always consult registered healthcare professionals (registered doctors, nutritionists, dieticians and physical trainers) before embarking on a weight loss program. This is especially true before trying out any “new” weight loss programs that claim “unbelievable” results in a short time. A proper weight loss program typically requires changes in lifestyle and diet that need to be adhered to in the long run.
Carbohydrates are bad
Carbohydrates are the main source of calories in our diet. Therefore, foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates are considered fattening and bad for health. However, this is an erroneous notion. Carbohydrates supply the majority of energy we get from our daily diet. They constitute a major portion of the daily diets of humans across the globe. Fats and proteins provide a smaller fraction of energy for day-to-day activities. In an ideal case, around 65% of the body’s calorie needs should come from carbohydrates.
Therefore, one should not stop eating carbohydrates for weight loss. It is also important to understand that not all carbohydrates are equally fattening. Some carbohydrates lead to a rapid rise in blood glucose level, whereas others raise blood glucose level slowly and in moderate amounts. The carbohydrates that cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels are said to have a high glycemic index. Such a rapid rise in blood glucose levels stimulates storage of excess calories as fats.
Carbohydrates with high glycemic index should be avoided when undergoing a weight loss program. On the other hand, carbohydrates with moderate or low glycemic index increase blood glucose levels gradually. This allows the glucose to be utilized by the body before it can be stored as fat. Such carbohydrates should constitute a major part of our daily diet.
Starving is the best way to lose weight quickly
Weight gain and weight loss are primarily determined by the ratio of calories consumed to the body’s calorie requirement. Weight gain occurs when a person consumes calories in excess of the body’s daily calorie requirements. Weight loss occurs when calorie intake is insufficient to meet daily calorie requirements of the body. Therefore, it seems logical that starving can be the best way to lose weight.
However, starvation programs seem to have a high rate of rebound weight gain after a person returns to the consumption of normal diet. This is because starvation alters the body’s hormonal levels in a way that favors storage of precious calories in the form of fat. Only a minimal amount of calorie consumption occurs during starvation in order to maintain critical life processes.
A moderate amount of weight loss does occur in the short term. However, after returning to a normal daily diet, the body continues to store a high proportion of calories in the form of fat. This leads to a rebound weight gain, which defeats the purpose of the weight loss program. Moreover, starvation also starves the body of energy. This makes it difficult for a person to engage in demanding physical activities and exercises that can result in healthy weight loss.
Counting calories is not possible
Counting calories can seem to be a complex activity in the early stages of a weight loss program. However, it is an important metric to keep track of in any weight loss program. Failure to do so may lead to erroneous estimates of daily calorie consumption that can prevent weight loss. The average normal calorie requirement for adult males and females is around 2500 calories and 2000 calories, respectively.
By keeping track of the calories we ingest through various food items daily, we can keep track of our calorie intake with respect to the daily calorie requirement. With time, counting calories becomes easier and allows one to make healthy dietary choices in the long term.
Eating fewer meals can help reduce weight
It might seem perfectly logical to reduce the number of daily meals in order to reduce daily calorie intake. However, reduction in the number of meals is typically associated by increased calorie consumption with each meal. The body then stores the excess calories that one consumes during each meal. It is far better to have more but smaller meals throughout the day than to have a few large meals every day.
For example, most of us are accustomed to having three large meals every day in the form of breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, eating five small meals per day (at an interval of 3 hours) can provide a sustained source of calories that would be utilized instead of being stored by the body.
Read more about hunger after eating.
Exercise is not mandatory
This is one of the dangerous myths that can prevent a person from achieving a healthy lifestyle in addition to maintenance of normal body weight. Even though weight loss can occur without exercise (by reducing calorie intake), it is difficult to do so.
Furthermore, exercise not only burns calories but also strengthens the muscular and circulatory systems of the body. Since muscles possess high metabolic activity, increased muscle mass due to exercise aids excess calorie consumption even at rest. Therefore, it is best to use both calorie reduction and exercise to reduce weight in a healthy and sustainable way.
Alcohol is non-fattening: Alcoholic beverages are high in calories. Moreover, the body is able to extract more calories from alcohol. Therefore, alcoholic drinks should be avoided if weight loss is the intention. If one has a particular liking to alcoholic drinks, then one may try to moderate alcohol consumption to an odd drink or two in a week. But alcohol consumption can reduce the restraint that prevents us from consuming more food.
Increased water intake is sufficient for weight loss: Since water does not contain any calories, one may think that reducing food intake by increasing water intake might help in weight reduction. But water does not provide nutrition to the body. Therefore, increased water consumption at the cost of food intake may force the body to undergo changes similar to that in starvation.