In today’s world, every other person wants to shed some weight. Everyone also knows that to lose weight one needs to tweak one’s diet as well as start some kind of an exercise program. And many people start both, yet often fail to lose significant weight on a permanent basis.
Why do weight loss initiatives fail often?
That is because you just start dieting or exercising (or both) arbitrarily without paying attention to the dynamics of weight loss. For instance, simply because you walked 30 min for 3 or 4 days, or had one chapatti less for 3 or 4 days, you may feel it is time to reward yourself by indulging a bit, especially on snacks. And that one-time indulgence is enough to undo whatever little effort was put in during a week.
Another reason could be drastic dieting by skipping meals often, without realizing that it throws the body into starvation mode. As a result, the body readjusts its metabolic rate to lower levels in a bid to self-preserve. Plus, skipping meals encourages snacking. Perhaps snacks are not even counted as food eaten. And then people complain that they are unable to shed weight despite eating so less food.
How to go about a weight loss program?
To ensure weight loss, one must first understand the dynamics of weight loss. Weight loss will happen if and only if the number of calories consumed is appreciably less than the number of calories expended. Otherwise, all the unused extra calories consumed will be stored in the body as fat.
Best weight loss results are achieved by this two-pronged strategy: reducing the calorie intake through diet control combined with increasing the calorie loss through enhanced physical activity level.
Of course, there are other biological determinants and medical conditions that affect an individual’s ability to gain or lose weight, but the basic arithmetic remains the same: unless you create a calorie deficit between your calorie intake and calorie expenditure, no weight loss will be initiated. This boils down to eating right and eating less, while exercising more and, of course, the right way. Balancing these two is important, without overdoing either of them.
What is your daily calorie requirement?
Every person’s daily calorie requirement is different, depending upon the physical build (height, weight), age, gender, and the daily activity level. People with sedentary lifestyles, such as those on desk jobs, have activity levels much lower than those who are physically active most of the times. So, the calorie requirement of the former class of people is much less than that of the latter.
Similarly, the calorie requirement is higher for a muscular build than for a flabby one because muscles burn more fat even at rest. That is the reason why resistance training must be a part of any exercise regime aimed at fat loss.
Weight loss dynamics
To initiate the weight loss process, it is a must to do some simple calorie calculations. For that you have to first find your daily calorie requirement. This is real simple. All you got to do that is submit your details (height, weight, age, activity level) to one of the online calorie calculators and in an instant you get your daily calorie requirement data. Such calorie calculators are available online.
So, this counter will give a number that represents the number of calories required by your body in order to function properly. Let this number be x.
Next you have to find how many calories you are actually consuming though your requirement is x. This will need some notes to be made of what actually you are eating daily and how much. Then use one of the calorie charts for different foods, for example,
to find the number of calories in foods you consume daily. Add up these calories to know roughly your total daily calorie intake. Let this number be y.
To lose weight, y must be made much less than x (that is, y << x). If y > x, obviously you would gain weight however, much you may exercise. While making a weight loss plan, your aim should be to reduce y and increase x.
In other words, the difference x – y must always be a positive number in order to lose weight. This difference x – y is called the calorie deficit.
Next, the question is how much the daily calorie deficit should be in order to achieve some significantly visible weight loss. Before the answer to that question, one more question needs to be answered. And that is:
How many calories in one kg of body weight?
Since 1 g of pure fat gives roughly 9 calories, 1 kg of excess body weight, i.e., body fat, should correspond roughly to 9000 calories. But actually this is not so because body fat tissue is just about 87% lipids. So, in reality, 1 kg of excess body weight corresponds to about 7830 calories (9000*0.87). In terms of pounds this translates to 3560 calories for 1 lb of excess body weight.
Thus, in order to lose one kg body weight you need to create a calorie deficit of about 7830 calories. This has to be achieved either by decreasing the calorie intake (y) or by increasing the activity level (x) or, ideally, by both.
How to put calorie calculations into practice?
Now that you know that to shed 1 kg excess weight you need to create a calorie deficit of 7830 calories you can chart out a weight loss plan depending upon how much weight you are planning to shed and how fast. Usually, 0.5 to 1 kg loss per week is a realistic and achievable goal.
First identify the nutritionally poor and high-calorie foods that need to be eliminated from your diet using the food calorie charts mentioned above. Next identify the calorie-burning physical activities that you can easily incorporate in your daily routine using any of the following activity calorie charts:
Once you do that, figure out how much daily calorie deficit you can create this way. Compare this with the calories deficit required to lose the desired weight in the desired time.
For example, if you aim to shed 1 kg per week, you must create a calorie deficit of about 7830 calories over a week, which amounts to a daily deficit of roughly 1120 calories achieved through diet control combined with exercise. Tweak your diet plan and exercise plan here and there using the food and activity calorie charts in order to achieve this much calorie deficit.
If you are finding it difficult to create that much calorie deficit, then go slow and steady and aim for half a kg per week weight loss. Just remember not to overdo the dieting and exercising efforts as you would end up damaging your body. Also remember not to let your daily calorie intake to drop below 1200 calorie.
What can ruin your weight loss plan?
You are following your diet plan religiously, doing your exercise regularly, yet weight loss is not happening at the desired speed. Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention to that single piece of cake (300–350 cal) or a burger (350-400 cal) or a samosa (200–250 cal) or a piece of burfi you had during a birthday gathering in the office.
Did you know that to burn that one samosa you had you would need to do skipping for about 25 min? So, be vigilant about everything that you put into your mouth.
What else can you do?
Here are some additional steps you can take to reach your weight loss goal successfully:
- Shun high-salt and preservatives-laden foods like pickles, sauces, papads, instant noodles, ready-made salad dressings, etc.
- Shun commercially made foods rich in high-fructose corn syrup such as breakfast cereals, bakery items like cookies, cakes and biscuits, nutrition bars, candy bars, packaged drinks, sauces, salad dressings, etc.
- Ditch non-vegetarian foods. Instead, eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Ditch dairy products. Go vegan.
- Replace refined foods with whole foods.
These were some guidelines to losing weight successfully. If despite following all these steps you are not losing weight as desired, then may be you are having an underlying medical condition that is making weight loss difficult, such as an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) or a metabolic disorder like insulin resistance (type II diabetes). In such cases it is advisable to seek medical guidance to treat these medical conditions alongside.
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