When we discover that we are heavier than we want to be, we have a natural inclination to eat less food. We may skip lunch or eat only a tiny amount of our dinner in the hope that if we eat less our body will burn off some of its fat. But that is not necessarily true. Eating less can actually sometimes make it more difficult to lose weight because of the imbalance in your lifestyle.
Keep in mind that the human body took shape millions of years ago, and at that time, there were no such things as diets, let alone fad diets. The only low-calorie event in people's lives was starvation. Those who could cope with a temporary lack of food were the ones who survived. Our bodies therefore, have developed this built-in mechanism to help us survive in the face of low food intake.
Losing weight is not something you can do overnight. A carefully planned weight loss program requires common sense and certain guidelines. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation floating around and lots of desperate people are easily duped and ripped off.
Every day you can open a magazine or newspaper and see advertisements promoting products, pills or patches that will take excess weight off quickly. Everyone seems to be looking for that magic weight loss pill. Millions of people are trying to lose weight, spending billions of dollars every year on diet programs and products without long-term success.
Often people do lose some weight but if you went back and checked with the same people five years later, you would find that nearly all of them have regained whatever weight they lost due to the fact that their lifestyle didn't change.
The myth is that people get heavy by eating too many calories. Calories are a consideration it's true, but overall they are not the cause of obesity. People actually take in fewer calories each day than they did at the beginning of the last century. If calories alone were the reason we become overweight, then we should all be overweight. But we are not.
Collectively, we are heavier than ever. Partly it is because we are more sedentary now than ever before. But equally as important is the fact that the fat content of the western diet has changed dramatically. And because it's quicker and easier than ever before to purchase junk food full of saturated fat, people simply eat too much of it without considering the health related problems of eating so poorly. In a lot of cases it's not until people are actually confronted with the real possibility of something happening to them that they take action and commence a dieting plan.
On the other hand, when most people decide to do something about their weight or determine that they want to change their lifestyle, a lot of the time it's a spur of the moment decision or a New Year's resolution. Deciding to lose weight without having put any thought or planning into it is like wanting to get a house built without a plan.
People find out and plan their holiday destination, plan to build a home and yet when it comes to losing weight, they don't plan a thing. There is a great saying along the lines of - people don't plan to fail, but rather they fail to plan. It's so very true. If people took the same approach to weight loss as they did at planning their holidays, then their chances of success would be as good as having a great holiday.
The average person simply does not plan to lose weight, they just want it to happen and unfortunately it just doesn't happen that way. As a minimum before commencing any dieting plan, people should have short, medium and long term weight loss goals. They should also write down who inspires them to help them keep motivated through the tougher times.
It's very important to know what's being eaten on a daily basis before commencing a diet, so a food diary is an absolute must. People need to sit down and plan their meals. If meals are being planned in advance then it's more likely that sensible eating habits will become a part of a healthy lifestyle. Along with planning meals, people should plan to make time in the day to exercise.
To reduce body fat there does need to be a focus on increasing the amount of exercise that's done and not just solely on food intake. People who diet without exercising often get fatter with time. Although a persons weight may initially drop while dieting, such weight loss consists mostly of water and muscle. When the weight returns, it comes back as fat. To avoid getting fatter over time, increase the metabolism by exercising regularly.
Leading experts now recommend that people who want to lose weight should start increasing their physical activity. Just being more active in general such as climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, moving around instead of sitting still, sitting up instead of lying down as well as showing some excitement and enthusiasm instead of boredom are things that more effectively burn calories and reduce body fat.
Generally these days people are more aware and accepting of the fact that they need to be exercising and a lot of people do commence exercising when they want to do something about their weight. But what they don't do, is change their eating and drinking habits. They still eat the same bad foods and probably more of it under the illusion that everything will be fine because of the amount of exercising they are doing.
At the beginning of a new exercise and dieting campaign people may take to the streets by walking slowly around in the hope of losing weight. They exercise like this for a few weeks, they don't lose any weight and then they quit. And the reason they quit is a very simple one; they become frustrated and disillusioned about not having lost any weight.
Quitting is inevitable because the only thing that changed for these people in those few short weeks is that they started walking. However it's very unlikely anybody is going to lose weight by just by walking slowly around the street and not changing any other aspects of their lifestyle.
People do the right thing as far as starting to exercise is concerned but they want instant gratification, it's the quick fix syndrome. Instead of looking at the long-term picture and working on changing their overall lifestyle habits to accommodate gradual weight loss, it's the same old thinking of I want it now. And because it doesn't happen now, they quit and any weight that has been lost goes straight back on.
Though what's been written to this point are some of the main areas where people and diets going wrong, the biggest mistake people tend to make when starting a diet is to restrict what it is they eat to such a degree that the body doesn't get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals, nutrients, fibre, carbohydrates and protein to support weight loss. When people do this, what they eventually end up doing is put the body into survival mode and slow down their metabolism.
Weight loss will occur initially but generally it's only excess water weight that is lost and because the bodies metabolism has slowed down, most of what's eaten is then stored as fat because the body is storing it for later use (survival). When people then give up on their diet and go back to eating what they were having before, they put the weight back on as quickly as they lost it and gain more weight because their metabolism is still working as slow as when they stopped dieting.
So where people and diets go wrong is through the lack of planning, not having any goals, lack of inspiration to stay motivated, not eating sensibly, skipping meals, restricting what they eat, making bad rather than common sense choices, having the wrong mindset, acting on a whim, not exercising or not enough vigorous exercise, the lack of commitment and not being mentally prepared to handle the bad days that come along.
If people sat down and mapped out a plan of what it is they wanted from a change of lifestyle just as they would if they were going on a holiday or building the dream home they always wanted, then the majority of people wouldn't fail. A point to remember is that the more a person knows about themselves in terms of what they're doing before starting a weight loss plan, can make a huge difference to their long term success.
When it comes to losing weight and being able to maintain it there are no shortcuts. People need to focus on the long-term health benefits of a change of lifestyle rather than wasting their time on unhealthy quick fix diets.
Successful long-term weight loss comes from a combination of all the things that have been mentioned in this article. The chances of success for those people who implement any of the ideas contained here are going to be far greater than for those people who decide do something about their weight problem based on a whim.
Copyright © 2005 Mark Allan. All rights reserved.
This article may be freely distributed electronically or in print as long as the author's bio and links are included.
About the Author
Mark Allan is a health, wellness and weight loss mentor and author of the eBook "How to Eat and Drink What You Want and Looook Great". Log in and get a FREE personal online weight loss profile at www.easilylookgreat.com and find out what can be done to help you lose weight, gain weight or maintain your weight by simply changing your lifestyle.
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