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How To Lose Weight

October 13, 2017

People can lose weight for many reasons, perhaps intentionally through exercise training for a sports event, for health reasons, just to look better, or unintentionally as may occur because of an underlying disease. Weight loss refers to the loss of body fat (adipose tissue), fluid and/or lean mass. Lean mass are parts of your body without fat, such as bone mineral deposits, tendons, connective tissue and muscle.

People intentionally lose weight to: Become fitter Become healthier To look better To be eligible for a competition - such as a boxer who needs to lose a few pounds to be able to stay a middle weight, for example, or a racehorse jockey. To improve their job prospects - in some professions there is a limit on how much you can weigh Overweight or obese people may lose weight for therapeutic reasons. By losing weight they reduce their risk of developing diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoarthritis, some cancers, and heart disease.

An obese or overweight individual with diabetes type 2 will usually have less severe symptoms if they can bring their weight down to normal levels for their height and age.

Negative Energy Balance - in order to lose weight you need to be exerting more energy than you are consuming, this is called a negative energy balance. If you are in a state of negative energy balance, your body will seek out stores of energy, such as fat or muscle to make up for the shortfall - it will start using up your excess weight. In extreme cases, however, when the individual has little fat, more muscle and lean tissue will be used up.

Sports - some sportsmen and sportswomen will try to lose weight even though doctors would say their bodyweight is ideal. In some cases it might be to get better speeds, or as mentioned above, to be within a weight classification for a competition.

Losing too much weight - if you become underweight there are also certain health risks. Your chances of developing infections might increase, there is a risk of osteoporosis, reduced muscle mass and strength, and problems regulating your body temperature. There may even be a higher risk of death if your weight goes down a lot.

To look good - a significant number of people lose weight because they want to improve their body image.

There are literally thousands of different diet plans on the market which make amazing claims about attaining weight loss. Some of them are well thought out, safe and effective, while others are downright dangerous. Most health care professionals, dieticians and nutritionists agree that a combination of a weight-reduction healthy diet with physical activity tends to have the best results, especially in the long term.

Related reading: "What are the 8 most popular diets today?"

Many diets say they are extremely effective and require no effort at all. Unless they have been proven to be so in scientific studies, it is not possible to know how really effective they are.

It is generally accepted that restricting your calorie intake is more effective for losing weight than relying entirely on physical activity alone. If one were given just two choices, either dieting or doing lots of exercises (no combination), you would more successfully achieve your aim by restricting your calorie intake, unless you embarked on an exhaustive exercise program.

How many calories per day you should consume in order to lose weight depends on several factors, including your sex, how much you want to lose, how quickly you want to lose it, age, etc. On average, an adult female needs at least 1,200 calories per day to stay healthy, while a male needs around 1,500. If either gender were to stick to those numbers of calories they would lose weight and not risk their health. It would be advisable to check with a doctor or qualified nutritionist/dietician to more accurately calculate what your ideal calorie intake should be.

The 1,200 (female) and 1,500 (male) daily calorie intake recommendation is a ballpark figure and is aimed at healthy individuals who want to lose weight. An obese person who runs a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes type 2, hypertension (high blood pressure) and some other diseases may have to follow a stricter dietary regime, and always under the supervision and instruction of a doctor or specialist. If an obese patient's weight loss requirements are urgent, their daily calorie intake may be restricted to much lower levels.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USA, says that we should be aiming for approximately 2,000 calories per day in order to maintain our weight. This is also a very rough ballpark figure and will vary, depending on the person's size, age, lifestyle, occupation, and general health. A short office worker will need fewer calories per day than a very tall gardener.

If you embark on a calorie-restricted diet you must make sure it is well balanced and provides everything your body requires. At least 40% of your intake should be in the form of carbohydrates, between 15% to 30% protein and between 15% and 30% fat. Some diets recommend a very high fat/protein percentage, such as Atkins, while others may recommend 40% carbs, 30% fat and 30% protein, such as The Zone Diet.

Further reading: 1. "What are fats?" 2. "What are carbohydrates?" 3. "What are proteins?"

Several studies have found that the main problem with diets, apart from risking not getting the right nutrients is motivation. The dieter starts off enthusiastically and full of hope, but soon finds the whole experience an ordeal and drops out. If you become a vegan - no foods from any kind of animal, not even eggs, milk or honey - the health benefits are enormous, such as a considerably lower risk of developing several cancers and cardiovascular conditions, but unless you are extremely well organized, it is a lifestyle that is not easy to maintain. Going out to restaurants and trying to choose vegan dishes requires some research and discipline - research in seeking out ideal places to eat beforehand, and discipline because in most cases your choices listed on the menu will be severely restricted. I tried being vegan for 6 months and experienced weight loss, more energy, and incredible improvements in the quality of my skin. However, I eat out a lot and found it hard, my motivation waned and I dropped out.

When dieters have reached their target body weight, they should gradually increase their daily intake until they get to about 2,000 calories per day.

Bodyweight control is much more successful if you can combine a well balanced diet with regular exercise. Crash diets may have short term results, but tend to have poor long-term success rates.

Some studies have also found that joining a group can improve your chances of achieving your goals, in both the short- and long-term. A group provides participants with a sensation of sharing an experience; there is continuous feedback and plenty of motivation. If you join a good group you are more likely to lose weight healthily too. Ask your doctor to recommend a good group or organization.

If you manage to sleep between 7 to 8 hours continuously each 24 hour period, your bodyweight control will be more successful. Sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep can make you put on weight. A 2008 study published in the journal SLEEP found "a consistent pattern of increased odds of being a short sleeper if you are obese, both in childhood and adulthood" (Link).

Research into weight loss continues to bring some surprises. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that losing weight long-term increased the risk of higher blood levels of industrial pollutants (Link). The study scientists added that if you are overweight/obese, the benefits from losing weight will probably outweigh the effects of higher pollutant levels in your blood.

It is important that you aim for an ideal body weight that is compatible with your height, age and sex. This article may help you decide - "What is my ideal weight?".