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Sustainable and healthy weight loss

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Photograph by Total Shape for Pexels

With modern life becoming increasingly sedentary in nature, the levels of obesity are on the rise. According to the World Obesity Federation, the prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled in the years between 1975 and 2016. Obesity is one of the most prevalent public health problems facing society and health care systems.

A report released by Safe Food, an Ireland based multidisciplinary board working in health and nutrition, characterises obesity and highlights the associated risks. They characterise obesity as a “chronic, relapsing disease”, which can reduce life expectancy by 2 to 4-years. Many European countries report that excess weight is responsible for 13% of deaths. The economic impact of obesity on the national health care system is profound, costing Ireland a reported €1.64 billion in 2009 alone.

These figures suggest that health complications associated with obesity account for an estimated 2.7
percent of total health expenditure in Ireland. Some of the health complications associated with higher levels of excess weight include: type 2 diabetes, heart and respiratory issues, osteoarthritis, and many more.

Besides the physical health risks obesity poses, it also contributes to poor mental health. A report by Rajan and Menon highlights a bidirectional association that exists between obesity and depression. In other words, being depressed can lead to an individual overeating which can lead to obesity, and being obese can create feelings of inadequacy which can lead to depression.

While some health conditions may contribute to weight gain, ultimately, controlling one’s weight is a choice. Identifying and admitting that you have an unhealthy relationship with food is the first step to making lifestyle changes that will help you achieve a healthier weight and reap the physical and psychological rewards that accompany this.

Step 1: Calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

A quick explanation on how to calculate your RMR by eHowFitness

A report by McMurray et al. describes an individual’s Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), or resting energy expenditure, determines the largest portion of a person’s total energy (caloric) needs. It determines the amount of energy the body expends while the individual is awake, “in a postabsorptive, thermoneutral state while having not exercised for typically 12 h”.

In simpler terms, it determines the calories you burn while simply existing. This normally accounts for about 60-70% of the calories we use. To calculate this roughly, Garnet Health provides these formulas, depending on the gender of the individual.

For men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years).

For women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years).

If you feed the above parameters into the equation, it provides the calories your body burns without exercise/movement. This provides a framework to structure your eating plan around, which will be covered below.

Step 2: Follow an eating plan with a HEALTHY calorie deficit.

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A caloric deficit simply means consuming less calories than you burn. Now the secret to healthy and sustainable weight loss is following an eating plan with a manageable caloric deficit. The general consensus of a ‘healthy caloric deficit’ lies between 250 to 500 calories (Do not exceed a deficit of 500 calories).

If your caloric deficit is too high for too long, it can lead to a number of health issues, including: nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, and low energy levels. A large calorie deficit should only be considered by individuals who carry dangerous levels of body fat.

While going into a large caloric deficit will produce more weight lost, it is not sustainable. Eventually, you will break the diet and return to old habits of over eating. Sustainability is essential. If you can sustain a healthy eating plan you will lose more weight in the long term, while avoiding fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and loss in muscle mass.

Step 3: Implement exercise into your daily routine

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If hunger is hindering your ability to stick to a calorie controlled diet, adding in calorie burning activities (exercise) into your daily routine will allow you to eat a little more. This doesn’t mean hopping on a treadmill and running till you are exhausted. A simple 30 minute walk can burn 100 to 300 calories, depending on certain factors.

Once your fitness levels increase, you can consider more challenging routines that burn even more calories.

Besides the benefit of weight loss, exercise has been proven to improve mood and general well-being by countless studies.

Step 4: Don’t overdo it, treat yourself once a week

Photograph by Robin Stickel for Pexels

We all crave certain foods, more often than not, high calorie food options. One ‘cheat’ meal a week will not completely halt weight loss. I’m not saying for one meal a week consume as many calories as possible in one sitting. It requires mindful eating.

Lifestyle Fitness believes a great diet is not all about ‘restriction’. Studies have shown that following an eating plan 90% of the time is the best way to achieve sustainable weight loss. For the other 10%, grab something you crave.

Eat something you crave, but consume a reasonable amount of it. Go to your local fast food establishment and enjoy a burger and fries, just try to avoid 3 burgers and a supersize helping of fries.

Step 5 – Stick with it.

As I mentioned earlier, sustainability is key in long term weight loss. Yo-yo dieting and fad crash diets won’t help you achieve long term results. These highly restrictive diets are physically and mentally draining and, for most people, breaking the diet is a certainty.

Find a healthy eating plan you can follow that will not interfere with the functioning of your body and mind or your schedule. It is not about dieting, it is about changing your lifestyle for the better.

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