How to lose weight is one of the most commonly asked health queries typed in to an internet search engine.
The answer to this question is both simple and complicated at the same time. Putting it simply, you lose weight by consuming less energy each day than you burn - simple mathematics. However, the answer is also complicated, because maintaining the numbers' discipline is not as simple as it may sound. Some other factors are also involved in helping you lose weight, such as metabolism, hormones, your body type and lifestyle.
Most experts stress that physical activity is as important as dieting when people want to lose weight and to keep it off.
People lose weight for many different reasons:
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.
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.
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.
There are literally thousands of different diet plans on the market which make amazing weight loss claims. Some of them are well thought out, safe and effective, while others are not. Most health care professionals, dietitians 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?"
Proponents of 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.
The number of 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. Below are some estimated figures on how many calories the average person in the USA, Canada and Western Europe should consume in order to maintain their weight (neither put on nor lose weight). If you would like to know your own figure, take a look at our article how many calories should I eat a day?
Daily recommended calorie consumption for males:
Daily recommended calorie consumption for females:
If you want to lose weight, you would have to consume a little bit less than the amounts listed above. The less you consume, the faster you lose. However, it is important to follow a healthy, well balanced diet so that you do not become ill, or lose lean tissue (muscle). Ideally, you should check with a dietitian, nutritionist or your doctor.
In some regimes, dieters are on 1,200 calories per day if they are female and 1,500 if they are male. However, do not try to do this yourself without the supervision of a trained expert.
You need to make sure your carbohydrate, protein and fat ratio is right for good health. Recommendations vary, from 20 to 60% carbohydrate intake for losing weight.
Some studies found that not only do people risk malnutrition if their diet is not well planned, but loss of motivation too. Most dieters drop out before reaching their target weight.
When dieters have reached their target body weight, they should gradually increase their daily intake until they reach their "weight maintenance" figure.
A 2010 study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University showed that people who just reduce their daily calorie intake rarely lose much weight.
They explained that natural compensatory mechanisms in the body reduce a person's physical activity as soon as calorie consumption drops - in other words, the body slows right down if you eat much less.
Diet must be combined with exercise
Study leader, Judy Cameron Ph.D., said:
"In the midst of America's obesity epidemic, physicians frequently advise their patients to reduce the number of calories they are consuming on a daily basis. This research shows that simply dieting will not likely cause substantial weight loss. Instead, diet and exercise must be combined to achieve this goal."
In response to a reduction in calories, the human's natural body mechanism goes into "conservation mode". Without exercise, there simply will not be much weight loss, they emphasized.
Body weight 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.
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".
According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), USA, after combining successful weight loss strategies of 6,000 individuals, the following measures should be taken to make sure you do not put the weight back on:
Some health care professionals and researchers disagree that doctors, sports therapists and other experts should focus on weight loss when advising their patients and/or clients. They believe that dieting and weight-loss efforts frequently lead to weight gain and poorer health.
A nutritionist from UC Davis, USA, and a dietician who works in the National Health Service, UK, published a study in the Nutrition Journal in 2011 which showed that rather than concentrating on weight loss, people should focus on better health status, and that the latter results in better body weight control over the long term.
Linda Bacon, of the University of California, Davis Department of Nutrition, said:
"Although health professionals may mean well when they suggest that people lose weight, our analysis indicates that researchers have long interpreted research data through a biased lens. When the data are reconsidered without the common assumption that fat is harmful, it is overwhelmingly apparent that fat has been highly exaggerated as a risk for disease or decreased longevity."
Several studies have shown that weight-loss supplements have no impact on a dieter's target of losing weight. Scientists from Oregon State University revealed that the concept of supplements aiding weight loss is a myth.
The team reviewed several studies on hundreds of weight loss supplements and found absolutely no evidence that any of them worked. In fact, many may be bad for the health.
Green tea, fiber and low-fat dairy supplements were associated with a slight weight loss in studies where the participants were on a low-calorie diet. All the evidence pointed to the low-calorie diets as having an impact on losing pounds, rather than the supplements. There is no study so far that clearly shows that a supplement alone helps a person lose weight.
The team looked at four categories of supplements: products that block fat absorption, such as chitosan, stimulants like caffeine or ephedra, linoleic acid containing supplements that marketers claim alter the body's composition by decreasing fat, and soluble fibers which are supposed to be appetite suppressants.
Most doctors of severely obese individuals, as well as the patients themselves, find the challenges of reducing weight extremely frustrating. Bariatric surgery has been found to be the most effective way of achieving weight loss for severely obese people. The procedure results in the greatest reduction in cardiac and other disease risk.
Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, is a surgical procedure which is performed on dangerously obese patients - the aim is to make them lose weight. The stomach is either reduced in size with a gastric band, or some of it is surgically removed. In some cases gastric bypass surgery is recommended, in which the small intestines are rerouted to a small stomach pouch. After the procedure, the patient's appetite is considerably reduced, also his/her body cannot absorb or digest food as fully as before.
One study showed that bariatric surgery is better than dieting for glucose control.
It is important that you aim for an ideal body weight that is compatible with your height, age and sex. As a guide, we have written an article to help you calculate how much you should weigh.
Disclaimer: This informational section on Medical News Today is regularly reviewed and updated, and provided for general information purposes only. The materials contained within this guide do not constitute medical or pharmaceutical advice, which should be sought from qualified medical and pharmaceutical advisers.
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