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Three important basics of weight-loss: made easy

Updated on May 15, 2016

It is a fact that majority of us do find it difficult to lose weight and then maintain it after reaching a desired weight. It is, in fact, not quite difficult to do so as it is a balancing act that involves basically calories. The basic equation involves eating fewer calories than one can burn but methods of doing this can vary. Nonetheless, there is no best way for one to lose weight as what works for one may not work for somebody else.

The experts recommend that people should shed pounds in a safe and healthy way. They emphasize that a person’s approach to weight loss should be one, which is enjoyable and can be maintained over a long period or lifelong.

Weight loss shouldn’t deprive people of their favorite foods because it will tend to be short lived. Instead people should focus on making lifestyle changes to reduce their overall calorie intake. These changes might not lead to drastic weight loss in short periods but they are able produce healthy, gradual weight loss. One has to keep in mind always the following fundamental principles of healthy weight loss:

1# Goal –

Setting goal for weight loss is probably one of the most difficult parts of the weight loss plan because goal depends on one’s requirements, which vary from person to person. Actually, our weight loss goals are based on what we think we should look like rather than what is reasonable for us at present.

First, we should assess how much weight loss we should aim for with the help of Ideal Body Weight Calculator and BMI Calculator. But remember that these calculations offer guesstimates. For example, BMI is affected by how much muscle one has. If one has more muscle, one’s weight might actually be higher than what is considered healthy on the BMI chart even though one has healthy body fat.

Other broad parameters for setting a goal for weight loss plan include weight to hip ratio and measurement of abdominal girth. Normally, a waist to hip ratio of less than 0.8 for women and less than 1.0 for men is recommended. An abdominal girth measurement of less than 35 inches in women and less than 40 inches in men should be the target to be achieved.

Most experts consider a weight loss of 1 pound per week to be optimal. To achieve this one has to create a deficit of 500 calories per day either by eating less, or by burning more. It will be prudent if it is done by both diet control and exercise.

If you have decided to lose weight as a couple, there will a difference between how much weight both of you lose over a period of time, because men lose weight faster than women. It's always best to avoid comparing yourself to others, whether male or female. Everyone loses weight differently, and genes, along with hormones, play a large role in how quickly some people lose weight.

2# Diet –

For weight loss, diet is as important as exercise if not more. An individual may work out like a mad but if his or her meals consist of cheeseburgers, pizzas and sodas, the individual is probably not going to see encouraging results of weight loss.

There are many diet plans but no diet plan can meet all the requirements of an ideal one for the purpose of weight loss. What is significant is how many calories one consumes while following a particular diet plan. Besides yielding a number of health benefits, a Mediterranean diet has been confirmed to be the best for weight loss in comparison to other diets.

Women should aim for consuming 1200 calories per day, whereas men should aim for the figure of 1500 to 1700 calories per day for fat loss. These figures are the lowest ones, which vary greatly depending on height, weight, and level of physical activity of an individual. It is advisable to find your individual calorie needs rather than going by generalized guidelines. Going below these figures means starving the body. By starving the body, we give it a hint to slow down; the body does so by reducing its metabolism. Starvation causes the body to protect its fat stores. Conversely, the body starts using lean tissue or muscle to provide it with the calories it needs to keep functioning. This directly leads to a loss of muscle, which in turn further lowers the metabolic rate, thus slowing down weight loss.

Moreover, starvation makes it quite difficult for an individual to go through hunger pangs and resist thoughts of food. The chances are that the individual will binge or start eating back how one used to.

3# Exercise –

Undertaking physical activities that burn large amounts of calories is an excellent accompaniment of calorie controlled diets in order to create adequate calorie deficit.

Aerobic exercise - Aerobic exercises are quite effective in creating a calorie deficit. For example, half an hour of low paced jogging can burn around 250 calories. It is not essential to join a gym or to go out in the middle of winter to get an aerobic workout. There are a number of exercises that one can do in the privacy of one’s own home. The cheapest option is dancing around the living room on your favorite music. Alternatively, giving the house a vigorous thorough clean will also serve as a good aerobic workout. Walking, running, jogging or going out for a bike ride, when the weather’s nice are all good forms of aerobic exercise.

For weight loss and other health benefits, aerobic exercise is recommended 3 to 5 times a week for 30-60 minutes, not including warming up at the start and cooling down at the end. It is important to start slowly, if you have been inactive for some time.

Specific calorie expenditures vary widely depending on the exercise, intensity level and individual characteristics such as weight.

A table showing calories burned from some physical activities -

Activity
Calories burned per hour
Walking 4.5 mph
400
Roller skating
345
Swimming (crawl 45 yards/min.
530
Handball, Raquetball
600
Tennis (moderate)
425
Tennis (vigorous)
600
Jogging (5.5 mph)
650
Biking (13 mph)
850

Strength training - Strength training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and build muscles. We can strength train by putting increasingly progressive resistance to the movements of different muscles and muscle groups by using different weights or rubber bands. One can also strength train by using one’s body weight as in gymnastics. Many consider that a regular practice of yoga asana also increases strength in the muscles by using body weight, besides an increase in flexibility in the body.

Strength training helps you lose weight in a few different ways. First, it helps one retain the muscle one has while eating a calorie deficit diet and losing weight. Second, strength training has a much greater level of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption than aerobic exercise, which means that the body has to do a lot of work to replenish itself to bring it back to its normal state. Some studies have shown that it can boost metabolism for up to 38 hours after one has finished workout. In addition, as regular strength training results in increase in muscle mass, it, therefore, increases metabolism by speeding up the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is because it takes the body more calories to maintain muscle than it does to maintain fat. Estimates are that for every 1 lb of muscle you gain, your RMR goes up 30-50 calories!

Nonetheless, strength training has been shown to halt and even reverse sarcopenia – the reduction of skeletal muscle that occurs as we get older.

It is recommend that strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdominals, shoulders, and arms) should be performed twice or more weekly. One set is effective, though two to three sets may be better, according to limited evidence. A set is a specific number of repetitions of an exercise. Normally, 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise are recommended. The body needs at least 48 hours for recovery and repairs between strength training sessions.

Flexibility exercises - Stretching is the one thing most of us skip as we run out of time, energy and motivation. After all, most think that since stretching doesn't burn many calories, so why bother? Flexible muscles allow joints to move through a full range of motion. It is through the full range of motion you get the most out of your workouts.

Basically, a well structured exercise plan should include all three components of exercise viz. aerobic exercise, strengthening and stretching exercises. With proper knowledge and some ingenuity, one can easily do so, introducing variability of different components that depends on one’s goal. If in a quandary, one can also seek help of an expert in this regard.

The bottom line –

The above three components must form an integral part of any weight loss plan to succeed. Out of them, setting up of reasonable goal is of foremost importance, as without which we cannot proceed further and will fail in our efforts. While setting up a goal, we should keep in mind that it must be a reasonable one according to our requirements so that we can achieve it.

Dietary plan as well as exercise schedules must also be constituted meticulously according to your needs. You can take guidance of experts in formulating the plan whenever in a quandary. Without concerted interplay of the three components, it is difficult to see encouraging results. Moreover, after achieving a target, you will have to set higher but reasonable benchmarks to be achieved further. This is a continuous process till you have achieved the target of your desired weight loss. And then will start the other half of the battle of maintaining it. Since you have already won the half battle, you have developed enough confidence to win the other half. But always remember that it is a long drawn battle to be fought lifelong!

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