Spring is here and swimsuit weather is just around the corner. If you're like many of us, you start panicking about all the weight you need to lose to fit into your favorite swimwear. Some need to lose 5 to 10 pounds of extra fat while others require 20 to 30 pounds, or more. Most of us know that to stay trim all year round would require an improvement in lifestyle. Easier said than done. "Yes but what do I do now?" you ask. Do you diet, exercise or both? Keep in mind that although weight loss through various diet methods may improve your appearance, it may not have a positive effect on your health. According to studies, repeated periods of weight loss followed by weight gain can be harmful to health. (1)
This is why it is very important to maintain a stable weight with proper eating and exercise habits year round. "Yes but I want to lose this weight now", you say. Well, first of all you need to realize how you gained that extra weight. Unless you have a medical condition, you probably put it on by eating too much, not exercising enough or a combination of both. The bottom line is that you have been eating more calories than your body could burn over a period of time. This surplus of calories was stored in your body as fat.
What's the best way to tackle this problem? You could hit the gym for some cardiovascular training, or work out right at home. Exercises that use large muscle groups such as jogging, cycling or aerobics are best for achieving quick weight loss. These high impact exercises, however, are more efficient for rapid weight loss in younger people, for a couple of reasons (there are always some exceptions). Let me explain. These exercises could help melt away pounds in a short time period for someone who is 25 years of age for example.
Once you surpass the age of forty, for example, you have to rely more on diet to complement exercise, for quicker weight loss. This is because a person's metabolism slows down with age. A forty five year old performing the same exercise would actually burn fewer calories than someone 20 years younger. Furthermore, a person over forty (there are exceptions) could not train at a high intensity level for long durations as could a twenty five year old.
It doesn't mean, however, that older people shouldn't use high intensity exercise methods. If your doctor gives you the green light, then by all means go for it.
Older individuals need to rely more on calorie restriction than younger individuals. That's not to say that younger people need only to rely on exercise for weight loss. Exercise for them ranks higher on the weight loss efficiency scale. They could often get away without reducing their caloric intake during periods of exercise and still lose weight quite easily. The older generation, however, must rely on a combination of adequate exercise participation and proper diet.
Unless you are extremely over weight you should eat ten times your weight in calories to maintain a particular weight. In other words to maintain a body weight of 140 pounds you would have to eat 1400 calories daily.
So, where do you start? Let's begin with diet. The first thing you have to do is to cut back on your daily food intake. Then you need to replace the bad foods with the good. Use good carbohydrates at the expense of the bad. Good carbohydrates (carbs) are high in fiber and low in calorie contents. These include fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. Bad carbs are processed carbohydrates with most of the essential fiber stripped away and often replaced with fat. These include white bread, products made with white flour, processed fruits and vegetables and products containing sugar such as cakes, candy bars, etc. These foods along with fried foods are high in calorie and fat content and should be avoided or extremely reduced. Although good carbs are wiser food choices they should still be used in moderation, because calories still do count.
Is a high protein, high fat type diet effective for fast weight loss? The Atkins diet, although very controversial has maintained popularity. This and other similar diets, like the Zone and South Beach diets can cause initial weight loss - especially in very obese people. This weight loss is really water loss. The same is also true of every calorie restricted diet - regardless if it's high in fat, low in fat, high in carbohydrates or whatever. The point is that they are based on low calorie content. Remember that this is all about input and output.
If you eat more calories than your body can burn you will gain weight. If you eat less calories than your body burns you will lose weight. It's as simple as that. Your body turns all surplus calories into fat. That includes extra calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates. The key is to ensure that your daily caloric intake doesn't exceed the amount required to maintain a desirable body weight.
At the same time, it is important that your diet includes a balance of all food groups including fat, carbohydrate and protein. Intakes of saturated and trans fats and bad carbohydrates should be avoided or reduced. Although unsaturated and non-hydrogenated fats are healthier choices, they should be used in moderation, because they are still fats and loaded with calories.
It's important to keep in mind that while striving to attain weight loss, good health should not be compromised. Snack foods that induce further eating such as potato chips, salted nuts and chocolate should be avoided.
One diet method that is very effective is to cut your meals in half and add 2 extra meals (equivalent to half the quantity of your normal meal). Let me explain. Let's say you normally take 3 meals a day each consisting of 1000 calories. You would cut those meals to half the content - which would now consist of 500 calories - and add 2 more meals also containing 500 calories each.
Let's compare. Originally your 3 meals, each containing 1000 calories, would total 3000 calories a day. If you change that to 5 meals a day at 500 calories each, that would total 2500 calories. So in this example you would be saving 500 calories a day. This is a very easy and effective method to start implementing right away because you don't really have to do any calculations. Just visualize what your normal meal would consist of and cut it in half. Then add 2 more similar meals. It's that simple.
Increasing the daily number of meals also helps to make this transition easier. You would be eating less per meal but you wouldn't have to wait as long for the next one. Furthermore, studies have shown that more frequent smaller meals increase the body's metabolism. (2) And we all know how important an increase in metabolism is for weight loss.
An efficient weight loss system must include an adequate amount of physical activity - more so for people over 35. It seems that I'm picking on the older generations here. The reason why I keep bringing up the subject is because I'm talking from personal experience. I'm 37 years old and I know exactly how much more difficult it is to shed weight today as opposed to ten or fifteen years ago. In my twenties, whenever I noticed extra weight creeping in, I would start jogging 5-6 times a week for 30-45 minutes and within a few short weeks (sometimes 2 weeks) the extra weight was gone. It was that easy - and without any adjustment to food intake.
Today I would need a combination of exercise and proper dieting to reach that goal. And it would still take a longer period of time. How much should you be exercising? Well it depends how much weight you want to lose. By the way, besides weight loss, exercise participation results in many other health benefits. It improves flexibility, strengthens the musculoskeletal system, improves blood circulation and heart condition, just to name a few.
To start getting results in weight loss you should be exercising 5-6 days per week for 30-60 minutes at a comfortably vigorous intensity level. Once you lose the desired weight you can then tone it down to maintain the weight loss. For weight loss maintenance you can reduce it to 3-4 days a week, 30-45 minutes at the same level of intensity. Be sure, however, to get clearance from your doctor first.
1. http://www.newstarget.com, "Yo-Yo dieting weakens immune system", retrieved 22 April 2005 from http://www.newstarget.com/001427.html>
2. University of Massachusetts Medical School, "People who eat smaller meals more often during the day are less likely to be obese", retrieved 15 April 2005 from http://www.umassmed.edu/pap/news/2003/07_11_03.cfm>