Obesity has become a huge public health problem in the West and it is creeping to other parts of the world as well. A lot of people have been trying to lose weight for a long time, joining one “diet” program after another without winning. What people do not realize is that the “diets” are only effective 5% of the time and fail 95% of the time. Why join something that keeps failing and pay a lot of money for it? Good advertising – that is what makes people join “diet” programs. Do not be a victim of advertising. If you want to lose weight, understand what is happening first, then take the right action.
Weight Gain is an Imbalance
Health is about balance in the body. As you know, the body is made up of many systems and when every system is working properly, you stay healthy. When something goes wrong in a system, you become ill. So how does this relate to weight gain? There are several imbalances that cause weight gain:
You take in more calories than you burn and gain weight. Let us look at how you are taking in too many calories. If you eat and drink many sugary and starchy substances, there is no way you are going to use all the excess energy, so you gain weight. This is the major problem with many people – they eat cereals in the morning, a muffin at tea time, a burger at lunch time, a candy bar (or several) in the middle of the afternoon as a snack, and a lot of starch (rice, potato, rolls, pizza, burgers, etc.) for supper and then dessert! All starches turn into sugar and most of the sugar is not burned for fuel so you gain weight. Why take in energy that you do not need? This huge imbalance is the major cause of weight gain.
Stress causes weight gain
When you are under stress, your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone, which scientists have linked to the build up of abdominal fat. Cortisol slows down the metabolism, so when you are stressed you fail to burn calories and you gain weight. Stress also causes physiological changes in the body that cause cravings and changes in eating habits. Therefore, many people eat for comfort when they are under stress, not because they are hungry but because of anger, or sadness or frustration. The commonest foods that are craved are chocolate, ice cream, cookies, candy, pizza and potato chips which are rich in calories and therefore cause weight gain.
Hormone imbalance cause weight gain
Hormones are responsible for the most basic aspects of body function, and they affect all major systems. That is why you develop illnesses when a gland is overworking or underworking. For example, when the thyroid gland is under-performing, you will suffer from a number of health problems including weight gain.
Lack of exercise causes weight gain
The body was created to move and it is meant to move all the time. In a balanced person, there is walking, running, lifting weights, and stretching all of which burn calories and there is no weight gain. This was the case in the olden days when people walked long distances and worked manually to produce food, and they looked lean and muscular. Now, people get into their cars and drive everywhere, even around the block to buy a newspaper. A person can basically go for months without lifting heavy things or walking or running, which is why they fail to burn enough calories and they gain weight and have no muscle tone.
Lose Weight by Restoring Balance
Eat less calories
Simply reverse the equation. Eat less calories and burn more. Reduce the amount of starch that you consume. Instead of consuming cereal in the morning, try fruits or some protein. At lunch time, instead of a burger, have a vegetable salad with or without meat. In the mid-afternoon, if you need a snack, have a handful of nuts and seeds. In the evening, have a very small portion of starch or none at all, with plenty of vegetables and some protein. Drop all added sugar! That means stop consuming desserts, candy bars, confectionery, ice cream, sodas, and sweetened tea or coffee. Sugar is just empty calories which convert to fat.
Exercise to burn calories
Exercise is the other side of the calories equation where you burn them. If you are obese and have not exercised in a long time, start by walking, even if it is for 20 minutes per day and gradually increase the time as your body adjusts. If you walk 1 mile you will burn between 50 and 150 calories. By the time you reach 5 miles you may have burned 250 to 800 calories. If you are patient and you walk at least 1 hour per day, by the end of 1 month you have burned a lot of fat off your body! If you increase the pace and increase the miles you walk per day, then in a short time your clothes are too big. Your heart will also be able to take more exercise and generally you will feel fit.
We live in stressful times where finances are tight, unemployment is high, prices keep increasing and people are sick. You cannot help the amount of stress that you suffer, but you can help how you react to it. Stress management is needed in time of stress in order to reduce its impact on health. Try to resolve the cause of the stress. If your job is stressful because the workload is high and you cannot cope, talk to your supervisor about it. You might get an assistant or be transferred to a less stressful position. In relationships, communicate more with others about what is making you unhappy and stressed. Even better, change the way you react to stress. Some things are stressful simply because you make them matter, and they cease to be stressful if you change the way you view them. If the situation does not change despite your efforts, get out of the stressful situation, e.g. change jobs or leave the relationship.
See a hormone doctor.
If you have genuinely been trying to lose weight and nothing is working, then you might have a hormone problem. See an endocrinologist who will test your thyroid gland and other glands to see if they are working well. If the problem is with the glands, you will get medication that controls the problem and you will begin to lose weight.
Gain muscle tone.
If you are overweight right now, you may think that gaining good muscle tone is a distant dream. Yet it is possible even for you. Why not combine your walking with weight training? Do not rush home to watch the game or to have a beer with your friends. Make a detour to the gym several times per week and start pumping weights. The more you make your muscles work, the more you burn calories and make your muscles strong. If you are over weight right now, be aware that this is going to be a long journey. Do not look at the time. Do not give up. Keep your mind on the vision that you have of yourself in the future. Just set a time table and go the gym on the days allocated to weight training. You can still pass through the bar and have one or two beers with your friends after gym.
Improve health awareness
While weight loss is good for your health, do not make it an end in itself. Your vision should be of perfect health now and in the future. To have perfect balance in every area of your health you need to change a lot of things. Some foods might be suitable during the time that you are losing weight but might not be suitable for long term health. Learn more about diet and change the way you eat so that you start eating foods that promote health. While you walk and lift weights, maintain balance by stretching your muscles and joints. Emotional health is also important, so take a long look at how you feel and find a way to change every negative to positive. Mental health matters, so analyze the way you think and find a way to change your mindset.
Never compromise your health just to lose weight. That means do not starve yourself or do things that might cause harm and make you look unwell. It is quite possible to lose weight while improving health. Just do it naturally. Your approach must be holistic in that you must lose weight while promoting physical health, fitness, emotional health and mental health. Discipline is required especially in the beginning when everything seems impossible and hurts. Persevere and you will find the weight melting away, your muscles developing and your skin actually glowing with health. When you fall off the course, do not beat yourself up; simply pick yourself up and continue. Keep your eyes on the vision, that of a trim, fit, well-toned and healthy you.
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