How to lose weight safely and avoid the toxic world of diet culture
Keeping one’s weight stable becomes an ever more challenging task as one gets older. As the metabolism slows down and shifting weight starts to take longer than it once did, many people struggle with unwanted weight gain. In fact, research shows that almost three-quarters of people aged 45-74 in the UK are medically classified as overweight or obese.
Of course, weight gain is different for everyone, and the causes vary from person to person. Whether it’s due to medical issues, a lifestyle habit, or even the result of mental health problems, here are a few ways to lose weight safely and effectively.
Know when to be concerned about your weight
Knowing whether or not you should be concerned about your weight is just as important as your general health itself. What might be ‘overweight’ for one person might not necessarily be the same for another and unnecessary weight loss could lead to complications with your health in the long term. Whether you’re overweight or not depends on your body type and genetic makeup. So, whilst you might look larger than another person, that might also be because your genetics are different.
If you are concerned about your weight, there are some common signs for you to look out for which could be an indicator that you need to lose a few pounds:
- Persistent fatigue – if you are overweight, your body will need to exert more energy to perform daily tasks.
- Frequent breathlessness –Too much fat around your neck, chest or across your abdomen can inhibit your ability to take deep breaths, leaving you feeling breathless.
- Snoring during your sleep – Similarly to breathlessness, excess fat around your neck can restrict your upper airway, increasing the likelihood of snoring.
- Significant/abnormal weight gain – It is normal for our body weight to fluctuate, however, a persistent increase on the scale could be something to be aware of.
It is also important to be aware that these signs may be symptoms of underlying health conditions. Regardless, if you are concerned about your weight or any symptoms that you may be experiencing, it is always a good idea to consult with a medical professional such as an online GP or a qualified nutritionist.
The truth about ‘fad dieting’
The internet and media are awash with diets, all of which are crazier and more unattainable than the last. Due to many of them involving unsustainable eating habits with strict or unrealistic ‘rules,’ they do not lend themselves to a long-term or permanent solution. Consequentially, once a person returns to a normalized eating pattern, they will inevitably regain the weight that they lost.
What’s more, many fad diets boast fast-acting results by targeting the loss of water weight which means that, yes, the number on the scale may go down, but it doesn’t depict a true reflection of any weight change. What many people also don’t know, are the health risks that come with fad dieting. Due to their nature of unhealthy rules and fast, significant changes that they can have on the body can lead to health risks such as loss in muscle mass, gallstones, heart problems and general malnutrition and dehydration.
Additionally, persistent dieting can instill negative mental associations with food and turn the act of eating into a matter of ‘punishment and reward’ which can manifest itself into dangerous patterns of disordered eating. Not only can this be harmful to your mental health, but it will also increase the chance of mood swings, chronic hunger, and binging if you succumb to your cravings.
If you’re serious about losing weight, you will need to make key changes to your lifestyle that are sustainable and that you can integrate into your everyday life.
Changing your lifestyle for the better
Making big changes to your lifestyle can be daunting. So, instead of doing one big overhaul, introduce changes slowly and gradually. One welcome change is to avoid skipping breakfast. It’s a common misconception that skipping breakfast will help you lose weight, but in the end, may greatly increase the likelihood of you snacking more during the day to satiate your hunger. Furthermore, prioritizing a breakfast early enough in the day is known to improve your resistance to insulin helping you to sustain better blood sugar levels and, subsequentially, improving concentration and curbing your hunger.
You may have heard the common phrase ‘little and often’ referring to another (perhaps surprisingly) healthy habit which is to eat regular meals consisting of appropriate portions suitable to your body type (re. gender, ethnicity, age) and lifestyle. Not only will this help to stabilize your blood sugars and reduce the temptation to eat high-sugar snacks, but it can also increase your metabolism helping to burn calories faster.
Looking at your activity levels is also an important aspect when looking to improve your lifestyle and eating habits. Observing how active your daily routines are will help to provide you with an idea of how much you will need to eat and/or exercise to reach your optimum weight. An ideal process for understanding this is to work out your basal metabolic rate(BMR). Working out your BMR consists of inputting your personal details, such as weight, height, and age, into a set formula that indicates the number of calories an individual requires to function at a resting state. Knowing your BMR can help you to understand what your calorie and exercise requirements will be in order to plan a healthy routine of healthy eating and exercise that can safely create a calorie deficit.
To summarise, if you do find that you do need to lose weight, it’s important that you take a safe approach that involves altering your lifestyle habits to include healthy eating and activity. Remember to set realistic and achievable goals with the help of a professional if/when needed. Weight loss doesn’t have to be a ‘battle’ with your body through restrictive eating and fad dieting – nurture yourself with healthy and sustainable behaviors and you’ll see the benefits in no time.