Wednesday, February 13, 2013

IIFYM - Common Sense Approach To Weight Loss

It is a little ironic and unfortunate that while the motivation to lose weight may come from wanting to take better care of their health, the average overweight or obese person seems to adopt an unhealthy weight loss strategy more often than not. Usually this means extreme calorie restriction in the form of a crash diet, whether in the form of one of the many popular fad diets, meal replacement products, or just plain old “not eating”.

I would hope that anyone reading this article with an interest in health and fitness would agree that “food avoidance” is never a healthy option, even as a short term measure. Restriction leads to conservation, and it should be common knowledge by now that crash dieting invariable leads to weight gain as soon as the dieter returns to their usual eating habits. Not just gaining back the weight that they lost by starving themselves, but actually ending up heavier and more unhealthy than they started.

Perhaps even more damaging than the physical weight gain though is that each failed attempt to lose weight can reinforce negative and incorrect beliefs such as “I can't lose weight and I'll always be fat”, or even worse “eating makes you fat, not eating makes you lose weight”. Although there is a growing industry in products that take advantage of and propagate these messages, as fitness professionals or enthusiasts and decent human beings I'm sure we can all agree on how important it is that we combat these negative and untrue beliefs with practical, common sense advice on dieting, and the message that all human beings can get into shape and be healthy and happy through appropriate nutrition and exercise.

So that's crash dieting well and truly ruled out, forever!

What are some better options though? Our hypothetical overweight or obese person may be fortunate enough to have a friend or co-worker who knows (or at least, thinks he knows) something about training and nutrition who they can turn to for advice. Or, perhaps they get online and start researching the latest in legitimate dieting strategies as used by fitness models or body builders in contest preparation.

Depending on who's advice they follow, the dieting tips may be some or all of the following:
  • Eat a particular number of meals per day.
  • Eat only at these times of the day.
  • Only eat these types of foods, never eat those types of foods. 
  • Never eat these types of foods at the same time as those types of foods.
  • Only eat these types of foods in the morning, and only eat these types of foods in the afternoon. 
  • Avoid anything with a high glycaemic index.
  • Cut out carbs.
  • Cut out fats.
  • And perhaps my personal favourite; “Just eat clean”.
What's missing from this list?

Let me put it to you another way. Imagine I get an email, or I have a conversation with a member at the gym and they tell me “Dave, why aren't I losing weight? I'm eating 6 small meals a day, nothing after 7pm, I've cut out this, increased that, and I'm eating pretty clean. I should have lost more weight by now. What gives?”

What do you think I am most likely to ask them before I can hazard a guess at why they are not seeing results?

Simply put: How many calories are you getting in a day?

Let me break it down for you this way. There are four ranges of calories that a person could be consuming on average, as follows:
  • Excessive to current requirements, resulting in weight gain through increased body fat.
  • Suitable to maintain current weight. 
  • Suitable to achieve and maintain a healthy goal weight. 
  • Insufficient for good health, with unpredictable results that may include weight gain.
There would be some grey areas in between, but in short “you are either consuming an appropriate amount of calories to maintain your goal weight, or you are NOT consuming an appropriate amount of calories to maintain your goal weight”.

Continue to the next entry on IIFYM For Weight Loss.

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