Why would you want to lose weight anyway?
People who are overweight can get very annoyed with others telling them they need to lose weight.
The advice could be on the television, in the newspapers, or on the internet.
But if you’re overweight it always seems to be the same message – “you need to lose weight”.
Two reasons to lose weight – one much better than the other
There are two angles, or directions, that this weight-loss message could be coming from.
The first is the increasing obsession with the way we look. In this case we are being made to think that unless we are stick-thin then we are some kind of obese loser.
I have no time for this type of message and paying any attention to it is just a recipe for unhappiness.
The other weight-loss message that we receive is much more helpful, and I believe paying attention to this message will lead to greater health and happiness for most people.
What is overweight exactly?
Before we look at the health risks associated with being overweight we should maybe define the definitions of being overweight.
The measure that’s usually used to determine if we are underweight, normal weight or overweight is the body mass index (BMI) which compares your weight with your height.
A BMI of less than 18.5 means you are underweight, BMI 18.5 to 25 means normal weight, BMI 25 to 30 means overweight, and BMI over 30 means you are considered obese.
There are various websites where you can calculate your own BMI, one of which is provided by the NIH here (opens in a new browser window).
Health risks associated with being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Liver and gall bladder disease
How do we become overweight in the first place?
We become overweight because the energy intake in our diet (the number of calories we eat) exceeds our energy expenditure (the number of calories we burn).
The types of food that we often eat are major contributors to overweight and obesity too. Energy-dense foods that are high in fats and refined sugar lead to weight gain.
If we combine this type of diet with lack of regular exercise, even walking regularly will do, then the extra energy is stored away in our bodies in the form of fat and the health problems listed above are more likely to develop.
Also, lack of sleep has been shown to increase your appetite, making you eat more. Even being tired can contribute to weight gain without you realising.
So how do we lose weight?
Weight loss requires some lifestyle changes to be effective and it can be hard to get started on this.
I know this because I have tried a number of times to lose weight without success. I have identified my target weight, worked out a timescale for achieving it, and the reductions in food intake and increases in exercise that would be required.
And what happened?
In most cases nothing.
However, a few years ago I caught a virus that made me lose my appetite a little for about a month.
After a month, a big surprise!
I wasn’t in the habit of weighing myself regularly because I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I just wasn’t feeling very well. But one day I did weigh myself and found that I had lost about 16 pounds without even realising.
Before I lost this weight my BMI had been 27.3, which is well into the overweight zone, putting me at risk of all the problems listed above. After losing the weight my BMI was 25.1, which is still just inside the overweight zone but much better than before.
This was achieved without any drastic reduction in food intake, just a slight reduction over a sustained period. No bingeing at weekends, or special treats, just consistently eating a little less over time.
Then my weight stayed the same
The surprising thing was that I didn’t need to continue with this calorie reduction to stay at my new lower weight.
Once I felt a little better I went back to eating just like I had before, but I didn’t really put any weight on. I
think I must have reached my previous higher weight at some point due to overeating, and the amount I normally ate just maintained my weight at that level.
Once I had lost the weight, when I went back to my normal eating patterns I just maintained that lower weight. Which is encouraging, because it looks like as long as you don’t start overeating then any weight loss can be maintained fairly painlessly.
Why do this weight loss programme over a month?
Aiming to lose weight over a period of a month helps to ensure that you won’t cause yourself any health problems relating to fasting or other extreme dietary regimes.
If you need to lose a lot of weight I believe a lot can be achieved in the first month, and the healthy eating habits can be established and followed up over a longer period.
So how do you lose weight in a month?
1. Keep a food diary
I’m not a weight-loss guru, but based on my own experience I would suggest taking note of what you eat and when and how much. This can be done using a food diary, which enables you to monitor exactly what you eat.
This can be a real eye-opener, as a lot of people (myself included) are often unaware of how much they actually eat over the course of a day.
I’ve heard overweight people initially claim they eat very little and can’t understand why they put on weight, only for the answer to become clear once they review what they have eaten using their food diary.
Once you know how much you actually eat currently, you can plan how to reduce this a little each day as required.
2. Get properly motivated to lose weight
The next thing we need is motivation.
This can be in the form of imagining how we will look and feel when we have lost the weight, so we enjoy in advance the sensory experience of being successful in achieving our weight loss goals.
There are various specific techniques for visualising the things you want to achieve, and I’ll have a look at this in another article.
3. Set Smarter goals
Using the Smarter goals technique will enable you to identify exactly what you want to achieve in terms of weight loss, and help to define the timeline for this.
Different sources have different words that the letters in Smarter stand for, but for illustration here we’ll call it: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-specific, Evaluate, and Revise.
4. Chew your food slowly
A tip from Paul McKenna in his book, “I can make you thin”, is to chew your food slowly.
This means that you don’t gulp the food down, so you give your digestive system an opportunity to respond to the food you have just swallowed.
This means you start to feel fuller as you eat, and you eat less at each meal as a result.
5. Don’t weigh yourself every day
Another of Paul McKenna’s recommendations is to not weigh yourself every day.
If you weigh yourself every day there is a danger that you might become discouraged if you notice you aren’t losing much weight right away, and you could give up on your weight loss plans.
In my own accidental weight loss success I didn’t weigh myself for about a month, and I was very pleased with the result.
Also, not knowing how the process is going can help you to, “keep you on your toes”, avoid complacency, and focus on the job at hand.
Keep on keeping on
After the end of the month of disciplined sensible eating and weight loss, I would recommend regular weigh-ins to stay focused on not putting weight back on.
Continuing with the food diary is also an excellent idea, since I have found that it’s easy to get back into bad habits.
A year or two after losing the weight I talked about here I have found that my weight can creep up by a pound or two (or three) if I’m not careful, and regular monitoring helps me to get back on track if I start to stray into old habits.