It’s that time of year when we all start to look at our health and think about implementing some kind of change to your lifestyle. Fortunately (you will be pleased to hear) these changes need not be so radical. After reading this article you will understand the core principles to weight loss and hopefully realise that all that is needed is a tweak!
Lets get started with a question, what is the basic reason we gain weight (if we assume there are no medical problems or complications)? The answer is our input is greater than our output, as the formula below shows:
Input = output + accumulation
Input = food intake which leads to energy production
Output = energy used during activity + energy used during mental tasks + energy used to maintain body function
Accumulation = surplus energy stored as fat or other forms
By reducing this difference between input and output we ensure we minimise our weight gain. This can be done by either reducing our input (i.e. food intake) or increase our output (i.e. greater activity either physical or mental). Most people tend to do one or the other however its more effective to do both together.
Before we think about reducing our intake, let’s determine whether we are eating the right food types? After all, the reason why we eat is to fuel our bodies. Pleasure or social interaction is a secondary concern. Our bodies need 5 things which it extracts from food via our digestive system. The 5 components are:
1 – Protein which breaks down to amino acids – This forms the building blocks for our body & various hormones,
2 – Fats which breaks down to cholesterol & fatty acids. This forms the cell walls, various hormones and provides insulation around our body & nerves,
3 – Sugars which breaks down to glucose. This provide the energy for our body,
4 – Water which provides a medium for transport of substances and allows chemical reactions to occur,
5 – Ions and minerals. This creates an optimum environment for our nerves & muscles to function
The process of breaking food down is a step by step process and therefore the more complex the components are the longer the process takes. When humans produce food on a large scale we add a variety of synthetic chemicals to increases it’s shelve life and its appeal. Unfortunately, this means the food is more complex thus lengthening the break down process. A longer process means more energy and so the net energy gained from eating is less. Ultimately this means we have to eat a greater quantity of food and more regularly to get what we need from it.
Unfortunately, there are no specific food types that are abundant in all 5 components. I.e. meat has lots of protein & minerals but less sugar & water, whilst potatoes have high sugars but little else. Therefore, exclusion diets are not a long term solution. Eating a bit of everything is a sure way of getting everything we need. This means you are not giving anything up but it does mean eating things you may not like, a trade off. Ultimately, if your body gets everything it needs, it will function more efficiently and thus use less energy. Interestingly your appetite will naturally decrease as your body already has everything it needs.
This brings us nicely on to our next point, how much is too much. When we eat, there are a number of processes which control our appetite. The 2 main processes are:
1) stretch receptors in the stomach – when the stomach is full it expands. The stretch receptors then fire and tell the brain, the bag is full ‘do not send anymore food down’.
2) glucose levels in the blood – the brain monitors the levels of sugar in the blood which is absorbed from the digestive system. When there is enough in the system it tells the brain to switches off your hunger cues.
We can consciously over ride these signals to some extent, e.g. social situations. The bottom line however is that our bodies tell us when to stop eating, it’s a question of whether we choose to listen!
So that explains the basic concepts behind reducing food intake, what about increasing output. This is fairly straightforward, activity consumes energy therefore if we keep active in both mind and body on a daily bases our consumption is likely to rise. This does not have to constituent an hour in a gym but could simply be doing some extra activity in the garden or walking to the shops rather then driving. Keep it sustainable that’s the key, if you do not like the gym, why join a gym?
So that’s it, simple! What ever your plan is we recommend you keep it simple, make it lasting and enjoy yourselves.