With warmer weather comes a dream of the beach and the desire to get “beach ready” - to lose weight fast and fit into a great new bathing suit. The problem? This approach to weight loss doesn’t work and is extremely unhealthy! As tempting as it is to make changes fast, evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually are more successful at keeping it off. They’re also less likely to deal with the negative side effects of weight loss.
Why is this - and what negative side effects are we talking about? Keep reading to find out:
The Benefits of Weight Loss - When It’s Done Right
When talking about weight loss, there’s a lot more to consider than looking good at the beach. Weight loss - and maintaining a healthy weight - is also good for our health overall, because:
- People who are overweight (i.e. a weight that exceeds the healthy range for their age, gender, and height) or obese (i.e. being grossly overweight) are at a higher risk of developing certain health issues. These include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep disorders, and certain types of cancer. (Specific cancers include endometrial, breast, gallbladder, kidney, liver, and colon).
- Excess weight is hard on our bodies - literally! For example, weighing just 10 extra pounds adds 40 pounds of pressure to joints such as our knees. And extra body weight also makes your heart work harder to keep your blood pumping. But avoiding excess weight gain can help prevent these types of issues.
- Maintaining a healthy weight can keep your cholesterol levels in check. When you have high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Maintaining a healthy weight, however, can control and prevent high cholesterol.
- Maintaining a healthy weight through fat loss specifically can also limit the side effects related to the presence of fat cells. For example, body fat - particularly in the stomach region - produces chemicals that keep your body from interacting normally with insulin. This leads to elevated blood sugar levels and is a major contributor to the development of diabetes. Fat cells are also known to release chemicals that cause internal irritation and inflammation, which is linked to a variety of heart issues. Working to control your weight, however, limits these problems.
Unfortunately, many Americans are not enjoying these health benefits. Instead, the latest estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics state that in 2015 - 2016, 39.8% of American adults were obese and that another 31.8% were overweight. And this was just adults; 19% of the youth population also suffered from obesity.
Setting the Pace: Weight Loss Done Right
So those are the health benefits of weight loss - but what about those negative side effects we mentioned earlier? These problems can develop when you try to lose weight too quickly. So to really enjoy the benefits of weight loss, it's best to aim to lose 1 – 2 pounds per week. This allows you to:
- Avoid muscle loss. This problem is particularly common in crash diets that restrict caloric intake for faster results. Unfortunately, this swift weight loss occurs because our bodies eat up our water and muscle reserves - instead of the fat cells that we want to lose! Slower weight loss combined with other healthy habits helps you to avoid this side effect.
- Avoid nutritional deficiencies. Many crash diets require you to cut a food group out of your life entirely. But a healthy diet needs to include the proper amount of every food group. Skipping one deprives you of the nutrients in that group and puts you at risk of suffering from problems like extreme fatigue, poor immune system function, and weak and brittle bones.
- Avoid a slowing metabolism. Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn each day. But it’s very sensitive to your surroundings, and will actually slow down if your body feels like you’re entering “starvation mode”. As a result, several studies have found that fast weight loss due to restricted caloric intake may cause you to burn up to 23% fewer calories per day. Even worse, this drop in metabolism may last long after you finish dieting!
- Slowly adjust your habits. To keep your muscles strong, your body nourished, and your metabolism high, you’ll need to support your body with healthy habits. This means eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks, and using a mixture of cardio and resistance training to exercise on a regular basis. By losing weight slowly, you can adjust to these new habits, and set yourself up for long term weight maintenance after the extra pounds are shed.
It’s important to note that you may also lose more than a couple of pounds during your initial weight loss efforts. This is perfectly normal - and you should not feel frustrated or worried once you begin losing weight more slowly. The last thing you want is for the weight to come back later. So taking your time is much preferred.
The good news is that even a modest weight loss - 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight - is likely to produce health benefits. So if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals just 10 pounds! While you will probably want to continue losing weight to gain the maximum health benefit, this seemingly small weight loss can decrease your risk for chronic diseases related to weight.
Take Your Time - and Enjoy Your Weight Loss Journey
Weight loss can seem like an impossible goal. But like so many things in life, it’s not about the destination - it’s about the journey. In this case, it’s about the healthy lifestyle you’ll gain as you learn how to properly nourish your entire body, and slowly work towards the weight you want to be.
To make your weight loss journey easier, we recommend the following:
- Set useful, realistic goals. Your weight loss goals should be specific, doable, and forgiving. Never set extreme expectations. For example, set a goal like, “I will walk thirty minutes five days a week.” It’s specific; it’s attainable; and it allows some leeway in your schedule in case you need it.
- Follow basic healthy eating guidelines. Despite the claims of weight loss companies and some news articles, there’s no singular diet that will make you drop some extra pounds. Instead, you need to find a diet that works well for you by first experimenting with basic dietary guidelines. This means filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables; eating lean and unprocessed protein (by choosing low-fat meat cuts and enjoying seafood, beans, nuts, and seeds); and eating whole grains (like multigrain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal) instead of refined grains (like white bread and white rice) with whole grains.
- Talk to your doctor. In addition to trying to adjust your diet and exercise habits to support weight loss, it’s worth checking in with a doctor for their advice. They can do things like offer insight on what to do and not do to minimize your risk of injury, as well as offer resources for weight loss that you may find very helpful!
Ready to schedule an appointment to talk about your weight loss goals? Allegheny Medical’s care providers are here to help create a highly individualized wellness plan that helps you feel your best and restore your health. Our services can provide you with the information and planning you need to begin your weight loss journey, no matter how big or small it may be. So call us at 412-494-4550 to schedule an appointment today, or book an appointment online!