I wrote this as part of one of my homework assignments for a module I’m taking at ASU called Obesity Perspectives and Prescription.
“With regards to losing weight as a function of one’s willpower, yes. I firmly believe that the moment one decides he/she wants to lose weight and stay lean indefinitely, he/she will make considerable effort to do so. However, I am also aware that most people start but over time may lose the motivation to continue and ‘fall off the band wagon.’
Thus I would encourage them to try the simplest, most convenient method of weight-loss so that it can be sustained for the long run and people do not ‘burn-out’ as athletes do when they train too hard for too long. I have done a ton of research on diet and training interventions and to date have found a few methods that work really well. I have even successfully implemented them into my life, though I am in no risk of developing obesity, I do them for the health benefits they bring.
Start with diet and food education because its the easiest to implement. Furthermore, pushing obese people to exercise can be stressful and demotivating in the long run. Considerable and consistent willpower and motivation is required to sustain an exercise program and unless you have a personal trainer as a spouse who can monitor you 24/7, it can be tough. Education about what foods are good for you and in particular for weight loss, as well as what to avoid should be the first step. I feel that one of the main reasons the less affluent have higher incidences of obesity is the lack of nutritional education. They simply don’t know that they shouldn’t be eating according to their taste buds.
Here are a some methods which I would recommend for anyone who wants to lose weight and prevent relapse:
1. Intermittent fasting
I recommend this dietary intervention first because it is the simplest to implement. One does not have to restrict calories or even change their diet in any way. All it takes is to restrict one’s eating window to 6-8 hours of the day during which one can ‘feast’ as much as you want. I had so much success with this that I had to stop because I was losing too much weight!
2. Eat smaller but more frequent meals
I can’t remember if there has been any research done on this so far but there is considerable anecdotal evidence of its success. Essentially, you still consume the same amount of food but do so by splitting 3 big meals into 6-8 smaller meals interspersed throughout the day.
3. Start a specific diet.
One should have already been starting to shed some pounds by trying steps 1 & 2. In doing so and seeing the invisible ‘fruits of your labor’ dropping off when looking in the mirror, one may be more motivated to take things up a notch. This is where a proven dietary intervention may come in handy. However, the vast selection of diets on the internet can be terribly overwhealming. Diets like the Primal, Paleo, Vegan, Atkin’s, Mediterranean, Raw Foods, Weight Watchers and DASH diet are just some of the more popular ones so how does one choose a diet and avoid so-called ‘FAD’ diets? This is where one should rely on evidence-based scientific studies and not ‘testimonials’ or popular health magazines or T.V shows.
Personally, I have tried a few and currently do not follow any specific diet but I incorporate the major principles that work from the ones that I tried. At the end of the day, its more about food education and experimenting with what works for your body than trying to stick to the hard-and-fast rules and restrictions of a particular diet. Having said that, I would recommend doing extensive research about any dietary protocol before starting on one.
Here are a few diets which I recommend reading up on and trying out:
- Ketogenic diet
- Bulletproof diet
There is much controversy surrounding this diet but I have tried and continue to implement the principles of this diet and have so far been extremely satisfied with the results. It has lived up to its claims of improving overall health, mental and physical performance and eliminated virtually all my past hunger and cravings.
- Perfect Health diet
4. Food Intolerance
Find out which foods you are personally sensitive to or intolerant of. This will help fine-tune your diet because different people are sensitive to different foods. This is a great post for more info. Do read up about these tests before spending $500 on one, especially when they may turn out to be false positives.
*Note, intolerance does not mean allergic.
5. Physical activity and exercise
After all that food education and dieting, i would expect one to already have lost a significant amount of weight, if one has been consistently doing it right. There will come a point where the rate of weight loss will plateue and this is where exercise comes in handy.
Some tips to start exercising include:
- Start with implementing more ‘accidental’ physical activity into your daily life. Opt for the stairs instead of the lift. Go for regular short walks (5 mins is fine!) as a form of study/work break. Get a dog and make it a habit to walk it first thing in the morning. Don’t drive to work – this forces you to walk more to bus stops, stand more when there are no seats and etc. One can also slowly, gradually and progressively incorporate more standing into your life such as investing in a standing desk/workstation, standing to work for progressively longer periods of time etc. Do listen to your body and sit when you feel tired.
- Start a habit of exercising. This can start with alternate days and slowly building up to daily or even twice daily sessions. It is important to choose some form of exercise that you enjoy be it basketball, jogging, weightlifting, martial-arts or simply golf. This ensures you continue to pursue the activity. Another important aspect when it comes to choosing an activity is some sort of challenge, be it trying to beat your personal best or that of your friends’. This also contributes to motivation and doing it for the long run.
- Lastly, get social. Exercising in a group environment and forging lasting bonds is a great way to motivate the individual to keep turning up for subsequent sessions. I know of many people who continue to play a sport despite not having much interest in it apart from the friends and experiences they make while pursuing it.
Hope this helps!
To your health,