Successful battle of the bulge

Obesity is associated with several health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, gall bladder problems, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have health problems. Studies show if you are overweight or obese, even losing 5–10% of your body weight can improve your health. The safest and most effective way to lose weight is to follow a calorie restricted diet and increase physical activity.

What do you do if you need to lose weight?

To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. Weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is safe. To lose 1 pound a week you need to cut back on 500 calories a day. That is a total of 3500 calories a week. The best way to achieve this is by reducing your calorie intake and increasing calorie expenditure through exercise.

If you do without your 250-calorie chocolate bar and burn 250-calories by running 3 miles, you will create a calorie deficit of 500 calories. Do this everyday and you will have a deficit of 3500 calories in one week.

How many calories should you consume to lose weight?

To lose weight, the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends a minimum consumption of 1200 to 1500 calories per day for women and 1800 to 2000 calories per day for men.

Caution: If your calorie consumption is less than 1000 a day, your body is in danger of not receiving an adequate supply of nutrients. The body then enters a state of semi starvation, lowering the metabolic rate and depleting the body of its energy stores.

Can you skip meals and consume most of the calories during dinner time?

That’s not a wise decision. You are physically active during the day, so the body requires more calories during the day than at night. Redistribute your calorie intake throughout the day so that your body is constantly fuelled and your metabolism is raised.

When counting calories, is it necessary to consider the nutritional value of foods?

When you plan your meals, look at the caloric content and body’s nutritional requirement simultaneously. You can’t base a diet or food plan solely on calorie counting. The danger in this is that you might not end up following a “well-balanced” eating plan. The body needs nutrients from various food groups. The food you consume should include calories from proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Assessing body fat

Body fat or risk of obesity can be assessed through several procedures. From simple techniques like girth measurements to more sophisticated procedures in the laboratory or using special equipment. Height-weight charts and the body mass index, give an indication of ideal body weight based on individual height.

An individual is overweight when the BMI is between 25–29.9.
When the BMI is 30 or more the individual is considered obese.

Given below are two popular measures used to assess risk of body fat:

1. Waist measure

This is one of the key measures used to assess obesity and is strongly associated with abdominal fat. An abdominal circumference of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women, signifies obesity.

Measuring right
Take a measure tape round the circumference of your waist. Pull the tape maintaining an appropriate tension and note the measurement.

2. Body fat percentage

If you are able to get your body fat percentage analyzed using special equipment, take a look at this chart for a better understanding of what the percentages indicate.
Women
Essential fat 10-13%
Athletes 14-20%
Fitness 21-24%
Average 25-31%
Obese 32% and higher

Men
Essential fat 2-5%
Athletes 6-13%
Fitness 14-17%
Average 18-24%
Obese 25% and higher


Diet plus exercise

Diet plus exercise is the ideal way to lose weight. A sound weight-loss program should include –

§ Decreased fat consumption
§ Portion control
§ High fibre
§ Adequate nutrition
§ An active lifestyle

Exercise is crucial

Regular exercise helps reduce body fat and burn calories. Also, metabolic rates can increase up to 25 percent for six to eight hours after a workout. A duration of 30 to 60 minutes of low-impact cardiovascular activity is recommended to lose weight. Examples of low-impact exercises are walking, swimming or cycling.

Low-impact aerobics generally involve a smaller risk of injury than high-impact aerobics. This kind of aerobic training is recommended if you are over-weight or have health concerns.

Pick from these options.
Here is a rough calorie guide for you:

Simply walk: Just put on your walking shoes and walk anywhere, anytime, as convenient.
Calories burned: 300 an hour.

Swim: Challenge your muscles in water.
A safe, low-impact exercise that works the whole body.
Calories burned: 400 an hour.

Cycle: Outdoor cycling is a great exercise for toning the lower body.
Calories burned: 350 an hour.

Namita Jain

Namita is a Clinical Exercise Specialist and Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant. She is currently attached to Bombay Hospital as their clinical and wellness specialist.

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Image: Flickr/creativecommons colros

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