For the layman, weight loss is all about reducing weight, becoming slim and looking beautiful. For the expert, it’s all math! Taking out a few calories, creating calorie deficits and finally enabling weight loss over a period is what the experts focus on. While math seems extremely simple here compared to your algebra and trigonometry, in practice this can be extremely taxing mentally as well as physically on the person involved. Some people on a weight loss plan miscalculate their additions and subtractions even during the program and suffer huge losses sometime. The process of maintaining calorie deficits is the numero uno goal which needs to be impeccably planned such that there are no negative consequences or chances of misfiring possible.
While weight loss remains a balancing act, the concept is straightforward. Eat more calories than you burn and it results in weight gain. Eat less calories than you burn and you lose weight. In practice, 3500 calories amount to .45 kilograms of fat and hence, to lose around half a kilogram of fat you need to burn 3500 calories. Hence, one can expect a 0.5-1.0-kilogram loss in weight in one week if you reduce your daily calorie intake by 500-1000 calories. It sounds great and achievable but practically it’s a much complex process involving a combination of fat, tissue and water loss from the body. Decreasing calories requires smart thinking, effectively implementing and coordinating successfully.
Set point Theory
By definition, set point is a state that a control system aims to achieve. All through childhood and teenage, a person’s body weight keeps fluctuating striving for a balance. Adulthood establishes a more or less constant body weight which might mildly fluctuate but never fall off the equilibrium greatly. A person you meet in your 20s maintains his/her weight when you meet him/her again in his/her 30s or 40s. But studies show that set point in humans is loosely established. In one study, participants lost 66% of their initial fat mass in response to 24 weeks of 50% reduced energy intake. Normal eating patterns reestablished thereon resulted in fat mass regain amounting to 145% of the initial body weight (the one that existed prior to the start of study). The study further established that for the fat mass to decrease to within 5% of the initial value, it might take more than a year or so. Just like our circulatory and respiratory system, our body defines a body weight regulatory system which becomes difficult to reset once the system falls into place in sometime. Energy balance is one area which obese/overweight people miss to maintain.
When individuals lose weight, they succeed in maintaining weight loss when they decrease energy intake by certain numbers than what they had been consuming before dieting. But, most people fail to adhere to this principle and succumb to weight gain in course of time. Hence, they remain ineffective in maintaining the ‘new’ settling point.
Eating healthy food and leading a disciplined lifestyle provides ample scope for maintaining body weight and weight stability. When a person remains overweight/obese for years together, he/she faces much difficulty in losing weight as the body gets accustomed to the existing body composition by then. This is defined as the set point theory which determines the percent of fat, weight and mass a person carries which in turn determine hunger and satiety. Body weight is sure to settle in a definite range but on the positive note, it is possible to change it.
Body Weight Determinants
Our body weight is predominantly determined by three factors namely our genes, environment and epigenetic (hormones) effects.
Genes: While genes do play a vital role in determining body weight you are not doomed by them forever. Genetic factors do establish certain set points beyond which it becomes extremely difficult for the individual to lose weight. But, this can never be used as an excuse to stop trying. With the right diet and exercise we can always outwit gene-related weight effects.
Environment:Diet and exercise are major players in establishing set points. When the combination works perfectly none can stop you from reaching your goals. But never go by crash dieting or starvation which can only double your chances of weight gain in due time. Consistently changing your diet seems to work perfectly fine and aids in maintaining the lost weight down the lane.
Hormones:Hormones for hunger and satiety, ghrelin and leptin can be effectively managed by eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, produce, proteins and whole grains, exercising regularly, managing stress and sleeping well.
If you are eager to know more about the role of genes and hormones in determining weight loss, you are always welcome to read about them at www.firsteatright.com. This website clearly shows how eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can overpower any other factors surrounding weight loss.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.