Some of us feel that we only have to look into the fridge to put weight on. Many of us have tried diets, possibly too numerous in number to remember, only to find that we gain weight as soon as we start eating normally again. It can be very frustrating and many give up believing that nothing will ever work to help them keep excess weight off for good.
Helga Bergsteinsdottir and Ahmed Abbas , believe that more education is needed to teach people how to lose weight in a safe and healthy way. “Today many women and men, and unfortunately many teenagers as well, are trying to lose weight by constantly dieting. There are numerous diets around all promising to make a leaner, thinner more confident you. What many people do not realize however is that continuous dieting is actually a self defeating process,” They say. They believe that by educating people on how the body weight process works it will encourage safer more effective practices towards weight loss.
Ahmed Abbas and Helga Bergsteinsdottir are Sports Rehabilitation Counselors and nutrition counselors. The two counselors work with patients to develop personalized programmes for them. The programmes are designed to help them lose weight safely and permanently and develop an exercise routine that suits their body type, their lifestyles and their personal goals. Their philosophy is based on promoting an understanding of the true biological process in response to weight loss activities and developing individual programmes which are realistic and sustainable.
Ahmed explains the biological process of dieting, “When you lower your calorie intake alone to lose weight, your body will respond by burning some fat, but only for a short period of time. After a certain period your body will start to slow down your metabolism (calorie burning process) to adjust to the reduced calorie intake level.” Our bodies have a natural inbuilt mechanism to adjust to different conditions and when you continue to reduce your calorie intake without exercise, your body will defend by lowering its metabolic rate (the amount of calories your body burns whilst resting). Basically it will eventually adjust to the new calorie level intake, sacrificing its metabolic rate in the process.
“For example,” Ahmed says, “let’s say that you were consuming 2000 calories a day then you drop it down to 1500 per day. Your body will burn some fat to compensate for the caloric reduction but only for a short period of time. The average person who loses 6kg due to dieting, actually loses less than 3kg of fat. The remainder is due to loss of water and some muscle tissue. After a few weeks of dieting your body will slow down its metabolism and learn to live with only 1500 calories per day. In other words you will not be losing weight any more.”
Ahmed continues, “If you decide to reduce your calories even further, say by 300 calories (ie down to only 1,200 per day) your body will react in the same way”. Again your body will initially sacrifice some body fat but will further reduce your muscle tissue and adjust its metabolic rate to cope with the further reduced caloric intake. Now you are faced with an even lower metabolic rate.
If you are particularly stubborn, the counselors claim, and reduce your calories even further, your body will continue to react in the same manner over and over again until you give up and are left with a crashed down metabolism. When you start to eat normally again you will gain all the weight back and are likely to end up even heavier than when you first started dieting!
Helga says that fortunately science has discovered the most effective way to lose weight without starving and without crashing down your metabolism. “Quite simply you reduce your calories for a few days, say 4-5 days, then before your body has time to adjust, and slow the metabolic rate, you increase your calories for 2 or 3 days. We call it the “zigzag method for fat loss”. It is very effective and it’s permanent,” she adds.
For safe and healthy results however the team believe that this zigzag method should only represent one piece of the overall puzzle. Another important factor for weight loss is your activity level. This activity should include both aerobic and muscle building exercises. Muscle building is useful because muscles burn calories even at rest. Therefore by building muscle mass you will help to speed up your metabolic rate, even when you are not exercising. So instead of burning muscles to lose weight you should build lean muscle to burn fat and let the muscles do the work for you. The remaining pieces of the puzzle should number of meals, timing of meals and the type of food you are eating. This should then be balanced against your body type and your own personal goals.
Helga asks, “Would you be happy if you had everything you wanted in life but not your health?” She strongly believes that exercise improves your quality of life and that we owe it to ourselves to take charge of our health and fitness. Achievable, she says, only by making health and fitness a dominant goal in out lives. “Many people spend time and money investing for their personal futures and focus on monetary activities to prepare for this. However without good health how can you enjoy the pleasures you have financially invested so heavily for?” She advocates, “ if you invest in your body today your body will thank you tomorrow”.