The Proper Purposes of Weight Loss
Why question anyone’s “reason” or “purpose” for losing weight?
Well, I am not trying to “question” anyone’s goals and dreams. However, I have had opportunities to observe the setting of these goals and the motivations behind them in many people, including myself, over the last half century, and I do have a few thoughts on the subject of the proper purposes, or reasons, for weight loss. Partly, these conclusions are based on the many failures and few successes I have seen.
While I am happy to learn of anyone who is concerned about their health and happiness and is willing to do something about it, I am concerned that many people fail to achieve their health, fitness, or weight loss goals because of a lack of knowledge or because of an undefined sense of purpose.
Obviously, the numbers (statistics) bear out the definite relation of weight loss to health in a general way. However, what exactly does losing weight do for an individual? What CAN happen to people with a body mass index of 25 or above, those categorized as overweight and obese, when they DO lose weight?
It has been shown statistically that those in the categories of “overweight” or “obese” are facing increased risks of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance syndrome, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, gallstones, and sleep apnea. All of these conditions, many of which are fatal in a worst-case scenario, also have their own complications. It is also not uncommon to find combinations of these conditions in overweight and obese individuals, thus increasing the overall dangers to health and happiness exponentially.
Looking at these simple facts, it is easy, and very natural, to come to the conclusion that, in the obese and overweight, weight loss at any price is worth the potential gains in health, quality of life, and longevity. Faced with this general sense of information, many people will assume that any weight loss program that “works” will deliver these gains and improvements.
However, I see two questions.
Are some weight loss programs, systems, or methods more likely to deliver all three?
Is it possible that some methods of losing weight may create new problems of their own?
The answer to both questions is, “Yes.”
Due to a lack of knowledge of the problem or the solution, many people, quite naturally, focus on their immediate perceived problem (I can’t get into my old clothes. It’s getting harder to do things. I need to lose weight for my health – whatever that is.) rather than viewing weight loss as a long-term, life-altering solution to an entire panoply of current and potential ills as outlined above. Often, this single focused goal is not strong enough to help maintain motivation.
However, understanding ALL the many benefits of a healthy weight loss program, including delay of death and easing of the negative aspects of aging, could conceivably provide a stronger degree of motivation than simply depriving oneself of favorite foods over a long term in order to drop a dress size.
In hopes of “losing a few pounds” or a lot of pounds, many people resort to the use of all kinds of fad diets, diet pills, weight loss supplements, and chase the elusive promises of every new idea that pops up on TV or in the supermarket tabloids. However, most of these have more basis in economic health of the company selling them than the physical health of the user. The claims seem good, and sadly the claims, though based in fact, are inflated to make an item or method that COULD help someone who is in a healthy weight loss program seem as if it SHOULD BE the weight loss program.
Sadly also, in addition to diverting the public’s attention away from real solutions which could actually help bring about better overall health and reductions in future health risks, these get-thin-quick programs may actually either promote dangerous attitudes and practices and, in extreme cases, may have their own health risks or simply add their own risks to the list. Many seek to accomplish the goal of “weight loss” through manipulating the normal functions of the body in extreme ways or by curtailing necessary nutrition so that other problems may be encountered. Even worse, many touted weight loss solutions, in addition to being ineffective, can actually lead to weight gain.
Just for an example, many diets demand severe restrictions in the quantity and types of food eaten. The fact is that dropping calories below a certain point can cause the body to lower its basic metabolic rate, thus learning to survive on even fewer calories than before. Since the basic metabolic rate can be key to healthy weight loss, this does not seem like a good thing!
To make things worse, when the dieter gets fed up with eating the labels on the cans instead of the contents of the cans and goes back to old eating habits, it will take fewer calories to pack on fat than before. This often leads the dieter to gain weight, then to try another diet, usually with the same results. The term for this is yo-yo dieting and it usually results in weight gain rather than weight loss. Additionally, restricting the types of foods allowed also restricts the access to needed nutrients, creating additional potential health problems.
Ready for some good news?
It has long been known that increasing physical activity, either through lifestyle changes or through planned exercise programs, together with a few alterations to the daily diet, i.e. healthy eating habits, can result in a healthy weight loss experience. Additionally, exercise and healthy eating habits bring with them their own benefits to health and fitness levels.
Through regular, moderate exercise and healthy eating, rather than through fad diets and diet pills, anyone can improve their chances for a longer, healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. It’s cheaper too.