The subject of weight loss is both emotive and complicated. On one hand we have people who belittle the issue and say, “It’s easy, just eat less and exercise more”, and on the other hand we see people who spend their whole lives on diets yet ultimately remain overweight.
The first set of people are right in principle. If you expend more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. But calculating exactly how many calories you expend and adjusting your food intake accordingly is not always easy.
The calories you use up every day are affected by many different things, including:
- How many calories you burn through movement and exercise
- Your metabolism, which may be a factor of both genetics and how active you are
- The thermic effects of food, i.e. how many calories you use to digest the various types of food you eat
- How much body fat compared to muscle you have
You will see for yourself that if you look up the various “calories used calculators” on the internet you will get a different answer for each one. This is because they cannot account for your personal metabolism, and also because calories burned is always an estimate of some kind based on how much exercise you say you do.
Calories in are also not always easy to measure. There are various charts and tables you can get hold of to estimate how many calories you are eating, or you can use nutrition information on food packets if its available.
However it can be more complicated if you cook meals from scratch with many ingredients, or if you eat out a lot, or if other people cook for you.
If you think you have all above sussed, and by whatever method or diet you choose you are expending more calories than you are eating, it’s still possible that you won’t lose weight.
Any of the following may contribute to weight gain or big weight fluctuations:
- Water retention
- Hormonal contraception
- Time of the month (ladies!)
- Emotional eating
- Underactive thyroid
- Other medication
- Other health problems
So if you want to lose weight and are finding it difficult ask yourself the following questions:
Could I be eating more calories than I think? Check by keeping a detailed food diary for a couple of weeks.
Am I not burning enough calories? Consider doing more daily activity – perhaps wear a pedometer all day.
Are there other factors at play? Depending on what they are you may wish to see your doctor, consider other lifestyle changes, or simply go easy on yourself.
If all else fails, remember that health is not always directly correlated with weight. Continue with healthy eating and exercise anyway, because its doing you good on the inside, even though you can’t see it on the outside.
Making healthy choices on a consistent basis will increase your likelihood of weight loss, and more importantly, your risk of developing illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the long term.
Weight really is a complicated equation – I hope you can manage to solve it in a way that suits your lifestyle.