Sunday, 18 May 2014

Bad weight-loss shortcuts

While exercise is an essential part in maintaining long-term health and weight management, there is such a thing as doing too much exercise.  -MCT

While exercise is an essential part in maintaining long-term health and weight management, there is such a thing as doing too much exercise. -MCT

READ the next sentence and you are guaranteed to lose weight!

Got your attention, didn’t I?

Obviously, there’s no guarantee you’ll lose weight, but people do tend to try all sorts of crazy things to lose weight.

It’s almost impossible to flip through a magazine or enter a store these days without being assaulted by the latest and greatest ways to shed the kilos fast.

But let’s be realistic. If there were sure-fire shortcuts to lose weight and keep it off for good, we would all be looking like supermodels by now.

Most weight-loss shortcuts will only have you running in circles, without knowing which way to turn. Worse, they are usually impermanent, could potentially cause injury, and might even cause you to gain more weight than what you started with.

Here are the top three worst weight-loss shortcuts of all time.

Starving yourself

You’ve developed a muffin top and your favourite pair of jeans won’t fit any more.

To make up for your gastronomical transgressions, you decide it will be a good idea to not eat at all, somehow convinced that all the extra kilos you’ve gained will magically melt away the next day.

Unfortunately, rather than helping you lose weight more quickly, severely restricting calories from your diet actually prevents your body from burning unwanted fat stores effectively.

One reason for this is because when you stop eating, your body goes into starvation mode – a mechanism your body adopts as a defence against famine.

It does so by clinging on to fat stores, and using lean tissue and muscle instead, to provide it with the calories it usually gets from food and drink to function normally.

This could result in a loss of muscle, which in turn lowers your metabolic rate (so that your body uses fewer calories to keep working). Weight loss usually slows down when this occurs.

Fried rice with prawn and pine seed
Over the past decade or so, carbohydrates have been vilified as the main culprit of unplanned weight gain, or your number one weight-loss foe. –Filepic

Eliminating certain food groups

Some “diets” claim you can lose tonnes of weight or gain muscle simply by eliminating certain foods or food groups from your diet.

Over the past decade or so, carbohydrates have been vilified as the main culprit of unplanned weight gain, or your number one weight-loss foe. Emerging food trends like the Paleo diet limit carb intake (especially grain) and eliminate dairy.

Then, there are liquid diets, and diets that involve only fruits (such as grapefruit) to maximise weight loss.

This shortcut may seem to work, but only because you are consuming less calories. However, eliminating important food groups like grains and dairy could have severe implications on your health.

For instance, whole grains are generally good sources of dietary fibre and can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. They also help provide a feeling of fullness and may assist with weight management.

Dairy products are linked to improved bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. They are especially important during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built.

And sure, fruits are healthy, but can you subsist on fruits alone for the rest of your life?

For a balanced diet, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends 55-65% carbs, 12-20% protein and less than 30% of fat in your daily calorie intake.

Exercising too much

Most people figure that if exercise is supposed to be good for them, then a lot of it should be even better, right?

Not necessarily. While exercise has an essential part in maintaining long-term health and weight management, there is such a thing as doing too much exercise.

It is not uncommon for people to beat themselves up with hours and hours of exercise to try to lose weight fast. But doing so not only increases your risk of injury by overusing your muscles and joints, it can actually be counter-productive to your weight-loss goals.

According to the American Council on Exercise, some symptoms that can arise from too much exercise (whether in frequency, intensity or both), include fatigue despite getting enough rest, decreased fitness performance, problems sleeping, moodiness and (surprise, surprise!) weight gain.

One explanation is that too much exercise can cause an increase of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when our bodies are under stress, and (eeks!) encourages weight gain, especially around the abdominal area.

The bottom line is, there are no shortcuts when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. When you rely on diet fads and quick-fixes to lose weight, you run the risk of actually moving backwards, instead of forward along the path towards your fitness goals.

You mess up your metabolism, wear yourself out and are disheartened by the lack of progress on your scale. Your skinny jeans continue to languish in the darkness of your closet.

Healthy living is a lifelong commitment that can seem like a long road at times. Staying on track and avoiding the shortcuts, will keep you on the right course towards a happy and healthy life.

  • Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a fitness enthusiast who derives happiness from lifting heavy objects.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion , Lifestyle , fitness , weight loss


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