At any given time, more than half of U.S. residents are trying to lose weight. With overall body weights increasing, along with the rates of diseases that have been correlated with higher weights, many people feel that dieting is their only option for good health. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to reduce is doing it in a healthy way. Weight loss is an industry worth more than $60 billion dollars in the United States, and much of that industry is dedicated to selling products rather than keeping people healthy. Here’s a look at what you may not know about losing weight.
Types of Weight Loss Techniques
There are many methods available for trying to lose weight. Restrictive diets are among the best-publicized. These include calorie restriction, in an attempt to take in less energy than you expend, as well as diets that restrict food by type, such as low-fat, low-carbohydrate and low-sugar diets.
In addition to using restrictive diets, some people also attempt to significantly increase their activity. This has a similar effect to that of a calorie-restricting diet, but it increases the amount of energy spent rather than decreasing what goes in. Increased activity tends to require greater schedule and lifestyle changes than simply changing your eating habits, but it comes with added benefits such as increased strength and better cardiovascular health.
Last, and potentially more profitable for the weight loss industry, are devices, supplements and other products intended to produce weight loss. These include diet pills, natural weight loss supplements containing acai, African mango and a range of other substances, plus belts and other devices. The basic principle behind some of these products has been shown to help with reduction when it’s combined with other mainstream methods, but the majority of diet pills and other products don’t do much to help. They can even be harmful to your health.
Weight loss Effectiveness
With more than 50 percent of the population paying attention to weight, you’d expect the pounds to be coming off. Most people, however, are experiencing little to no weight change. Some people even find that their weight goes up after they attempt to reduce. Depending on the study, statistics show that between 30 and 60 percent of dieters not only regain all the weight they lose while dieting, they actually become even heavier than they were before they started the diet. These patterns hold true across a wide spectrum of weight-loss techniques. Only about 10 percent of all dieters are able to maintain their loss after several years, no matter how much weight was lost during the dieting period.
Out of people who do lose weight effectively, the most viable target is a loss of about 10 percent of their highest weight. That’s the number recommended by the National Institutes of Health for people who are obese or overweight. Losing more than this can be difficult and is rarely effective.
Many people attribute this lack of effectiveness to poor willpower on the part of the dieter, but recent research has shown that the problem is more complex than this. A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that losing weight changes the way the body produces hormones associated with metabolism. This means that people who attempt to reduce are hungrier and suffer from higher appetite levels than they did before the loss. This lasts for at least one year after weight loss, making it far more difficult for someone who has dieted to maintain a lower weight than it is for someone who has never undergone a weight loss program.
Dangers of Dieting
It’s not just poor rates of effectiveness that make weight loss a complicated subject. Trying to get rid of fat can also be dangerous. This problem is greater with extreme diets that promise to take off a lot of weight very quickly. These diets can encourage loss of muscle instead of fat. They also increase the risk of heart disease, a slowed metabolism, and other health problems. Liquid diets, extreme calorie deprivation, and fad diets that eliminate whole categories of food are the most dangerous; but any kind of diet can be hazardous to your health if you repeatedly lose and gain weight, or “yo-yo.”
Diet pills can cause serious health problems, too. These weight loss supplements are usually made to be taken for only a short period of time and often contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. This type of diet pill can increase anxiety and irritability, produce insomnia and other sleep problems, and even cause cardiovascular problems in people with existing heart weakness. Fat blockers can produce intestinal discomfort and other digestive problems. They can also produce malnutrition by blocking the body’s ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals. Diet pills that work as appetite suppressants can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Even herbal weight loss supplements can have unpleasant side effects, especially in people who are allergic to some of their ingredients.
Weight Isn’t Everything
These questions about health and effectiveness are often met with the assertion that fatness is fundamentally unhealthy, so everyone should try to lose weight. In fact, while there are several diseases and conditions associated with higher weight, they aren’t necessarily a direct result of it. While fat people are much more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and other metabolic problems, the correlation reduces significantly if those fat people are active and eat a good diet. Thin, sedentary people are actually at greater risk than people who are fat but otherwise in good physical condition. You may be fat and unhealthy, but your weight isn’t the biggest factor. However, that doesn’t mean that weight loss isn’t effective.
Who Should Reduce?
Studies show that if you have diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, your condition will probably improve if you lose about 10 percent of your body weight. Losing more weight than this doesn’t seem to provide additional benefit, though it could help you wear smaller clothes. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to be careful how you lose the weight and to do it only in conjunction with good diet and regular exercise. These seem to be the most important parts of staying healthy, no matter how much weight you carry.
The Healthiest Option
What the diet industry doesn’t want you to know is that most diet pills, weight loss supplements, and diet programs don’t work very well and can even hurt your health more than being fat. If you’re interested in being truly healthy, your best option for weight loss is to look at your activity level and the nutritional content of your diet. Work on making fresh vegetables at least half of your diet and take up moderate exercise at about a half hour per day. That’s what the U.S. government recommends for optimum health.