Weight weighs on everyone’s mind. As it should, considering its close ties with physical and mental well being. However, it is not easy to lose weight, especially when it is so difficult to separate scientifically meritorious weight loss strategies from misguided myths. Here are some research-based considerations.
What’s the right weight?
The correct weight for your body depends on your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is your weight in kilogramme divided twice with your height in metre. For example, if you weigh 70 kg and are 1.75 metre tall, divide 70 with 1.75 and then divide the answer again with 1.75. The answer will be 22.8. That is your BMI.
BMI is not dependent on sex or age and it’s a good surrogate measure of body fat in adults. Higher the BMI, greater the body fat and greater the health risk from obesity. While Western standards recommend 20 to 25 BMI as ‘good’, for Asians, including Indians, opinions differ. Experts in the country say that, for Indians, 20 to 23 is good BMI. BMI between 23.1 and 25 falls in the overweight category and above 25 is obese. If your BMI is too low (less than 18), it is also linked with health risks. Several websites can calculate your BMI after you feed in your weight and height.
Which is the best diet plan?
Extensive worldwide research says that the type of diet does not matter in weight loss. But what does is compliance with the diet. During dieting, your weight loss happens due to loss of fat and muscle mass. Fat loss is desirable; muscle loss is not. The type of diet and exercise plan you follow can impact how much of the weight lost is due to fat and muscles. Usually, diets that are extremely low in calories or proteins will result in a large proportion of muscle loss. So, choose a balanced diet that you will be able to follow for a long period of time. But avoid the crazy ones. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
How much to lose?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. It is very hard to accurately predict how much weight a person will lose and at what rate. Hence, the weight loss we desire and what we actually achieve may not always match.
Nonetheless, studies have shown that weight loss of just five to 10 per cent can provide significant health benefits. For example, if you weigh 80 kg, losing just four to eight kg can improve your health substantially. So, instead of debating the amount to lose, or setting up a target that may leave you frustrated, begin with an achievable goal and adjust it as you go along.
Does exercising help?
Strictly speaking, you can lose weight without exercising. But exercising is good for most of us, whether one is trying to lose weight or not. While trying to lose weight, the best exercise to follow is slow, and level walking or swimming, which will burn calories and also speed up the process. It will reduce loss of muscle as well, thereby decreasing the tendency to regain weight.
Other exercises such as weight training, running, jogging, skipping should be kept for the second phase, when you have lost weight and when your heart, back, hip joints, or knee and ankle joints are not taxed due to excess kilogrammes. And for maintaining the fat loss, just keep exercising. So if you were walking about 10,000 steps a day for weight loss, try to increase it to 12,000 or 15,000 steps a day during weight maintenance.
The author is an anti-obesity expert and the views expressed in this article are his own