Losing weight isn’t as simple as fewer calories in, more calories out…
-By Dr Clement G. Plaatjies
In fact, we should reconsider how we think about calories altogether. Instead, start being mindful about how your body responds to carbohydrates (sugar), fats and proteins. What your body does with these three macronutrients is dependent on so many factors, especially what your hormones are doing! We could all agree that limiting yourself to a 1500 calorie-a-day diet and only eating sugar or fat or meat will have different effects on the body. A proper history should be taken by your doctor to understand your underlying hormone status, as well as any other factors which may affect your body’s ability to absorb, utilise and excrete these nutrients.
Exercise plays a big role in your body’s hormone state, so obviously it will affect what happens to those calories you consume. But, what exactly is exercise? Well, to answer that maybe consider what exercise is NOT. Walking the same distance everyday for the same duration is not exercise. If you’re not constantly challenging your body with progressive loading, you’re not exercising! You need to walk further or faster each time you walk for it to be considered exercise. For those of us (present company excluded) who spend most of our day at work walking in the factory, office, on the farm…wherever…that does not count as exercise. Set aside half an hour each day, for three days a week to get your heart rate to the point where you can only say 3 words at a time (because you’re out of breath, of course); that’s how you know you’re at the right exercise intensity. Maintain that intensity for the full half an hour (or 15 minutes six times a week) and you’ll be doing the minimum recommended amount of exercise. So, exercise hard enough to release the hormones you need to cause your body to burn fat, build muscle and most importantly, make you happy!
Okay but, what about my genes?…I hear you ask
People often think that because their parents were overweight, they’re destined to have the same fate. Not necessarily. Yes, you may be genetically predisposed to gaining weight because of “bad genes”, but it’s clearly not that simple. We can easily modify our genes by what we eat or by our physical activity level. So simply considering your diet and exercising correctly will make the genetic argument, for the most part, null and void. That said, consider this, maybe it’s not so much that you’re genetically predisposed to gaining weight but rather you’re predisposed to the poor eating habits you picked up from your parents.
So by now we understand that diet is a bit more complicated than we’ve let on, and exercise actually means putting in work. But, is that ALL we can do to lose weight? Well, no, because fortunately we also have medication and supplements we could use. However, even meds and supps are under the influence of what your body decides to do to them once consumed, and how they react when you’ve stressed your body with exercise. So there is this interplay between the three which we need to get right. We need to ensure that the one aspect doesn’t overpower the other. It also means that you simply cannot just do one and expect to see the results you want. Or maybe you will see those results, but they definitely will not be maintained.
So what’s the point of all this? Firstly, you’re not going to lose weight and keep it off if what you’re doing is causing you to gain weight. Seems obvious yet we still think that continuing to eat the way we are will just be cancelled out by a single drug. Secondly, to truly get the results you want, your doctor will spend time taking a thorough history, examine you and possibly even draw blood to get a better understanding about how your body works. Once we know that, we’ll have a better idea as to what is needed to get the body you want.