David Poon, BSc Immunology and Infection, PharmD Student
Everyone is Different
Imagine you’re in a crowd. You’re at the beach, a mall, a restaurant, or even at home. Look to your left and then look to your right. You notice at first glance that everyone is different than you. Notice that everyone has a unique body shape and size. Did you compare yourself to anyone? If so, why did you compare yourself to him or her? Consider whether you did this because of the body image “standard” portrayed by the media, or because you’re thinking about losing weight?
I’m Not an Expert
I don’t know your body and life circumstances as well as you do; I can sit here and tell you all the medical conditions obesity can cause, but I won’t. It’s like telling a smoker, “If you don’t quit smoking now, you’re going to get lung cancer someday.” There is no use telling a smoker that. More often than not, they already know all the harmful things smoking can cause. Similarly, an overweight or obese individual likely knows the harms of having an excessive body weight and a high body mass index (BMI). Telling them to lose weight isn’t going to help anyone.
The Power of Support
If you or a loved one is struggling with weight loss, know that it’s completely normal. You sure aren’t the only one out there with the same problem. Losing weight is difficult. Trust me, I know. And sometimes, it’s not just difficult, but downright confusing when there are so many different diets and weight loss products out there. Some of them might work, but the problem is that most of them will only work temporarily. To some people, weight loss isn’t about losing 5-10 lbs so they can fit into those jeans again. It’s about a transformational lifestyle change. With a challenge like that, it’s important that they receive support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals.
You’ll have to read that article to find out. However, I think there are three key factors contributing to sustainable weight loss.
- Motivation. I mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again. Losing weight isn’t easy. You’re going to struggle and relapse into bad habits along the way, which is why it’s so important that you find your reason why you want to lose weight. It could be as simple as wanting to hit a certain waist size, or as complicated as increasing your expected lifespan by __ years because you’re decreasing the odds of having a heart attack. See, it doesn’t matter what the motivation is. You just need to find out what drives you, and not worry about other people’s standards to stay on track.
- Diet. Oh boy. Here we go. Avoid foods with trans fats, saturated fats and sugar. But how much of each should I avoid? Should I avoid all fats? Excellent questions! Remember when I said I wasn’t an expert? A balanced diet is recommended by the Canadian Food Guide, but what does that even mean? Speaking to your health care professional is a good start, but your local dietitian probably knows more. Speaking to a dietitian will help you plan goals and create a diet plan that is individualized to your needs. The reason why fad diets typically fail to provide long-term results is because they’re not sustainable and rebound weight gain is common once the diet is stopped. Creating a diet specifically tailored to your dietary needs will make a massive difference in the long run for your weight loss journey.
- Exercise. Personally, I hate going to the gym. Don’t you agree? My recommendation is finding something that works for you. It could be walking the dog in the evenings or using the stairs instead of the escalator at work. There are also many recreational sports leagues available. I’d be willing to bet that your local area likely has a sport or rec league that goes on throughout the year. The key is finding the activities that you enjoy and then creating a schedule around that. Going for a walk once a week for 30 minutes probably won’t drastically affect your weight, which is why it’s important to create a routine. Initially, start low and go slow. Make your way up to higher intensity exercises and workouts that go on for longer periods of time. If for any reason you’re unsure or currently have any medical conditions that might affect your ability to exercise, speak to your healthcare professional before starting anything.
The Bottom Line
I think I made it pretty clear by now that losing weight isn’t an easy road for anyone. Losing weight is a challenge, but the journey can be made easier with a good support network. Even though you may hit setbacks on the way, it’s important to stay motivated, have a diet that works for you and an exercise regimen that you enjoy. Don’t give up! Remember, at the end of the day, you’re doing this for you: today, and tomorrow.