This page focuses on the main mistakes and potential hazards of weight control. As with any other aspect of life, mistakes in this area can go both ways - which means that exaggerated weight loss efforts can be just as dangerous as neglecting the issue altogether.
Below is a list of the factors I consider to be most detrimental for a weight control plan, and potentially dangerous for one's health and well-being:
- Nutritional Factors:
- Crash Dieting (meaning a severe reduction in calorie intake - for example an adult of average height eating 800 calories per day for several days in a row)
This depletes the organism of nutrients necessary for fulfilling its biological functions and activities of daily living. As a result, the body tries to hang on to its remaining resources and goes into the so-called "starvation mode". In this state, all metabolic processes are significantly slowed down, and this includes fat-burning processes. In other words, severe reductions in calorie intake make it almost impossible to burn fat effectively. The only tangible results of such a diet are increased wear-and-tear on the organism, and potential health problems due to deficiencies of vital nutritional factors.
When resuming a normal diet, things get even worse, since now one's metabolism is significantly slower than previously, which means the propensity to pack on the pounds will be greater.
Repeated crash dieting is the worst possible scenario, since each bout is likely to result in more weight gain and more damage to one's organism from a health-standpoint.
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- Binge Eating (meaning intake of large quantities of food, often with high calorie content, on a recurring basis):
This is usually done with the goal of relieving strain, pressure, or boredom (at least initially), but may eventually turn into a habit. In this regard, the most dangerous is late-night binging, since in the absence of any physical activity, all excess calories ingested are likely to be transformed into fat.
- Alcoholic drinks
Alcohol contains a high amount of readily available calories (just waiting to be transformed into body-fat). Especially damaging alcohol items are as follows:
- Cocktail drinks containing added sugar and/or cream (such as Margaritas, Pina Colada, Mud Slide, etc), with some of these drinks bringing 400-800 calories per serving.
- Late-night drinks consumed close to bedtime, especially if this occurs on a regular basis - since all those calories are sure to stick.
- Restaurant Food (with Fast Food in the lead, but other restaurants may not be much better):
Whenever eating in a restaurant, there is a high chance you will ingest large amounts of trans fats, which predispose to obesity and are highly detrimental to health from multiple other points of view.
You see, restaurants use oils and shortenings that contain trans fats for a very simple reason: They have a longer shelf-life than other (healthier) products. As such, it's simply a matter of "good business practice" for the restaurant industry to use the unhealthy stuff for cooking. In fact, even healthy food items served in a restaurant (such as fish or vegetables) are quite likely cooked with the use of such obnoxious shortenings.
- Ingesting high amounts of saturated fats, especially combined with sugars, on a regular basis:
Such food offenders are much more common than one may think, and have a tendency to creep into our lives unnoticed. Here are a few commonplace examples:
- cakes and pies
- ice cream
- chocolate and chocolate candy, especially the one with creamy filling
- Drinking Soft Drinks (including fruit juices) instead of water:
This can deliver a huge amount of unnecessary calories. Lets look at a concrete example: A can of regular pop brings on average 150 calories. If you drink say 4 cans a day, you will be ingesting 600 calories from that alone. More than one quarter of the average daily calorie allowance (2,000 calories) - wasted on totally unnecessary items. Ouch!
- Exercise-Related Factors:
- Over-Exercising - meaning spending significantly more time in strenuous exercise than required to maintain optimal body weight (of course, we are not referring to professional athletes here):
Over-exercising puts unnecessary strain on the body, especially the joints and ligaments. If done improperly or indiscriminately, it can easily result in injury or trauma. And an exercise-injury is a prime factor to bring your weight control plan to a grinding halt. Therefore, workout excesses are best avoided by the non-pro exerciser, at least in the beginnings of a weight loss program. If exercise becomes a passion and you feel compelled to dedicate more time to it, then you must build up gradually: This means increasing your workout time and difficulty level progressively, over a period of weeks to months.
- Giving Up on Exercise (simply shrugging it off as something you cannot or will not do):
This is an extremely common occurrence in this day and age (with the stresses of daily life on hand, and the temptation of the TV or computer-game on the other). However, try to realize that an exercise program doesn't have to take more than 10-20 minutes of your time per day (for weight maintenance), and that it can be done in the comfort of your own home at whatever time suits you best. Follow this link for an example of a convenient exercise program.
Also, for those who think their joints won't take the strain of a workout program, keep in mind there are 2 effective options for such cases:
- Swimming - which provides excellent aerobic and strength training benefits, while sparing the stress on your joints.
- Judicious strength training using a strength training machine (preferably under guidance of a professional trainer)
- Psychological Factors:
These are the hardest to overcome, and usually quite uncomfortable to focus on. That's why they represent such formidable obstacles to effective weight control. So, if you feel you have the fortitude to look the truth in the eye, let's dwell on these psychological factors:
- Letting yourself slide: Ignoring the weight issue as though it doesn't exist is a very common defense mechanism in our day and age. It takes all kinds of forms - from shrugging one's shoulders saying "Does it really matter how I look?", to choosing a loose-fitting wardrobe to mask the problem, or choosing to socialize with persons who are similarly overweight and condone this lifestyle, etc. Please don't be offended when reading this. I know these things because I've been there and done it. So please realize that nothing on this page is meant to be derogatory or patronizing.
What I learned from living as an overweight individual among many other overweight individuals is this: In essence, it's all a game of seeking validation to continue an improper lifestyle. The problem is, finding that validation and continuing that lifestyle may result in more and more weight gain, eventually becoming uncontrollable and posing serious health-risks (diabetes, heart disease, blood clots, strokes, joint disease, etc).
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle when there is the option not to (in other words pampering oneself with unnecessary luxuries such as elevators, escalators, car-rides for short distances that could be covered on foot, choosing to sit in front of the TV rather than take a walk in the park, etc)
- Overlooking what you eat (especially the small things that bring in big calories - snacks such as candy, cookies, chips, etc). I oftentimes hear people say: "I don't know how I'm gaining weight. I hardly eat anything at all." This line most commonly comes from people who are significantly overweight or downright obese. It should be clear to anyone that weight doesn't accumulate from eating nothing. This defies the laws of physics and of common sense. The most likely explanation, short of a medical condition causing weight gain (which is not a common occurrence) is that the respective person simply ignores what he or she is eating (either by design or due to inattention).
Through exposure to many individuals with this problem, I know it's extremely hard to remedy. I strongly believe such an individual requires group support and a structured environment to rewire his or her approach to nutrition. In the absence of that, not much is bound to happen.
- Last but not least, here's one other major pitfall of weight control: A Unilateral Approach.
Quite often, people think this one weight control method will do wonders and get them to their ideal body weight. WRONG! Nothing could be further away from the truth. Weight control, like everything else in life, involves multiple factors, the proper combination of which ensures ultimate success. One diet will not do it, one exercise program will probably not do it, and one weight loss pill will certainly not do it. On their own, all these measures will fail. Combined and balanced properly, however, you've got yourself a winner!
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