We’re a nation of overweight citizens. That’s not knew. Though it seems that the rate of overweight is plateauing. However, not all is good news. The rate of obesity is increasing. This is worrisome for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that obesity leads to shorter lives. If you are extremely obese, meaning you need to lose 80 or more pounds you could be shortening your life by 12 years. This is for obese folks who are non-smokers. That’s the same life shortening effect as smoking cigarettes your whole life.
This is a serious problem. And that’s in addition to the economic costs that affect both the public and private sectors. It’s been estimated that obesity adds an additional $147 billion cost just due to medical costs alone. Another sobering fact is that NO state has an obesity rate less than 20%. That means that in the leanest states 1 in 5 adults is still obese. Though on average, more than one third of us is obese and another third is overweight.
There are many factors that cause obesity including genes, the environment and chemicals. But by far the biggest cause is eating too much food. And eating too much shit food. But before we get to losing the weight that causes obesity, first let’s define exactly what it means to be obese.
Generally, obesity is loosely defined as having a BMI of 30 or more. It’s hard to say how many pounds overweight that is, but generally it’s anywhere between 30 or more pounds. You are considered obese if you weight 30 pounds more than the top end of your healthy weight and you have a height of 5’4″ which is average for women. If you’re a man of average height (5’9″) then you need to be about 35 pounds above the top of your healthy weight.
Now that might not sound too bad. However, most of us would probably be considered a little fat at the top end of the healthy BMI scale. For a woman of average height as mentioned above, she is still considered healthy at a “normal” weight of 145 pounds. I’m sorry, but that’s fat for the large majority of women. A man of 5’9″ tall would be considered healthy at a “normal” weight of 170 pounds. Maybe. Most men I know would be a little tubby at that weight and height.
Regardless, BMI is imperfect. A better measurement is what is called the waist to height ratio. Basically, it should be 0.5 or less. So if you are an even six feet (72 inches) your waist should be no more than 36 inches. You measure your waist in the middle of your waist, breath exhaled but stomach not tensed.
The waist to height ratio has been found to be a better predictor of the ill effects of being overweight on health.
Okay, great to know all of this, but how long would it take to lose 100 pounds? The quick answer, probably at least a year. Here’s the slow answer. We all know that it’s best to aim for a weight loss of around 2 pounds a week. Generally not more. This is what the authorities recommend. Now having said that, obese men and women will be able to lose substantially more weight in the first few weeks. It wouldn’t be unheard of to lose as much as ten pounds in the first week.
But you have to understand what’s going on. Most of that early weight loss is water. What happens when we become obese is that a lot of water is trapped in our cells and bodies because we are so unhealthy. Losing a hundred pounds or more requires losing gallons of water weight too.
Now after the first few weeks an obese person might become discouraged if they only see the scale moving one to three pounds in a week. This is where the problem is. Even if you are struggling to lose “only” fifty pounds, you need to steal your courage for the long journey. Do not be misled by the early quick wins.
Additionally, you’re having to learn a different way of eating. A new healthy lifestyle. Something you’ll be able to enjoy and commit to for the rest of your life. So starving yourself in the early days is only going to sabotage your long term success. My best advice is to aim for around a five hundred calorie deficit per day diet. If you’re 250 pounds and you find out that your caloric needs at that weight are 2900, then try aiming for 2400 calories per day. Now don’t forget, as you lose weight your body also requires less calories than before, so every ten to fifteen pounds figure out how many calories you need at your new weight and then readjust accordingly. As you get closer to your goal weight, readjust every five pounds or so.
Now if you want to really jump start your weight loss then focus on healthy low calorie nutritionally dense foods like vegetables. I’d recommend trying to make half your meal vegetables and the other half a starch of some sort. Something like brown rice with steamed vegetables. Or chickpeas and steamed vegetables.
In that vein, I’d recommend a vegan diet for maximum weight loss, especially if you are obese. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, studies have shown that even when adjusted for calories, diets that contain meat cause an increase in weight. In other words, if you eat 2000 calories of vegan foods or 2000 calories including meat, you’ll gain weight on the diet that includes meat. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, what you’ve been eating ain’t working. You need to develop a new lifestyle approach and it needs to include more vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit and less processed crap, meat, dairy and eggs.
Weight loss is simple. You need to eat less calories than you consume. A vegan diet, a good whole foods one, offers an abundance of foods that are lower in calories than those offered by meat and dairy. However, as simple as weight loss is, it ain’t easy. The main reason being ourselves. We’re always looking for an easy way, a short cut or rapid approach to making life easier, and weight loss is no different. Remember, it might have taken you many years to gain this weight. Give yourself six months, a year or more to lose fifty or a hundred pounds. You can do it. Find other things to do with your time other than eat.