It’s true that a lot of us could benefit from a few adjustments to the way we eat that would benefit our over-all health, but it can be harder than it might seem to know when it’s time to “go on a diet.” Images that we see in the media, signs that we see in the grocery store, and figures that we read in the news may be enough to make some people who may not actually need to lose pounds think that they are less healthy than they actually are, and make them try to lose those pounds in the wrong way.
What Shape are You? Is it a Bad Shape?
Whether watching one’s figure or noticing one’s shape, our outward appearances are the way that many people decide that it may be time to go on a diet. Many may not know that it is normal and healthy for the body to store fat, and that there are some places where the body prefers to store it.
Those with a little extra fat around their hips and bottoms may not be as poorly off as they may think, especially women. When people complain that they eat something and it “goes straight to their thighs,” that’s actually where it’s supposed to go. It’s normal and healthy to see some fat gather here, as long as there’s not too much of it, and it isn’t gathering anywhere else as well. People that naturally accumulate fat in this area are sometimes called “pear-shaped.”
“Pear-shaped” people probably don’t need to worry about their diets or over-all health, but still should be able to lose some of that fat by increasing their amount of exercise, especially aerobic exercise like running, biking, or swimming.
The alternative to being “pear-shaped” is being “apple-shaped.” People who are “apple-shaped” accumulate more weight around their middles than around their hips and bottoms. The problem with this is that it can be an indication of visceral fat, fat in and around organs. Fat accumulating here can keep organs like the kidneys and liver from doing their jobs, as well as putting pressure on the gastro-intestinal tract.
Those who are gaining weight around their middles should try to shape up their diet, as this is usually a sign of a diet that is “energy-rich, and nutrient-poor,” meaning that there are a lot of carbohydrates and not a lot else. This can also be a classic sign of alcoholism, as alcohol, in addition to being a lot of empty carbs, can cause swelling in later stages, as the body holds on to more water than it used to due to damage to the liver. While rare in the developed world, this swelling, called “edema,” can also be caused by a severe protein deficiency. Consulting a doctor or dietician can be a good way to learn what there is not enough of, or too much of in the diet.
Do Numbers Define You? Should They?
Many people may calculate their Body-Mass-Index, or BMI, from a magazine or online source and become concerned. A BMI is a calculation involving the ration of height to weight, and places an individual on a scale ranging from underweight to obese. The figure can be a handy guide to trained experts who know how to use it, and even then it is more of a rule of thumb, not a solid indication of health like blood pressure or white cell count.
BMI fails to take muscle into account, and, since muscle is denser than fat, people with a high muscle content can fall into overweight or obese categories fairly easily, especially if they do have a slightly elevated fat content.
People worried about an elevated BMI should bring it up with their doctor, who will be able to make a more accurate assessment, or use a more complex and accurate gauge. This should give a better idea of what, if any, weight loss is necessary.
Picking a Weight Loss Goal
People should be careful when setting weight loss goals for themselves based on their own perception of their physical appearance. There is an old idiom that says that we are our own worst critics, and in the case of self-image this is particularly true.
While psychological disorders that negatively affect self-perception are not extremely common, the door to them is opened when we let ourselves be too uncomfortable with our body-types, especially if body-fat issues are not affecting health or level of activity.
Those who want to lose weight specifically for aesthetic purposes should make sure that their goals are attainable, and that their goals are healthy. Many of the images of film stars and fashion icons are either un-healthy or unrealistic. While aspiring to look a certain way isn’t a bad thing, it is better to have a weight and measurement goal rather than having another person as the goal.
This will help give a set goal that one can know for sure has been achieved. It can be hard to realize when one looks the way that they want to if the way that they look is an image of another person that may change for various reasons. Furthermore, it’s easier to change how one wants to look than the numbers that one wants to achieve. Having set ideal dimensions will help to prevent switching models.
This will also ensure that the goal is a healthy one, and let the doctor know that you are serious about your weight loss goals. When consulting a physician about dietary goals it will be easier, and more realistic, to say “I want to weigh X and have a waist circumference of Y” than it would be to say “I want to look like Jared Leto” or “I want to look like Scarlet Johansson.” It will also be easier for the doctor to say whether your goal is realistic, or healthy.
One of the most important parts of losing weight is deciding when to lose that weight, and how much weight to lose. This can also be a deceptively difficult part of the process. Losing weight can take time, however, which gives a lot of room to keep in touch with a medical professional to ensure safe and healthy goals and methods.