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Weight Loss: Everything You Need To Know

The question of one’s weight and weight loss continues to attract attention globally. It is then important that we examine the topic of weight loss in order to have a complete understanding of what’s actually happening in our bodies when we lose weight.

What is Weight Loss?

It is the reduction of the total body mass of an individual. In other words, it is a decrease in a person’s body weight and may result from voluntary activities like dieting and exercising or involuntary circumstances arising from prolonged illnesses or other medical conditions such as cancer [1]. Depression and diabetes can also be causes. Although weight loss is often limited to the reduction of body adipose tissues in humans, research shows that severe weight loss can also include a reduction in body proteins and other body materials. Weight loss occurs when the body is exerting more energy in work and metabolism than it is absorbing from food or other nutrients. In such situations, the body has to fall back on stored energy and calories and this leads to the reduction of the body’s weight [1].

What About Intentional Weight Loss?

Yes, weight loss can be intentional. It is also called ‘slimming’. Usually, intentional weight loss arises from conscious activities like dieting and exercising, and it is believed to increase physical fitness.

A gradual intentional weight loss through nutritional change and exercise positively affects the heart, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. In addition, intentional weight loss can reduce insulin resistance and make muscles and fat tissues more sensitive to circulating insulin levels in the blood [2].

In sports and fashion, intentional weight loss is often embraced. Athletes who seek to improve performance often engage in dieting and other methods of intentional weight loss. Fashion models also reduce body mass to make themselves appear more attractive physically.

How Then Can One Lose Weight Intentionally?

woman working out

If you would like to shed a few ounces, either to enhance your body shape or increase physical fitness, you can adopt a variety of methods. Exercising and slimming may be the most common of these methods. Losing weight through physical activity can make you more energetic, as the heart and muscles become stronger and the body is weighed down by less fat. If you choose to hit the gym, there are weight reducing exercises you could engage in. Push-ups and squats are among the highly recommended exercises for weight loss. Other exercises include curls and jogging.

Dieting to reduce one’s weight is termed ‘slimming’. Slimming is the restriction of food intake in order to reduce body mass. Slimming is an intentional act and involves the strict adherence to a restricted diet. Diets that promote weight loss are usually referred to as ‘low calorie’ or ‘low carbohydrate’ diets. They may also be referred to as low-fat diets or low-calorie diets [3].

Low-fat diets contain little fat and are usually recommended for persons who are obese. On the other hand, low carbohydrate diets contain high protein and fat and they are geared towards reducing carbohydrates. Low-calorie diets, also referred to as ‘balanced percentage diets’ usually produce an energy deficit of 500–1,000 calories per day, which can result in a 0.5 to 1 kilogram (1.1 to 2.2 pounds) weight loss per week [3]. They are often recommended by nutritionists because of their minimal detrimental effects. Fruits and vegetables are also recommended for persons who wish to burn off fat and calories.

When Do You Need to Lose Weight?

It is important to know when the neon light for weight loss is up. To do this, you know your body mass index. Your body mass index is the measure of body fat which is usually calculated based on your height and weight. Knowing your body mass index will allow you know when you are overweight. This can be done by visiting a health care center.

Unintentional Weight Loss

It is normal to shed off a few ounces when the body is under stress. Such stress may arise from undertaking strenuous activities which the body may not be used to at that time. However, it is normal for the body to recoup and for the weight earlier lost to be regained after a short period of time. When this kind of weight loss becomes prolonged, it points to the fact that such person may need to seek medical assistance as such weight loss could be one of the symptoms of an underlying medical condition.

The point at which unintentional weight loss becomes a problem is not exactly clear. However, medical experts suggest that a medical examination is done if an adult loses about five percent of their total weight.

Causes of Unintentional Weight Loss

man sick wet towel forehead

Unintentional weight loss is often associated with a variety of illnesses and medical complications.  A common cause of unintentional weight loss is diabetes. Diabetes is an illness that affects the body’s production of insulin; the enzyme needed to control blood sugar levels.

People who are diabetic have insufficient insulin or a total non-secretion of insulin which prevent the body from getting glucose from the blood, into the body’s cells to use as energy. When this occurs, the body starts burning fat and muscle for energy, causing a reduction in the overall body weight.

Weight loss is also a major symptom of cancer. Cancer is caused by an uncontrollable multiplication of malignant body cells. An unexplainable loss of ten pounds of total body mass may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (swallowing tube), or lung [4]. The American Cancer Society reports that nearly forty percent of cancer patients experience weight loss in the early stages of the disease [4].

Weight loss associated with cancer can stem from many factors depending on the type of cancer and the organs that are affected. Vomiting, lack of appetite and difficulty in chewing and swallowing are common causes. Also, cancer cells use up a large amount of the body’s energy supply and often release substances that alter the way the body processes food energy [4]. These changes, too, can result in weight loss.

Other common causes of unintentional weight loss include stress, depression and other forms of psychological unrest. People with depression and anxiety may pace a lot and tremble more because their metabolisms are accelerated — as a result, they can lose weight. Although depression is usually associated with weight gain and extra ounces, some psychologists believe that severe depression could lead to loss of weight because one loses their interest in food and this is often the result of losing interest in pleasure.

What to Do

The first thing you must do if you notice unusual weight loss is to seek medical attention. It is necessary that you undergo a comprehensive diagnosis and determine what the course of the weight loss is. If it is a symptom of a medical complication, you would begin to receive the necessary care.

On the other hand, you may try any of these steps out if your weight loss is stress or anxiety related. You should eat healthily, get enough sleep and reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption.

General Effects

Whether intentional or unintentional, weight loss has a number of effects on the individual. Some positive effects include increased energy levels, better sleep, an improved memory, reduced health risks and a better physique.

Weight loss allows for improved oxygen efficiency and this makes our daily tasks easier and more efficiently handled. Moving around with a lesser mass allows you do things faster and reduces the amount of energy needed to execute daily tasks.

Being overweight causes inflammation that can trigger uncontrollable multiplication of cells in the body. However, a reduction in body weight can reduce dangerous levels of inflammation in the body.

A 2013 Swedish study revealed that older women scored better on memory tests after six months of following a weight-loss plan. Brain scans showed more activity during the encoding process (when memories are formed) and less activity during memory retrieval, suggesting greater recall efficiency [5]. “The altered brain activity after weight loss suggests that the brain becomes more active while storing new memories and therefore needs fewer brain resources to recollect stored information,” said study author Andreas Pettersson, MD, in a press release [5].

Losing weight usually means there is less material to physically constrict your breathing and less soft tissue to block the upper airways. This means that you get to sleep more soundly.

A major negative effect of weight loss is the sagging of the skin. There is a possibility that the skin will go lax after weight loss. This is brought about by the loosening of the skin due to the gaps left by burned or expelled fat. Skin sagging is a long-term effect of weight loss and may not go away in months; even with the best cosmetic surgery and products.

It is clear that weight loss is a complex issue and must be considered in that regard. As we lose weight, it is necessary to establish the causes of such weight loss and act accordingly.

References

[1] ‘Medical Definition of Weight Loss’,2018. Available: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53393#.
[2] ‘Diabetes and Weight Management’, 2018. Available: http://kirakosjatekok.info/?xf=causes+of+weight+loss+in+diabetes+type+2&qm=73277
[3] ‘Dieting’,2017. Available: http://mediplex.in/wt/dieting.htm
[4] Weight Loss 2016. Available: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/weight-loss
[5] A. Macmillan, ’15 Things Nobody Tells You about Weight Loss’,2015. Available: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20888773,00.html#unexpected-effects-of-weight-loss-0