Overweight is a growing problem in all the affluent countries of the world. The trouble is – and this is the first lesson that any slimmer has to learn – is that there is no easy way!
You have become fat because at some period in your life you have eaten more than your body needed to function normally. That excess food has been stored around your body as fat, and that fat can only be reduced if you decide to cut down fairly drastically in your food intake.
This means eating insufficient food for your bodily requirements. Your body will then call upon its reserve store of fat deposited to maintain its warmth, energy, and growth requirements.
The most common cause of overweight is self-indulgence. The most important factor needed for successful slimming is willpower.
I am not suggesting that you should starve yourselves to lose weight but I do advise that you alter your eating habits, by both reducing the amount of food you eat, and by ensuring that in your diet you include daily all the correct foods needed by your body; enabling you to lose weight gradually, but consistently, and feel fit while you are doing it, not tired, ill or weak.
What is fat? How is fat formed? How can fat be broken down? These are vital questions if you are to understand the basis of slimming.
The fat on your body is not like a lump of lard that you put in the frying pan. In fact, your fat is liquid, and kept in individual fat cells; a whole mass of these cells together form adipose tissue or fat. This is found between your muscles, under your skin, and around your internal organs. You can think of your fat cells as bunches of tiny balloons all over your body. When you eat more food than you need they start to inflate. The more you eat, the more they inflate. The more they inflate, the fatter you get.
The fat that ends up in these cells does not come only from the actual fats that you eat. Food which you don’t immediately use as energy is eventually stored as fat.
This fat acts as your energy reserve. A man of normal weight would have enough energy in his fat store to last him for several weeks if he ate nothing.
Very fat people have enough stored to last them for many months. One form of treatment for the grossly overweight is to put them in a hospital and give them no solid food for six months or more – a prospect well worth avoiding.
One-third of all women over 30 years are overweight. If this article interests you, then you may well be one of these women – if not now, then maybe in the future.
There are ways of checking whether you are too fat, and if you are in any doubt, try them all.
The pinch: This is really a do it yourself version of the method used by some doctors to find out how much fat you have under your skin. They use a pair of skinfold calipers to measure a fold of your flesh. You can use your thumb and first finger to pinch the back of your upper arm, or around your midriff, or choose whatever area you know to be fattest. If you can pinch a thickness of more than three centimeters, you’re probably too fat.
The look: take a good look at your naked self in a full-length mirror, and ask yourself whether you’re too fat. Don’t kid yourself!
The think back: Have you ever been a lot slimmer than you are now? If you have, think back to what you weighed, or what your clothes size was then – consider that weight or size as your target.
The scales: Nine times out of ten, if you think you’re getting fat you’ll weigh yourself on a pair of scales. If you have kept a regular check on your weight, you’ll know immediately when it is time to do something about it. You may decide to refer to tables (see next page) showing the average and ideal weight of your height and body frame. These tables are often based on the data collected by life insurance companies.
Does being overweight matter? Yes, it matters very much, both psychologically and physically. Keeping slim can make all the difference to your life.
From the purely aesthetic point of view, you look better, clothes fit you comfortably and you can wear garments designed to make the most of your slim figure, not conceal a fat one.
Being overweight can be a very real cause of unhappiness leading to a loss of self-respect, of the respect of your family and friends, and ending in a deep depression. Being fat can also have social disadvantages, it can make one look older.
Even with children, being overweight can cause much torment from fellow classmates, and into teenage can cause sensitivity over difficulties in finding a boyfriend.
Even more important, you are much healthier if you keep to a reasonable weight. You may feel healthy enough now, but lose some weight and you’ll feel a lot fitter. Being fat is like an illness, and in fact, in some cases, patients are admitted to the hospital to be treated because obesity can be so bad for their health.
Cheer up for as soon as you begin to lose weight the chances of you becoming ill as a result of your obesity diminish rapidly until you are back to normal and can look forward to a full and healthy life.
The origins of your present fatness can go back to babyhood. We learn early that food is good to eat. It means relief from hunger, gives pleasure, comfort, and security.
It is possible that overfeeding in a baby’s first years may be a critical factor. Recent studies have shown that extra fat cells may be laid down in these babies. There is little evidence that fatness is inherited from parents, but quite possible that you may have inherited their eating and cooking habits!
Many women blame their weight problem on the contraceptive pill. It has been estimated that probably one-half of all women taking the Pill gain from one kilogram to six kilograms but never more than this as a direct result of the Pill.
The possible reasons for this are firstly that certain hormones in the Pill can increase the amount of liquid retained in the body by decreasing its excretion from the kidneys. Secondly, estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones which make up the Pill, help to build up body tissues, so having an increased amount of these hormones, however small, in the bloodstream, can mean an all-round increase in weight. Finally, it is also possible that some women taking the Pill become so relaxed and relieved at solving the problem of unwanted pregnancies they may well eat more in their newfound contentment.
We eat not only because we enjoy our food, but because food provides the necessary fuel for the working of our bodies: it supplies material for growth and repair of body tissues, it provides heat and energy, and it supplies materials needed to regulate body development and to maintain a resistance to certain diseases.
When food is metabolized in the body, it gives off energy. Different foods give off different amounts of energy, and we use the term kilojoule as a unit with which to measure this heat/energy produced. In terms of heat, one tablespoonful of sugar gives off enough energy in the body to boil one liter of cold water. Twenty-five grams of butter gives off sufficient energy to boil three liters of water. If you are 12kg overweight, you are carrying around enough stored energy to boil 140 liters of water! It is a pity that as vet no one has devised a scheme to get at this energy for general use!
Foods high in kilojoule value must be avoided in slimming diets because if the energy they give off is not quickly used up it is converted into fat and stored. When eventually it is required, the fat undergoes a process of conversion back into glucose, and then glycogen needed for muscular activity.
We divide food into groups. A normal well-balanced diet should contain daily proportions of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, mineral salts, and vitamins.
Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars in our diet which provide the energy requirements for the body. When metabolized they form glucose, and if too much is eaten the glucose is stored as fat.
These goods should be avoided on a slimming diet. The body will obtain all the energy it requires from its stored fat. Incidentally, it should be understood that even when we are being very inactive or asleep we are still using up energy all the time. We are warmer than our surroundings, and losing heat constantly which has to be replenished. Our heart muscles are working away pumping blood around the body. Our lungs are expanding and contracting with every breath we take, our last meal is being digested, our bone marrow is hard at work making red blood cells, and there are countless chemical reactions taking place within our bodies. Unfortunately, no calories are used up in mental effort!
Proteins are a group of foods required for bodybuilding, growth, and repair. These are the less fattening foods and some must be taken every day as they cannot be stored in the body in protein form. An excess of protein will however be stored as fat.
There are two classes of protein: first-class proteins are from animal origins such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, poultry, and cheese.
Second class proteins are of vegetable origins such as peas, beans, lentils, nuts, and cereals. Some first-class protein is recommended every day.
Fats are our main source of heat needed to maintain the body temperature, we tend to eat more of these foods in the winter, and of course, an excess of fat will be stored around the body. Fats are found in all dairy products, certain oily fish, meats, and margarine, and should be avoided in a slimming diet.
Mineral salts required in the body are found in small quantities in most of the foods that we eat. The main ones needed are calcium and phosphorus which are used in the formation of bones and teeth and can be found in meat, cheese, milk, and green vegetables. A deficiency in these results in rickets.
Iron is necessary for blood formation and is found in meat, liver, cheese, eggs, and green vegetables. A deficiency results in anemia.
Iodine is important to the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and is found in the leaves of green vegetables. A shortage can result in goiter.
Vitamins are complex chemical substances present in small amounts in most foods. A shortage of any one of these in the daily diet can result in disease.
One remaining factor to mention is that whether one is on a slimming diet or not, it is essential that sufficient fluid is consumed. This is important both for the transport of the digested food materials from the body.
To maintain the fluid balance of the body, the normal daily intake should be at least one and three-quarter liters. The diet must also contain enough roughage, which is the indigestible part of the food, providing bulk in the body, and preventing constipation. Fiber is found mainly in fruit and vegetables and in wholemeal bread.
When planning a slimming diet you should first see your doctor.