Now before we talk about diets we’re going to talk about weight and the difference between weight and shape. These two are very often confused and cause a huge amount of wailing, gnashing of teeth and extreme dieting that is painful, unnecessary and ultimately futile.
Am I too large or am I the wrong shape or am I both or have I confused the two?
This ladies, is the burning question and is the one to answer before you start reaching for the Weight Watchers emergency hotline.
The key place to start in answering this is to consider the question, is there too much of me everywhere or only in some places? This is absolutely subjective of course but here is where you get to say (once again) the oft muttered phrase, “I think my bum/tummy/thighs/boobs are too big/small”. Go on, you said it didn’t you?
If you did indeed answer here that my bum/tummy/thighs/boobs are too big/small then you are almost certainly considering them not only in isolation but in relation to the rest of your body and if we’re talking about the proportion between different body parts, we are in fact talking about shape. Here’s the new girls….you aren’t ever going to change that – you are born with a shape and in almost all cases that is how you will stay.
Ok, so now somebody will send us two before and after photos of a radically altered celebrity but for most of us, undertaking sensible, healthy diets, we will face a reduction in weight and size that is all over our bodies. The Pear shaped ladies will complain that their boobs disappear whilst their bottom and thighs remain largely untouched. Cornets will find they get skinny fast but their boobs stay relatively large and start to look even more out of place on their increasingly waif like frames. We are the shape we are and we should concentrate on dressing that shape to look how we want (or at least the best we can) rather than constraining ourselves with endless diets.
One the other hand, if the answer to that first question “is there too much of me everywhere” was yes, then you need to lose some weight, it really is that easy. So here is where you expect us to recommend some new diet that came from California and is called the XYZ something plan diet blah blah and then reel off a huge list of celebs who have benefited from it and how great it is and oh yes, by the way you can buy it here.
Here’s the only diet plan you, us and anyone will ever need.
Consume less calories than you use each day and you will lose weight. Consume more calories than you use each day and you will gain weight.
However you dress up any fad diet, this is the basic reality of how our bodies work – it really is that simple.
The whole idea of fat is that its Mother Nature’s way of storing calories we don’t need today so that if we have a calorific deficit in the future we have something to draw on. In a natural environment far removed from our modern world, the abundance of summer as opposed to the privations of winter is one clear example why we evolved such a strategy.
However, this natural balance goes wrong if there is no lean period where we draw on these stored calories and the fact is that in the developed world we exist in a state of continual abundance that continues to yield a caloric surplus that we store as ever increasing reserves of fat.
A second aspect that is very important to consider is the easy and cheap availability of calories. In the developing world socio economically disadvantaged people are almost always thin, in the developed world the same group is often overweight because they make less informed diet choices and have unprecedented access to cheap calories in the form of processed or fast food and the cost of all food has come down in real terms over the years.
The negative effects of this abundance and access to cheap calories are further exacerbated by the fact that we move less than we were designed to do. Everything in the world in which our bodies were developed to live demanded exercise and energy. The modern world (with me sat at this computer screen for example) does not make such demands on us physically so we lose a natural opportunity to burn some of those excess calories we’ve been merrily gulping down.
So, unavoidably, it comes down to the simple fact of consuming fewer calories than we expend.
Unfortunately for most of us this is much easier said than done but once we face up to the fact that this is how weight loss works, we can forget about endless exotic diet plans or expensive shakes and meal replacements. Eating less of unhealthy foods and eating a modest balanced diet of healthy foods combined with some calorie burning exercise will work for all of us simply because that is how our bodies are made – the difficulty is just finding the will power to do it.