Weight loss journeys are never easy – dietary restrictions, fighting hard to defeat stubborn bad food habits and finding time for regular physical activity are just some of the challenges typically faced along the way. But the trickiest part is, the most important battle – the one that determines overall success – starts way after the goal is achieved.

Apparently, keeping the weight off in the long run is by all means the most difficult part of any available intervention. Even the people who tried their absolute hardest tend to slip off the track and start making questionable choices eventually.

For instance, recent research following up the contestants of an insanely popular weight management boot camp-style show, The Biggest Loser, revealed some sad, borderline discouraging stats [1]. During the 30-week contest itself, incorporating strict dieting and intense exercise regime, the participants went from 150 kg to 90 kg, on average [1].

Seems like a massive victory…but 6 years after, their weight, on average, was right where it was at the beginning of the show [1]. Only one contestant managed to carry the after-show measurements through the years [1].

Even the use of radical interventions, such as weight loss drugs and/or a surgical approach, does not seem to change the way of things much [2]. Long term weight management remains a very difficult task, associated with enormous risk of failure and weight regain [2].

So are all our efforts pointless, and the failure – inevitable, or is there still hope for those striving to drop a few kilos and stay lean? Keep reading to find out, as today we are reviewing the most recent evidence in the area and debunking some popular myths.

The Weight Loss Epidemic

The weight loss hype and the subsequent popularity of The Biggest Loser and similar shows is perfectly explainable – obesity is on the rise, with around 70% of modern adults carrying extra weight [3]. It’s not difficult to figure out who the main culprits are: modern lifestyles, involving prolonged low mobility periods, thanks to cars and desk-based jobs.

Add high-calorie foods and living-on-the-go, and you have a perfect recipe for our muffin tops and love handles to get progressively thicker over time. Remarkably, despite the facts, many tend to think that…

Unfortunately, this is outright incorrect. Obesity is a very serious, diagnosable condition, strongly linked to adverse health consequences such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancers [4].

Gaining tremendous amounts of excessive weight is more than simply “eating too much and doing too little” – recent research reveals that the environment has major influences on lifestyle-related decisions [5]. So-called “obesogenic environments” filled with cars, office jobs and sedentary leisure time activities such as TV watching or internet surfing, encourage inactivity and promote overeating, which backfires due to our evolutional tendency to store fat [1].

Our bodies are predetermined by evolution to store excessive nutrients “just in case”, even though these days food is readily available 24/7 [5].

We are wired to choose convenience and preserve energy – for instance, without extra effort or a habit formed over a long time, very few human beings will prefer to walk to work in business clothing, soaking in sweat, if there is a car in the garage or a bus stop a couple of steps away.

On a positive note, the opposite is also true – for instance, if safe and convenient bicycle tracks are available, people are much more likely to purchase and ride pushbikes [4].

Unfortunately, overall it’s hard to call the environments we live in encouraging and motivating. Consequently, current stats don’t look so good: only 67% of men and 55% of women aged 16 and over met the government’s recommendations for physical activity, which is only 150 minutes per week – and simple walking is considered physical activity, too [4].

As a result, compared to 1980, today’s obesity levels are more than three times higher [4], and health professionals are concerned that the new generation will be the first one in history to have a shorter predicted lifespan that their parents due to developing obesity-related conditions. Essentially since, more and more people are dying prematurely each year from totally preventable diseases and their complications!

Sounds frightening? Don’t panic, there is help available.

What options are available

It’s pretty clear today that society as a whole needs to challenge the common perceptions and create an environment that encourages healthy eating and sufficient physical activity.

There is a tendency to put everything on the government and hope that some miraculous intervention will be implemented soon, but when it comes to weight-related issues, every individual has to experience a major shift in responsibility & lifestyle.  This will influence families, workplaces, and slowly but surely – the society as a whole.

 

The governmental interventions usually do not seem very successful at a glance, as most countries have diverse communities and social profiles, and each one has to be approached from a completely different angle. The experience of smaller countries, however, gives hope for micro-interventions on a community level.

For instance, the Cuban national program targeting obesity issues was highly successful, even though prevalence of the condition and related co-morbidities was extremely high at the time [4].

So, following governmental programs and campaigns is definitely a viable option, as those are usually carefully put together based on recent evidence. Although the options are numerous, the core measures typically include recommendations such as:

  • Advice on healthier food choices, shopping/meal guides
  • Resources helping to understand food labelling better and make informed choices
  • Physical activity guidelines (typically revolving around at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week)
  • Workout plans

It’s safe to say that even if you are not inclined towards any particular pre-designed program, you can just follow the tips above and still succeed. The crucial part is to not perceive the changes as a once-off to see a certain number on scales – instead, mentally prepare yourself to commit for a complete lifestyle makeover (seeking professional help from a personal trainer will help a lot!). Otherwise, long term success is unlikely.

Speaking of long term picture, ever wondered what the future is likely to look like if we won’t make changes collectively?

What would the future look like.

If we keep going at the current pace, the future doesn’t look so good. A recent study [6], implementing innovative methods and calculations to predict obesity trends, reveals that by 2030 we may be facing a 33% increase in obesity prevalence and a 130% increase in severe obesity prevalence. This will cost the society approximately £549.5 billion extra in the next 2 decades, spent mostly on healthcare needs [6].

Clearly, this is not an ideal scenario to look forward to, but what can we do to go along a better path, exactly? As we’ve briefly mentioned before, in the case of this particular problem, the best solution is to start on an individual level, simply speaking – from yourself!

By maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly, you are literally changing the world around you, one step at a time. The more healthy choices get exposed, the greater are the chances such things will become a new norm instead of junk food and being glued to the TV screen all weekend long.

Sounds pretty good and inspiring, but what’s the best place to start? Perhaps, one of the best things you can do is contact a personal trainer. As a qualified professional, your personal coach will tailor a program specifically to your needs, taking any potential barriers and obstacles into account and working around them if necessary.

A personal trainer will motivate and guide you, and will even help to set up a personalised nutrition plan! With help like this, you’re set for long term success.

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Conclusion

So, turns out following the right advice and working on your attitude are the key components to win the battle against being over-weight especially if you decide to get help from a personal trainer specialising in the area of weight management. Working together, we can start moving towards a very different future, living happy, healthy and active lives and raising future generations sharing the same core values.

And also, remember – it’s not all about appearance. You don’t need to look like a fitness model to be the healthiest you. Instead, set a reasonable long term goal and enjoy the benefits of the new exciting lifestyle.

References

  1. Doyle, K. 6 Years after The Biggest Loser, Metabolism Is Slower and Weight Is Back Up. 2016.
  2. Montesi, L., et al., Long-term weight loss maintenance for obesity: a multidisciplinary approach. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes, 2016. 9: p. 37-46.
  3. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet. 2015, Health and social care information centre.
  4. NHS, Britain: ‘the fat man of Europe’. 2015.
  5. Reducing obesity: future choices. 2007, Government Office for Science: UK.
  6. Finkelstein, E.A., et al., Obesity and severe obesity forecasts through 2030. Am J Prev Med, 2012. 42(6): p. 563-70.