Introduction

Weight loss, in the context of medicine, health and physical fitness, can be broadly defined in the following terms: weight loss is the reduction of total body mass due to a loss of fluid, body fat (or adipose tissue), and/or the loss of lean mass (bone mineral deposits, muscle mass, tendon mass and other connective tissue mass). An unintentional body mass reduction can occur because of disease or illness (including depression), and intentional weight loss can be for either therapeutic or cosmetic ends.

In terms of therapeutic weight loss (where weight loss is needed for health reasons, such as is the case in obesity or diabetes type II), body mass is fast becoming an area of concern for an ever increasing proportion of the population. Obesity affects more adults than ever before, which, combined with the high levels of childhood obesity, contribute to the need for a proliferation of effective and sustainable weight loss programmes.

Whereas weight loss may be achieved through a variety of means, the most widely accepted methods that physicians promote include the combination of a healthy, well portioned eating plan and regular, moderate exercise.

Both of the above mentioned components of a balanced, holistic approach to the loss of excess body weight include a large dimension of self-discipline. Although it really cannot be said that an inability to lose weight rests entirely on the respective individual’s failure to follow a disciplined routine (as everyone’s body reacts differently to food intake and exercise routines), a successful weight loss regime will naturally be seen to include an aspect of self-discipline.

Crash diets (short term weight loss programmes that usually include 12/24 or 48 hour periods of fasting) are regarded by health care professionals as being imprudent and, at best, only temporary solutions. Whereas the weight of a crash dieter may lessen, it is often only because the water content in their respective bodies is much less; and in the cases where water is still taken in as hydration, the minimal loss of body fat is quickly picked up again when the dieter returns to normal eating patterns. Crash diets can compared, figuratively, to buying Cape Town property and expecting its value to increase overnight. In the longer terms, diets are inferior to well-planned eating schedules that take into account the amount of calories in the food, the various proportions of food types (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc.), and the amount of physical exertion that takes place on an average daily basis. Referring to the previous metaphor, this type of attitude is more akin to a long term investment that produces genuine results.

In a correct and healthy weight loss regime, weight loss occurs because an individual is in a negative state of thermodynamic flux. This negative state only occurs when the body is exerting a greater amount of energy (that is, through work and the functioning of the metabolic system) than it is consuming through food and other nutrients. All digestible intake is here regarded as “food”, no matter how unhealthy it may be. The obvious psychological advantage to sustained weight loss is not necessarily that you’ll be as slim as a BlackBerry 10, but rather that you’ll feel better about your physical appearance.

If more energy is exerted than is consumed, the body will look to its energy reserves (that is, fat deposits) to make up the deficit for the energy exertion requirements. The inverse case is also true: when more energy is consumed than is needed for metabolic and physical work needs, a portion of the excess energy intake is stored for possible future use in fat deposits. In other words, the best way to attain and sustain a healthy weight is through ensuring that you eat healthily and that you exercise on a regular basis to burn off extra calories. So dress in your most comfortable sports clothing and get physical!