Have you ever met one of those people, or are you one of those people who eats a reasonably healthy diet, but remains overweight? Well, unfortunately for overweight people the fat’s not going anywhere unless something is done about it.
What I’m trying to highlight is the fact that there are many people out there who do actually eat a sensible diet, and probably do a reasonable amount of exercise, however they’re still over weight. The reason? The damage is already done.
Sometimes I like to compare fatness to finance because it’s a simple analogy which most people can relate to. The only difference is that more money is generally a positive thing whereas more fat is generally a negative thing. But in principle, the amount you have works the same way for both examples.
Let’s say my income is £2000 per month. However I only spend £1000 per month. Over a 12 month period I will have accumulated £12000 in excess cash. This is good, and if I was to resume to a “normal” amount of spend relative to my income and spend £2000 per month, I’ll always have that extra £12000 sitting in my bank.
However if we use the body fat analogy and I eat 2000 calories per day and I only expend 1000 calories per day, after a year I’ll have 365,000 excess calories. Unfortunately this excess gets stored as fat and 365,000 calories equates to 40.5kg or 89lbs of fat. That’s a lot of excess weight. Even if I start to eat a “healthy” diet or up my exercise in line with that of a healthy* person I’m not going to lose weight, because that weight remains in my bank unless I spend it.
Many people, through no fault of their own, consumed excess at a young age and piled on the lbs to find that despite eating a normal** amount they remain overweight.
To reverse this situation requires sustained dedication because using my above example, I’d need to either expend 3000 calories per day and eat my normal 2000 calories for a year or the alternative, continue at the same level of activity and eat nothing for a year. Literally nothing. Obviously there is a balanced approach whereby I consume slightly less, for example 1500 calories per day and do slightly more, burning, say 2500 calories per day creating a 1000 calorie deficit. After a year I’d be where I started. But that’s an entire year of doing that consistently, with no days off or days of rest etc.
Now, I know some of you are reading this and saying “but I just can’t eat as much as other people otherwise I gain weight” which might be true. The answer…..don’t eat as much as other people. If you can’t eat as much as other people, you are not meant to eat as much as other people. Don’t judge yourself by the same standards as them. Maybe they DO have a higher metabolism. In which case they need more fuel. NEED more fuel. You don’t need it.
Let’s go back to our bank account. If we earn exactly what we need to earn and nothing more we will always end up with a zero bank balance at the end of the month. If we earn more than we need, we will accumulate money in the form of savings. If we earn less than we need we will lose money over time. But not everybody needs the same amount of money. Some of us have huge mortgages, several children, nice cars or large credit card bills. Those people NEED a lot of money. Some people have small houses and no other significant spend, and those people don’t NEED much money.
The same goes for food and drink. If you eat more than you need, you accumulate fat. I can’t stress this enough. Body fat is unused fuel, therefore people with high levels of body fat have consumed more than they need. There is no way around this. Yes, it maybe the case that they eat the right amount now, but at some point in the past they have eaten excess and this has been stored as energy in the form of body fat.
So why do some people need more food than others? Metabolism is the simple answer, but what makes a metabolism which uses more fuel? Muscle mass is one. Height is another factor. Activity levels is a third. These are the three big ones. If the muscle within the body is our engine, then it stands to reason that bigger muscles burn more fuel. And for a normal shaped body, muscle mass is proportional to height. The taller you are and the longer your limbs the more muscle mass you will have. And then as we know, the more active you are the more fuel you burn, but the type of activity you do also affects how much fuel you burn. Activities which require more recovery, growth and development of the tissues leave the body in a heightened state of fuel burning.
So maybe you do eat the right amount or maybe your friends can eat more than you, but the fact remains, excess body fat is unused fuel and if you have it, you’ve eaten more than you need. The only way it’s going to go is if you up your activity, increase your metabolism and lower your calorie intake-for as long as it takes.
Next month I’ll discuss my other analogies: The Gain Train and The Pain Train where we find out why the process of losing weight can be a challenge.
*healthy can mean many things but for this example let’s say an average healthy person performs vigorous exercise 3 x per week
**there is no such thing as a normal amount of food. The government has messed things up by telling us that women should eat 2000 calories per day and men should eat 2500. This is incorrect and you should eat however much you need, based on your size, activity levels, and body composition and whether you are trying to lose, maintain or gain weight.