Reducing diets – the theory

Doctors usually put people who want to lose weight on a daily diet containing about 1,200 Calories ( = 1,200 kilocalories). This almost always maintains health while leading to loss of weight – providing the slimmer sticks to the 1,200 Calorie limit. An average woman uses around 2,300 Calories per day, a man slightly more. So, on a 1,200 Calories per day diet you are likely to draw on between 1,000 and 2,000 Calories worth of energy daily from your fat reserves. One kilogram of fat is equivalent to around 7,700 Calories-worth of energy. Therefore on a 1,200 Calories per day diet you should lose weight at the rate of between one and two kilograms a week. The amount of weight you lose on such a diet differs from one individual to another. For someone who has a low metabolic rate (the rate at which the body uses up its Calories) or who does little exercise (which helps to use up Calories) then the energy needs – and hence rate of weight loss – will be less than for someone who has a high metabolic rate and exercises regularly. This is why some people lose weight more quickly than others. The more active the exercise the more Calories burned and the more quickly you will lose weight. Theoretically, then, one of the best combinations is a reducing diet with regular exercise.

Reducing diets – the practicalities

Many fat people find it easy to theorize and plan a reducing diet. What is so difficult is achieving the longed-for weight reduction. One way of reducing your Calorie intake without eating a lot less is to eat more sensibly by chosing foods low in Calories. This can be approached in two ways. First, if you go on a weight-reducing diet you should get a Calorie chart showing the energy values of foods. You will see that foods that contain fat are more calorific than those containing carbohydrate or protein. This is because fat provides twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein. The first approach, then, is to avoid foods which have a lot of fat in them. This means avoiding butter, cream, milk and oil for frying. Trim the fat from meat, and buy lean cuts. It is comparatively easy to reduce fat intake by 75 per cent. To cut the other 25 per cent would leave an unappetizing diet totally without foods such as cheese, eggs, red meat and salad dressing. We generally like the taste imparted by the fat component of food and to get rid of it completely would leave us feeling unsatisfied; it is fat that makes a meal ‘stick to your ribs’, as the old saying goes. Carbohydrate intake should also be reduced if possible, because sugar is a highly concentrated form of energy and small volumes impart many Calories. Avoid sugar, sweets, jams, tinned fruits and other sugary substances. If you have an incurable sweet tooth you can use an artificial sweetner in tea or coffee; artificial sweetners are also available for use in cooking or adding to cereals or fruit dishes. Alcohol consumption should also be reduced because alcohol is very calorific.

The basis of the second approach to losing weight by changing your diet is to eat more high-fibre foods. They take longer to chew and this helps to suppres the appetite, and it is thought they stay in the stomach for a longer time so you feel full for longer. Bread and cereals are available with an indication on the wrapping that they have a high fibre content.

When you go Calorie-calculating, everything must be counted – including the amount of milk and sugar in your beverages and the butter on your bread. It is best to divide your Calorie intake among several meals a day to give your body a chance to work off the Calories through normal activity and exercise. Your food will be burned up more efficiently this way than if you had just one large high-calorie meal in the evening, with little likelihood of exercise afterwards. Such low-carbohydrate ‘snacking’ diets are also often prescribed for people who develop diabetes later in life, as sometimes happens in obese people with a genetic tendency to the disorder. In any case, weight loss is recommended for diabetics, and dietary control of this kind can reduce the need for insulin injections.

If you find it hard to keep to 1,200 Calories per day then increase your limit, so long as it is less than 1,800 Calories per day.

Your weight loss will not be so fast but if you stay with it you will probably have lost at least six or seven kilograms after six months.

If you diet, check your progress by weighing yourself once a week rather than every day (when no weight loss or even a slight gain maybe dtected and can be extremely discouraging). Do weigh yourself at the same time of day, on the same scales, wearing the same clothes (or none at all), and without leaning back or forwards, which alters the balance.

Aids to the reducing diet

If you find it impossible to do without thoughts and tastes of your favourite high-calorie foods then there are a number of low-calorie equivalents on the market. They include bread, soups, butter, margarine, cheeses, soft drinks, salad cream, and milk, to name but a few, and food manufacturers are increasing the range all the time. These low-calorie versions have had much of their fat, starch and sugar replaced by Calorie-free components such as artificial sweeteners, air, and water.

For people who do not have the will power to stick to a conventional diet there are complete low-calorie meals available which are usually in the form of biscuits or bars, powders to be re-constituted with milk or water, or frozen, canned and dehydrated meals. They are often recommended to replace one or two meals a day. They contain all the nutrients you need but their disadvantage is that they become monotonous if relied on for a long time (and many of them are much more expensive than naturally low-calorie foods). Also, using them does not teach you the good dietary habits that are necessary to keep slim once your target weight has been reached.

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