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Nutrition and Weight Loss: One Size Does Not Fit All

Once we get past the idea that fad diets will make us thin immediately, we can accept the basics of weight loss as universal truths:

More exercise + fewer calories consumed = weight loss

However, our problem doesn't end there. Although the fundamental components of effective weight loss programs are quite similar for all of us, how we actually achieve these goals must be tailored to each person. One exercise programme is not right for all people. What's more, new research shows we can't count on these fundamental components to give us all the same amount of weight loss.

New research from the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation reveals that people doing the same amount of supervised exercise lose different amounts of weight. The researchers discovered that depending on your personality type, you might compensate for increased exercise by eating more calories, thus reducing (or even eliminating) any weight loss. Both biological hunger and a reward mentality can contribute to this outcome. So no matter how zealous one is with their exercise programme, the outcome may or may not include weight loss.

Your exercise and nutrition plan should be tailored based on your specific needs, body type, state of health, age, gender, and fitness level. For example, people will lose weight at different speeds depending on how overweight they are to begin with. Obese people tend to lose weight very quickly upon beginning any sort of exercise program, which can be very encouraging at first. Later, as they lose weight and gain strength, the weight loss slows down. It can even plateau, which can be incredibly frustrating to someone who has been committed and hard working up to that point. To get off a plateau, the exercise programme must adapt and increase, and the nutrition plan must be carefully adhered to.

Your state of health can definitely affect how you design you weight loss programme. Diabetics have specific nutritional needs and must carefully select an appropriate plan to lose weight. However, the benefits for diabetics can exceed those for almost anyone else, since diabetes II can be reversed with exercise and weight loss, and diabetes I can be controlled - all without medication! If you have back problems or osteoporosis, certain physical activities may not be appropriate for you. A session with a personal trainer and a nutritionist would be a wise idea for anyone with a health condition and who wants to lose weight.

Your fitness programme must be tailored just for you, too. The University of Alberta conducted a large study of over 275,000 people that examined trends and preferences regarding people and their exercise programs. "It is clear that different genders, ethnicities and income levels have very diverse influences and choices when it comes to being physically active," says Brad Humphreys, an economics professor at the University of Alberta.

Part of designing the right programme for you is coming up with your own personal obstacles to exercise and weight loss, and creating strategies to overcome them. For example, many people say they can't afford a gym membership or special equipment to get fit, but there are ways to get fit without spending any money or even leaving the house.

Other problems in your life may also affect how you design your weight loss plan. The best time to take on a major weight loss challenge is probably not when you're dealing with other major life issues, such as marital or financial stresses. Timing is an important component of success. Ask yourself if now is a good time to take on a new mental and physical challenge that involves many aspects of your life. In the end, it may be easy to blame those problems on your lack of success, when really it is all up to you to follow through on your commitment. You might as well make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Here are some universal strategies that have been shown to help people lose weight. They can and should be adapted to your specific needs and life circumstances.

  1. Commit yourself mentally and physically to this new challenge. It won't happen overnight.
  2. Find support. Although you alone can make it happen, you'll need the emotional support of people around you. You'll be making changes to your life that they can help or impede.
  3. Be realistic. It is most realistic to try to lose 1 to 2 lbs per week, not more.
  4. Forget suffering. It's time to get over the idea that weight loss must equal deprivation and hunger. Make the effort to find fresh, locally grown, whole foods instead of processed, packaged foods. You'll be amazed at the difference in taste, so you can eat less and feel more satisfied. And your body will thank you for the nutrition!
  5. Be active. Although it is possible to lose weight without exercise, it happens far faster and delivers far more benefits with exercise. You will also find the exercise helps you mentally deal with the changes you are making in your life.
  6. Think in terms of permanent change. This is not a one-month plan or a 6-week plan. You are making changes to improve your quality of life!
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