There are many indicators of health, and weight is just one of them. That said, weight loss is a popular goal for many people trying to improve their health. There are several benefits associated with losing a few pounds through healthy methods, like better blood sugar control, healthier blood pressure and lower chronic disease risk. And even though you’ve probably heard that good nutrition and physical activity can lead to weight loss, it’s easier said than done.
Your whole lifestyle plays a part in getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. When it comes to diet and exercise, you can’t really have one without the other. But they might be more valuable at different times in your weight loss journey. So what’s the best formula to lose weight and keep it off? We took a look at the research and spoke with weight loss dietitian, Lainey Younkin, M.S., RD, LDN (follow her at Lainey Younkin Nutrition) to find out.
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How Is Weight Loss Different Than Weight Maintenance?
Weight loss is often thought of as “calories in, calories out”, but it’s not quite that simple. How many calories you need in a day is influenced by many factors, including age, activity level, body composition, illness, injury and more. The amount of energy (aka calories) our body uses each day is also known as our metabolism. Aside from calories we burn during exercise, there are three ways our body burns calories: basal metabolic rate (how much energy is needed to keep your heart pumping and lungs breathing), thermic effect of food (the energy it takes to digest what we eat) and non-exercise activity thermogenesis (think of walking to work or going up stairs). The vast majority of our body’s energy is spent on our basal metabolic rate.
Losing weight can actually slow down our metabolism a bit (think: a smaller body requires less energy to heat than a larger one). That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you might need to be a little more strategic when trying to lose weight. Let’s break down what your primary focus should be for weight loss and weight maintenance, and how they differ.