When a weight loss company, practitioner, or program promotes itself or its techniques are adherent to natural weight loss, then many people are surely going to flock to them and treat their counsels as credible. “Natural” has gained, over time, a positive connotation in the fields of medicine and wellness. But today, with almost any weight loss program presenting itself as “natural”, it is hard to set boundaries regarding what is genuinely natural and speciously natural.
Advertising has gotten to the point that they can make an audience believe that a certain weight loss method is natural – when in fact, the “natural” used is most often just a label to attract customers, without regard for any definite meaning. No wonder fad diets are getting rampant and diet pills or supplements are consumed more and more because of the beguiling assurances of their being “natural” wrapped up in enticing sales promotions and alluring images. The cultural stigma brought about by obesity and the psychological importance of having a body image in line with social expectations compounds the issue by pressuring customers to purchase “natural” products without first analyzing what “natural” is.
Intelligent customers should first know what natural weight loss really is; and given that, determine next which techniques portrayed as “natural” are really natural. That way, they can be well informed and think critically about their weight loss activities and not be stuck with ineffective, costly or even unsafe weight loss routines for a long time. Before knowing what natural weight loss really is, it might help us to know what it is not.
Natural weight loss does not consist of stuff such as pills, drugs, surgery, or other delicate procedures. Such techniques alter the body’s functioning; hence, it is not the body that engages in the actual weight loss process, but the procedures themselves. Drugs or pills deliberately accelerate metabolism instead of making the body accelerate its own metabolism. Surgery, such as liposuction, deliberately removes fat instead of making the body itself clear out fat. Also, these methods could count as not natural because they involve activities that we do not generally do daily, like eating, drinking, or moving. They are done only in necessary special cases (note that taking multivitamin supplements is still ‘natural’ because the body takes in vitamins and minerals as a requirement and not for extraordinary enhancement purposes outside its scope) like illness or injury.
There are already some well-documented cases where drugs applied to weight loss may cause death. During the 1930′s there was a drug called dinitrophenol (DNP) that caught the attention of many weight loss aspirants. DNP is the active ingredient of most diet pill during that time where it was estimated that about 100,000 people took DNP for weight loss. DNP permits leakage of protons across the mitochondria (the parts of cells directly involved in energy production), thus rendering energy production less inefficient – more heat is generated and less energy (ATP) in produced than before.
Inefficient energy production increases metabolic rate to compensate, and that requires burning more fat and calories – the mechanism behind DNP’s weight loss. However, the heat that DNP’s mechanism could accumulate in the body and cause hyperthermia – which, if left untreated, leads to death. It’s like how a motor functions: as the motor heats up, more fuel is needed to make the motor run at its normal pace, but if the motor is kept unattended while heated up too much, it will eventually die down. Because DNP tolerance varies sharply in the population, its effects on two people may not be the same; for one person, it may take small doses to induce weight loss, but for others, a higher dose may be needed. Studies showed, however, that 20-50 mg/kg is a lethal dose. Because of those concerns, aside from the mounting incidence of cataracts among people taking DNP, DNP has been discontinued since 1938 as a routine weight loss drug, and is now administered only in special cases under a physician’s strict supervision and monitoring.
Other promoters of weight loss products define natural weight loss products as follows: A weight loss product is natural if it involves naturally occurring substances. That means that if the weight loss product has no synthetic ingredients, it automatically qualifies as natural. Herbal supplements come under and are heavily promoted under this definition. The definition may be accurate, for what occurs naturally is indeed natural, so why not explain it in the label, many advertisers of weight loss products think.
However, the motive behind the label may still be the same – the ‘natural’ description is not used as a reminder, but as a rhetorical device. It is not meant to inform, but to persuade. Also, with the multitude of weight loss products claiming to be ‘natural’, the term itself becomes irrelevant, because if customers notice that nearly all weight loss products come under the ‘natural’ umbrella, then they will proceed to the other characteristics of the products instead. If everything is natural, what else is there to look at?
Furthermore, just because a weight loss product contains 100% naturally occurring substances doesn’t mean that it is safe and effective. Safety is an issue widely looked at. Many herbal supplements that are long used for weight loss could turn out to be dangerous. One notable example is ephedra (ma huang), which has been used as a weight loss supplement for a long time, but with serious side effects, like irritability, dizziness, nausea, trembling, dehydration, vomiting, and seizures, and major health risks, like heart attack and stroke. (Ephedra is the herb that contains ephedrine, which is processed to produce ephedrine, an ingredient needed in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.) What is important to note from this discussion? The naturalness of a product is hardly an indicator of its safety. That goes for a variety of many other weight loss products advertising themselves in the popular media, in the Internet, and in brochures as well. However, the industry of such natural products still thrives, so in response to complaints brought about by the usage of some of these products for weight loss, there is now an explicit requirement for companies making weight loss supplements to state health risks at the labels of their products.
So far, we have determined what ‘natural’ in the field of weight loss should be not. Now, what is natural weight loss? It involves dedicated and disciplined health habits that make the body itself lose weight. There are no intrusive actions or no drugs producing drastic effects involved. Natural weight loss is divided into two basic components: diet and exercise. A simple, practical weight loss axiom can be stated: To attain weight loss, amount of calories and fats used up by the body must be consistently greater than the amount of calories and fats taken in by the body. That can be achieved in three ways: lessen consumption of fats and calories, or increase bodily usage of calories and fats, or apply the first two ways simultaneously. Diet covers consumption; exercise covers bodily usage.
Diet is the single most important parameter concerning weight. Proper diet involves selecting the right foods, monitoring their intake, spacing out meals at appropriate intervals, and refraining from eating unhealthy foods. Selecting foods for a diet program should not be done without due discernment. There are many dieters who believe that all fats and calories should be shunned, and proceed to include as small as possible in their diet, hence a “low-fat” or “low-calorie” diet. That could be detrimental to weight loss.
Not all fats cause weight loss; there are some fats, like HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) that help remove fat from vulnerable regions of the body, like hips, thighs, and upper arms, by taking it out from the bloodstream an returning it to the liver, where it is processed into safer metabolites. Fats like LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins, are those, which should be avoided, because they are the ones that are deposited most in the vulnerable areas of the body and tend most to turn into atherosclerotic plaque that leads to circulatory difficulties and coronary dysfunction, notably heart attack and stroke.
Also, not all calories increase weight. There are ‘good’ calories that are easily digested and turned to energy needed to sustain the body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) and extra activities, most notably exercise. Calories that increase weight are the ‘bad calories’, mostly coming from processed foods containing white sugars – they are difficult to digest, allowing them to stay longer in the bloodstream, and while they are left unused, they are subsequently converted to fat and deposited.
There are more facts about diet that the person practicing natural weight loss should realize. While dieting, a person should not take junk foods along with healthy ones, because even a single round of junk foods can destroy the progress of weight loss, make it difficult for the person to keep track, and possibly tempt the person into eating more junk foods and abandon weight loss needs. Spacing out meals, or eating plenty of small meals in a day, could also help attain weight loss because the body burns small amounts of food more completely.
Exercise works in conjunction with diet to attain weight loss naturally. While proper diet ensures that the body doesn’t take in more calories and fats than it needs, exercise ensures that the body consumes excess calories and fats by turning them into energy. Exercise may be hard to begin, because the body’s weight may hamper limber and agile movements needed to exercise, but the dieter can get accustomed to exercise quickly by starting light exercises first, then proceeding to more strenuous activities over the course of the weight loss program.
Exercise not only burns fats and calories. It enhances the body’s natural weight loss by increasing metabolic rate, which allows the body to burn more calories and fats; by increasing muscle mass, which allows muscles to consume more calories as long as they work; and by strengthening cardiovascular function, which allows the body’s endurance to progressively increase as one continues the exercise routine.
By examining the two natural weight loss pillars – diet and exercise – here is one more important difference that must not be overlooked. Natural weight loss requires determination, persistence, and willingness to pursue the goals set up during the planning stage of the weight loss program. It is a slow process, because it does not shock the body immediately and turn it to a weight loss machine overtime; instead it reconfigures the body’s functioning for a long period of time such that its processes become conducive to weight loss.
By contrast, unnatural weight loss methods showing themselves to be natural, with their promises of striking results in so short a time, do not wish to involve the person losing weight in committing himself or herself psychologically to weight loss. That person just has to undergo a procedure or take some drugs, and mind very little else, including diet and exercise. That makes him or her more apathetic about healthy lifestyle, and one effect of that could be that the person will be dependent on those spurious weight loss methods, which may continue to be deleterious to health. Natural weight loss as outlined above not only decreases weight safely, but also changes the person’s outlook regarding health habits, which will help him or her maintain a healthy weight even after the weight loss routine.
Natural weight loss, therefore, is not about what the media says is natural. It’s not about drugs, pills, and procedures that power the popular weight loss industry today. It’s not about what is claimed as natural, even if products that are claimed as natural are comprised of naturally acquired substances. It’s not about products that could potentially cause adverse effects that will make the risks of using such products pose outweigh the eventual benefits. Natural weight loss concerns the natural processes of the body, and the weight loss program should be tailored in a way that helps the body lose weight – not induce it to become a weight loss juggernaut at the expense of other important body functions.
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