How to overcome weight loss challenges, experts weigh in

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Losing weight and investing in one’s overall well-being and quality of life has long been a common goal for many individuals. However, losing weight for a healthier life is not an easy task, as it requires a lot of patience, perseverance, determination and mental strength, which many people give up on, in addition to the financial costs, which makes it almost impossible for some people, despite their efforts.

Kuwait Times interviewed Dr Mohammad Al-Ajmi, consultant for abdominal and obesity diseases, Dr Abdullah Al-Sairafi, PhD in exercise physiology and sport science, and coach and nutrition consultant Abdullah Al-Husaini to better understand the challenges people face on taking this journey and the possible strategies that can be followed for a healthier lifestyle.

Dr Mohammad Al-Ajmi

Kuwait Times: What are some common challenges or difficulties that people face when trying to lose weight?

Al-Ajmi: The greatest challenge one faces when trying to lose weight is the simple fact of human physiology. Weight is controlled by complicated processes in which the body decreases metabolism, burning calories whenever it senses that the amount of food coming in is lowered. It is also great in saving energy by dispensing half the amount of calories needed by increasing muscle efficiency when you work out under dieting conditions. These counteractions are the sole reason that people feel frustrated and quit trying to lose weight.

For this, modern science had to interfere medically to increase calorie burning and keep weight loss going. New medication and procedures trick the body mechanism into making it feel full all the time or increase energy expenditure by the body. Another challenge one might face is that food can be a source of comfort and happiness. Eating disorders like binge eating and any other emotionally derived eating can be a cause of weight gain. The difficulty in this situation lies in the fact these people eat with no hunger involved in the equation. Hence, conventional medical interventions targeting hunger and satiety does not work here.

Al-Sairafi: Some common challenges include the inability to stick to a diet, relying on fast food and high-calorie meals. Many individuals heavily rely on restaurant products as a form of entertainment and as part of their daily activities. This directly affects the amount of energy consumed by the body, leading to weight gain beyond the appropriate and natural levels.

Al-Husaini: In the Arabian Gulf region, people often face challenges such as easy access to high-calorie foods, including traditional sweets and fried foods. The hot climate also discourages outdoor physical activities, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. Cultural factors, such as social gatherings that revolve around food, can also make weight loss difficult. Finally, there’s a lack of awareness about the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Dr Abdullah Al-Sairafi

Kuwait Times: How does emotional eating contribute to difficulties in weight loss?

Al-Ajmi: To treat eating disorders you have to get down to knowing why a person seeks food. Is it for comfort or joy? Is it related to activities like watching TV? Is it socially related or simply out of boredom? Once the reason is known, the solution can be applied. The treatment for an eating disorder is usually psychologic support and behavioral therapy.

The fact that the person becomes aware of their foul behavior can be very effective to stop doing it. If they feel urged to eat and cannot rectify their situation, certain medication can help decrease cravings and the need to eat when being in a certain mood or situation. One caveat should be considered is that deprivation of joyful food could have a large-scale impact on people’s general mood and could affect their psychologic well-being. Doctors should be aware of these consequences and psychological support is needed in these situations.

Al-Sairafi: Eating is a means of releasing and engaging with our life emotions, not just a way to consume energy for production. Failing to regulate our energy intake and overeating based on our feelings can contribute to weight gain and decrease our ability to control our weight over time. Emotional eating acts as a stimulant for the release of certain hormones, which in turn promote euphoria, sedation and a sense of comfort, such as cocoa, sugars and other varieties.

Therefore, we should avoid emotional eating by finding appropriate practices to release emotions and feelings, such as exercising. Exercise is the most important and effective way to release these emotions and has a greater impact than food in regulating emotions. Continuous aerobic exercises for at least 40 minutes release high levels of endorphins, which help regulate any feelings of weakness or the need to enhance our mood in a safe and natural way, avoiding emotional eating or other practices.

Al-Husaini: Emotional eating occurs when individuals eat not out of hunger but emotional needs, like stress or boredom. This can disrupt an otherwise balanced diet because emotional eating often involves indulging in high-calorie, sugary or fatty foods. Over time, this can lead to weight gain, creating a vicious cycle as emotional stress increases.

Kuwait Times: What is the role of willpower in the weight loss journey?

Al-Sairafi: Willpower is persistence, and no goal can be achieved in our lives, including weight loss, without sufficient willpower. The weight loss journey is not constant and is often characterized by fluctuations in weight, stability and more. The more we can persist, the better the progress we will notice. Perhaps one of the most important factors in increasing our willpower is seeing our accomplishments. Measuring the level of progress is important; therefore, we always recommend measuring body components regularly (approximately every month) to further motivate ourselves to continue and achieve more.

Al-Husaini: Willpower plays a pivotal role in weight loss. The ability to resist temptations, adhere to a balanced diet and maintain a regular exercise regime requires significant self-control. However, willpower alone isn’t enough; it needs to be combined with proper planning, education and support systems.

Kuwait Times: What are some strategies or techniques that can help overcome emotional eating and lack of willpower?

Al-Ajmi: One very important factor in weight lost is weight stabilization. Reaching target weight is only half the work; the big challenge is to keep the weight off. The best way to keep weight from coming back is to regularly follow with your doctor and continue the healthy lifestyle routine.

Al-Sairafi: Consulting experts can help condense a lot of information and thus start achieving more accomplishments and persistence than working individually on a plan to improve body components. Also, raising our nutritional awareness gives us enough consciousness to control our nutrition. Therefore, we should start learning the basics of healthy nutrition and try to apply them consistently to eventually achieve our ultimate goals and strive to maintain optimal body components.

I believe that consulting experts will help shorten the learning process, and therefore begin to achieve more accomplishments and persistence. Also, raising our nutritional awareness will give us enough consciousness to control our nutrition. Therefore, we should start learning the basics of healthy nutrition and try to apply them consistently to eventually achieve our ultimate goals and strive to maintain optimal body components.

The post How to overcome weight loss challenges, experts weigh in appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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