What is Energy Balance and Obesity?

Energy balance and weight loss

Most people are aware of the health risks associated with obesity. They understand that obesity leads to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, and many other ailments. However, finding the right weight loss plan and getting long term benefits out of that seems to be eluding many. Often, the risk of gaining weight back lurks around the corner as many cannot sustain long term behavior modifications and do not understand the process of weight gain and weight loss.

Perceptions of Obesity

Though obesity and being overweight is one of the major issues concerning many countries, people’s perceptions regarding weight gain and obesity is still largely limited. We tend to associate weight gain with overeating, which is certainly not exact. Obesity can result from various causes beyond overeating and it even includes psychological factors.

People who are overweight tend to see their condition as a result of both internal and external issues. Internal factors include eating disorders, self-coping deficiencies, and pathological causes. External factors include lack of available food options, eating out regularly, skipping meals, employment, stress, smoking, and other addictions.

Even as the perceptions of obesity in the self and among others are not exact, most people do not understand the reason why they tend to become overweight. However, only an understanding of the exact mechanism that leads to weight gain can provide means to devise a weight loss program.

What is energy balance?

Energy balance deals with the amount of energy intake, energy storage, and the amount of energy spent (energy expenditure). A person’s body weight is dependent upon the amount of energy intake and the energy expenditure (calories). This means that a person becomes obese when there is a higher amount of energy storage and energy intake than the amount of energy expended.

If a person has energy balance, it means that the amount of energy intake and the energy expenditure is equal. This leads to a stable body weight.

When a person has more energy intake than the energy expenditure, it leads to a condition called positive energy balance. This leads to weight gain. This mostly happens in the form of fat.

On the other hand, when energy expenditure is more than energy intake, this leads to a state of negative energy balance wherein there is weight loss. This too happens in the form of loss of fat.

Energy expenditure occurs by way of physical activity, body metabolism (resting metabolism), and the amount of energy needed to digest food. Also, the time needed to expend energy is a major factor for both weight gain and weight loss.

Why energy balance is important for weight loss?

The estimated calorie requirements changes with a variety of factors like age, gender, physical activity, and prevailing medical conditions. Though the energy requirements of a person change, energy balance is very important to have a healthy weight loss. Weight loss programs and weight loss diets that do not take this into consideration leads to undue weight loss with loss of lean mass and muscle loss.

Not taking the energy balance into consideration leads to swings between negative and positive energy balances. An ideal plan for weight loss should take into consideration energy balance, hunger and satiety, lifestyle factors, environmental factors, physical activity, and existing medical conditions. Any weight loss plan has to take into consideration the strong pull of responses of the body to increase energy storage in the event of negative energy balance.