With nearly two-thirds of Americans classified as overweight or obese and no foreshadowed end to the obesity epidemic, it is clear that weight loss must become a prescribed goal for most of the population – adults and children alike. However, capital America is not blind to this need and the markets are overflowing with books, programs, classes, and equipment promising to shed those extra pounds, while replacing them with your perceived ideal body image. Interestingly, despite all the available weight loss solutions, Americans continue to get larger, and so does the pocketbook of the weight-loss industry.
Consider the following:
In 2010, the revenue of the weight loss industry totaled near $60 billion (www.marketresearch.com)
According to the NutriSystem Diet Index, “30% of Americans fall into the “unhealthy lifestyle” category and have dieted an average of 20 times in their life, using 5 different diet plans.”
Further, “Almost three out of four Americans (73%) are willing to give up television, their cell phones or their computers for a flat tummy.”
And…”Nearly half (46%) of the country chose not to diet, even when they knew they needed to lose weight because they didn’t want to give up their favorite foods.”
The last statement sums up why America grows bigger despite adequate weight loss programs. We are addicted to our sugar-laden, processed junk foods. We may abstain for a time, get a gym membership and workout like a fiend, find a promising diet plan book and follow all the redesigned recipes, but in the end, most Americans end up feeling hopelessly deceived and/or like a repeated failure.
The problem is our approach. We focus on weight loss, but not lifestyle. The key to any successful weight loss program must be a long-term lifestyle change.
Programs may result in temporary weight loss and may even help you reach your weight loss goal; however, when the programs end, if you have not changed prior habits that led to your weight gain, the weight will return. A lifestyle change includes routine exercise habits, healthy eating patterns, adequate hydration, hormone balance, and stress management. Not only will you reach your desired weight, but better yet, you will keep it there! Additionally, you will find that as you maintain a healthy lifestyle, each organ system will repair and renew itself causing you to feel energetic and well. Weight loss is no longer your goal, but healthfulness!
So, let's address some common weight loss myths.
Myth #1: A calorie is a calorie is a calorie
The biggest weight loss lie is that all calories are created equal. Calories are NOT all created equal! You cannot just reduce calories and expect to lose weight. Some statisticians say that Americans are eating fewer calories today, yet we are growing larger. By default, a healthier diet normalizes calorie loads for those who have unbalanced calorie loads.
In my practice, both obese and slim individuals were often found to consume a similar quantity of calories. However, the ratio of carbs/fats/proteins were very different. It was not uncommon for the obese individual to be consuming nearly 60 to 70% of his/her calories from starchy carbohydrates such as breads and potatoes, as well as sugary foods and beverages. In contrast, the slimmer individuals consumed no more than 30 percent of their calories from the same types of foods and instead, ate far more fats and protein.
Fat calories are filling and do not leave you hungry for more. Carb calories are quickly metabolized, leaving you feeling hungry. It is also important to realize that carbs stimulate a quick insulin response. The hormone, insulin, is often referred to as the fat-depositing hormones since it turns excess carbs into fat. Dietary fats and proteins do not trigger an immediate, nor a significant, insulin reaction. Additionally, it requires energy (calories) to digest protein, compared to other macronutrients such as carbohydrates.
Myth #2: You can "burn" the weight off at the gym.
There is a plethora of scientific evidence verifying the fact that a good diet is more effective at shedding excess pounds when compared to exercising. Certainly, regular exercise is an important part of weight loss, but a good diet is the place to start. Exercise will complement and enhance a good diet. Exercise supports the maintenance of weight loss, more than it accomplishes weight loss. Regular exercise can boost metabolism to keep you burning calories rather than storing them and will reduce stress - another promoter of weight gain.
The type of exercise you engage in greatly affects weight loss.
It has been found that long-distance, medium intensity aerobic exercise is the worst type of exercise for weight loss and yet, these exercises (jogging, biking, brisk walking, swimming, etc.) are the choice for weight loss. Aerobic exercise burns calories that are immediately available but doesn't access stored fat calories easily, due to the time and energy required to use them. Resistance training or high internal training forces your body to pull energy from your fat stores, increases metabolism long-term, and continues to burn fat after you exercise.
Myth #3: The goal is a lower number on the scale.
Too many people approach weight loss with the goal of a particular number on the scale. While a lower weight is part of the goal, it is not the ultimate goal. The scale is an ineffective means of measuring weight loss because your weight fluctuates based on hydration, hormone levels, and other factors. When attempting to lose weight, most people will lose water weight initially. However, as the initial water weight slows, the number on the scale plateaus, producing discouragement.
The goal is not always a lower number on the scale. Instead, it should be a lower body fat percentage.
Many individuals may lose weight, but are still discontent with their large, but now flabby appearance. The goal of weight loss should be a smaller waist, less fat cells, and more muscle cells. How would you measure this goal? Waist measurements and body fat percentage. It takes a lot longer to see a drop in body fat percentage, but when it drops, you can be assured the loss is more permanent than the lower number on the scale. Some individuals actually reach their fitness goal, yet maintain the same weight. This is because muscle weighs more than fat, so increasing muscle while decreasing fat may not show on a normal scale.
Myth #4: Eating fat will make you fat.
The idea that eating fat will make you fat is one of the biggest weight loss myths in America that appears to be nearly impossible to bust. We have been brainwashed to think dietary fat makes us fat, but as discussed above, fat does not trigger the same insulin response as sugary, grain-based carbs. More insulin means more fat deposition. As an interesting side note, one form of fat the body will never store is medium-chain fatty acids found in coconuts and palm. This type of fat is used to increase metabolism and may actually aid in weight loss efforts. The modern Ketogenic diet has given astounding support for this myth as consumers eat 60 to70 percent of their calories from fat and yet, lose weight!
Myth #5: Calorie-free means weight-free.
Perhaps, the best example of this myth in action is the toxic artificial sweetener, aspartame. Put in almost every "diet" beverage or "low-calorie" food, this drug stimulates appetite, as does most zero-calorie sweeteners. An increased appetite is counter-productive to weight loss.
The goal is not to eliminate calories, but to consume healthy calories that do not promote weight gain.
One of the biggest fears expressed by people desiring to lose weight is the fear of being hungry. If weight loss is based on a permanent lifestyle change, it shouldn't leave you hungry. No one wishes to be permanently hungry. A lifestyle change that supports a healthy weight must be maintainable, which means it cannot be calorie-free.
Myth #6: Everyone has the same ability to lose weight.
The truth is that every individual brings individual factors to the table, which either support or hinder weight loss and make the journey an individual one.
Factors that affect an individual's ability to gain or lose weight include their genetic predisposition, childhood weight, metabolism, age, gender, current health status, toxin exposure, hormone balance, and stress level.
While general principles of a healthy diet will remain constant for all types of individuals and will support all weight loss, it is often helpful to individualize specific types of food, and amounts of food, based on their historical and current health. Likewise, an individualized approach should be applied to exercise type, duration, and intensity. However, this should not deter anyone from taking control of their own health and seeing what changes can be accomplished independently.
In the next blog, we will look at 5 ways to healthfully encourage weight loss.