Time Magazine recently released a special edition on “The Science of Weight Loss”, here are some of the highlights and my interpretations. Research was reported from the National Institutes of Health (NIIH), the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), Harvard, dieticians from the Cleveland Clinic and researcher and Endocrinologist, David Ludwig, MD author of “Always Hungry”.
A depressing but not surprising statistic is that people who lose weight successfully have an 80% chance of gaining their weight back within 2 years. This has happened to me several times. There is a direct correlation between carrying excess body fat and over 70 illnesses including type II diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. This means that death from these illnesses and many of the illnesses are preventable. But even losing 5-10% of your body weight can make a difference and improve your health.
Once you are overweight or obese your body makes it easier to produce hormones like insulin which is a fat storage hormone. Insulin is like “Miracle Gro” for your fat cells. Insulin is released whenever we eat and the more often we eat the more likely it will be stored as fat and then we become “sugar burners” which makes us always feel hungry.
The low fat diet craze gave us false information that eating fat will make us fat. This started the obesity epidemic where over 40% of Americans are now obese not just overweight. It is possible to lose weight on any diet but to keep it off you need to follow those changes forever and not just for a few weeks or months.
Exercise by itself is not a reliable way to lose weight. It is good for your overall health and very helpful to maintain weight loss. What really matters is what you put in your mouth.
The best way to combat rising hunger and the slowing of metabolism when we try to eat less is to replace processed carbs with healthy fats. Fats do not raise insulin. The Mediterranean diet is a diet rich in vegetables, protein, healthy fats, grains and fruit with natural fiber that helps keep you full longer because it takes longer for foods high in fiber to pass through your body.
Counting calories does not help you lose weight. Calories in, calories out is not an accurate way to lose weight. What matters is the quality of the calories you eat. By reducing sugar and flour, you will also decrease cravings or desire for treats and reset your taste buds, insulin and dopamine receptors. Once your desire for these things is decreased, you can introduce sweets, pasta, bread back into your diet in moderation. Only you will know how much of this type of food your body can handle before cravings or desire gets high again. You can do this by practicing mindful eating, which may include keeping a diary of your food intake or planning food in advance.
There is also research that shows that people who individualize their eating plans to their tastes and lifestyle and make more permanent changes are the most successful at weight loss and keeping their weight off. Don’t be in a hurry to lose weight. Make small changes, try them out and see if they work for you and then keep tweaking as you find what works for your body.
Intermittent fasting has been found to be helpful in losing weight. Eating less often reduces insulin and insulin resistance which helps reduce body fat. There are many different ways to do it but the easiest is to eat 2 meals a day in a 6-8 hour window. You can do this daily, once or week or how often you wish. Many people are successful with 24 hour fasting once a week.
I have found that eating sugar and flour only once or twice a week and the majority of the time eating fresh vegetables, protein, healthy fats, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes and dairy keeps me energized, feeling full and spending time pursuing other goals and interests besides eating. I do not feel deprived and have very few cravings.
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