The Messy Truth About Weight Loss

As a Weight Loss Counselor, the number one question I get is "Why can't I lose weight?" or "Why can't I lose weight and keep it off?". My answer is always "It's complicated." This is why I do what I do. Every person is different. From genetics, to basal metabolic rate, to insulin resistance, to level of motivation, emotional triggers to food, behaviors, habits, level of activity, I can go on and on and on for pages about all the aspects tied into our weight. Therefore, a cookie cutter "diet" and/or exercise program is not something that works for everyone. And if it does work, it may only work for a short period of time. Then maintenance or continued progress requires a different approach. One of my favorite magazines is Scientific American and they had a timely article in this month's issue entitled "The Messy Truth About Weight Loss." Of course, it confirmed all I know about weight loss and I will summarize the article in this blog for you, but you should pick up the issue to read the whole article. Bottom line summary of the article is: IT'S COMPLICATED. Here is the breakdown of the elements of "it's complicated." #1 The old assumption of calories in < calories out for weight loss, is not true. The  TYPE and AMOUNT of food is more important than this equation. The traditional calorie counting approach of 1 calorie = 1 calorie is false. Not all calories are created equal. It depends on how well our bodies break down the calories and how nutritious those calories are. Foods that are higher in lean protein and fiber with a lower glycemic index are better processed as fuel for the body and less likely to be stored as fat. Also, foods that are more processed and complex (the article used a whole almond for example) are harder to digest and break down, and we may not be getting as many good or bad calories from them because our body just can’t process them well enough. Also, people who are already overweight or obese have higher insulin resistance, so the body has a harder time breaking down foods into usable calories and is more likely to store calories as fat because it just can’t process those foods as efficiently as someone without insulin resistance. Basic laws of thermodynamics come into play as well. When bodies are larger, they take up more space, thus burn more. So, someone who is heavier will lose more at first, but as the body mass becomes smaller, the rate of burn decreases. The human body is also subject to our innate genetic. Humans are evolutionarily designed to be resistant to burning fat and more apt to store it. Our ancestor’s survival was favored by their ability to store energy, since food was not readily available. Our brans also play a huge role in the weight loss process. It is what processes the physiological sensors and behaviors towards food consumption. The brain was designed to trigger us to eat as much as possible, because our survival depended on it as a species. Unfortunately for most of us, that brain mechanism is no longer valuable, since food is readily available and we will not likely experience a famine or food shortage any time soon. There is no point in trying to fight the hunger battle with our brains; it will win every time. Our brains are just not designed to have "will power" with food. Instead, we can "trick" the brain into thinking that it has received enough calories for fat storage, but really, we are getting the deficit needed for weight loss. Simple tricks such as, chewing each bite of food 20-100 times. Avoiding visual and physical exposure to food to trigger hunger. Drinking water throughout the day to keep the stomach feeling fuller. Eating food higher in protein and fiber and low in glycemic index to keep the blood sugar steadier longer, keep a person feeling fuller  longer and trick the brain into holding off on those hunger cues. The bottom line is, every person has many factors involved with their ability to lose weight. But if you were to create the best "list of things to do" if you were looking to lose weight, here it is. #1: Most of your food needs to be higher in lean protein and fiber and lower in glycemic index and the least processed as possible (whole real foods). #2 Portion control is key, even if you are eating good foods, too much of anything will increase your caloric count over what you burn, and you will store fat #3 As you lose weight, you need to adjust your routine. Adjust your caloric levels down, increase activity. Accept as you get smaller, the harder it will be to lose. #4 Maintain blood sugar levels and levels of fullness by tricking the brain. #5 Exercise is good because it has health benefits and will increase your body's muscle composition, which will in turn help you burn more fat, but it's not the most important thing. If you can only focus on one thing, focus on nutrition. #6 Get accountability partners. Get a health coach or a few friends to encourage you, check in with you and remind you of your goals. Research shows that people who have support partners are more successful long term. Have backups...friends are fickle or they may not feel comfortable approaching you about losing weight. Having a health coach is a great way to get accountability from a professional and they have no personal ties to keep them from helping you the way that you need it (sometimes tough love helps). 


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