If you are trying to lose weight, you are in good company. Chances are, you already know this. After all, 69% of Americans are overweight or obese, 55% would like to lose weight, and 27% are actively engaged in weight loss at any given time. You also likely know that while losing weight is possible, the long-term success rate for weight loss is dismal. Among people who do lose weight, just 5% maintain that weight loss after two years. What you might NOT know is WHY. The reason 95% of weight loss efforts fail is because most people are still going about them in the wrong way.
The wrong way to succeed at weight loss is characterized by a belief that if someone burns more calories than they consume, that person will lose weight. Try as I might, I cannot think of a more persistent piece of misinformation. If the belief that the world was flat had as much traction as the “calories in/calories out” fat loss model, no one would ever set foot aboard a boat for fear of sailing off the planet’s edge. What the body looks like has almost nothing to do with calorie consumption. Rather, body appearance and fat stores are almost entirely dictated by the interplay of hormones.
In order to lose weight, or more specifically, to lose fat, we need to stimulate the body to produce more fat-burning hormones and fewer fat-storing ones. Balancing these myriad hormones to achieve fat loss is likely to look slightly differently for each person. Additionally, lifestyle factors beyond diet and exercise are critical to fat loss success (see the ND Corner in this newsletter for additional information). That said, following a few simple rules will not only get most people into fat burning mode but will also provide a model for eating and exercise that will allow them to maintain a lean body for life:
- Eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Sugar, cereal, bread, crackers, cookies, tropical fruits and other starchy or processed foods cause a strong insulin response in the body. Insulin is a sugar-burning hormone, and in order to make it more effective, when insulin levels rise levels of fat burning hormones plummet. Worse yet, these fat burners can remain suppressed for as long as five hours. A steady diet of cereal and sandwiches, therefore, prevents the body from burning fat, regardless of how many or how few calories they themselves contain.
- Eat lean protein at every meal and snack. Regular consumption of protein increases the body’s sensitivity to the hormone leptin. When leptin levels become disrupted, the body responds by slowing thyroid function and increasing food cravings.
- Eat breakfast as soon as possible after waking, and eat every 3-4 hours after –including a snack before bed. Providing the body with a constant supply of quality fuel not only keeps blood sugar levels under control, it also prevents overeating that can result from going too long between meals. Eating protein at bedtime will support the production of human growth hormone, a fat-burner for which we get our largest daily dose during sleep.
- Eat real food. The body does not know what to do with “sugar free,” “fat free” Franken-food. Artificial sweeteners, for example, can cause the same insulin response in the body as their sugary counterparts. Worse yet, these “foods” stimulate the body to crave more sugar. As a result, people who consume “diet” products are actually more likely to be overweight or obese than people who don’t.
- Eat fat, but not within 60 minutes of intense exercise. There are ample reasons why the “low fat era” was the “get fat era.” Dietary fat from non-hydrogenated sources is your friend, saturated and unsaturated alike. Essential fatty acids assist with recovery from strenuous exercise, are good for brain health, are the precursors to the production of beneficial hormones, and more. Avoiding fat is, in general, a bad idea – with one critical exception. Consumption of dietary fat within an hour of intense exercise blunts production of human growth hormone, our body’s biggest fat fighter. To get the most from your exercise program therefore, consume a mix of protein and carbohydrate 60-90 minutes before your workout and again immediately following your workout. Wait 60-90 minutes post exercise to resume consumption of fat.
- Plan to cheat. Leptin levels can also be disrupted by rapid fat loss. Providing the body with one high fat, high carbohydrate “cheat” meal each week helps keep our thyroid functioning properly and prevents the metabolism from slowing down.
- Lift weights. Fat-fighting hormones are produced in largest quantities in response to resistance and interval training. If you must use “cardio” equipment, go as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then rest until your breathing has recovered to a normal aerobic rate. Repeat this process until you can’t continue to exercise – roughly 20 to 25 minutes.
- Work with a trained fitness and nutrition professional. “Successful losers,” those 5% of people who are able to maintain weight loss success, overwhelming consulted and worked with experts to achieve their goals.
For additional information about fat loss, please join us for “Fat Loss Fact & Fiction,” a FREE two-hour workshop dedicated to what works. Seminars will be held at the clinic on Saturday, April 6 from 10 am to 12 pm, and on Wednesday, April 10 from 7 pm to 9 pm. Space is limited. Call 425-949-5961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.