Dispelling the weight loss myths.
Forget everything you thought you knew about dieting for weight loss.
There is no such thing as a “fat burning” food or ingredient, despite what people selling recipe books will try to tell you. The good news is that there are no “fat storing” foods either, not automatically anyway.
It is easier to sell a phony miracle cure that can’t possibly work, or even a complicated and restrictive plan that people are unlikely to be able to stick to. The truth about what really matters in weight management is very simple, and if you get it right success is inevitable. The rest will either take care of itself, or isn’t important anyway.
Not much is really very important when you get down to it. You gain weight when you are in the habit of consuming an excessive amount, more than your body will put to use in fueling your lifestyle. If you continue to consume in excess, you’ll continue to gain weight… and there’s no magic pill or secret ingredient that can do anything about that.
Even if you were to choose all the healthiest food choices, all fresh, nothing processed, whatever other ideas you have about what “healthy” means… if you eat too much of it, you gain weight. It may be less likely to happen without the more indulgent food choices, but the fact remains.
So then… to stop gaining weight, don’t eat more than you should. To lose weight though, and to successfully maintain your goal weight and goal body condition, it’s a little more complicated. Not much mind you, but a little bit.
Most diets and weight loss programs these days are just based on the idea of getting people to eat as little as possible. Maybe it’s a “fast every other day” program, or maybe it’s a “replace two meals a day with this shake” program, or a “just eat soup” program. It all serves the same purpose of drastically reducing your calorific intake.
Is that actually good though? Well, most people reading this article will already have tried some variation of the “eat as little as possible” approach, so I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. With these approaches, you’re hungry, cranky, you miss all of your favourite foods, and before too long you decide you’d actually rather stay fat. Which is exactly what you’ll do, as you return to your previous habit of over consuming, while your body has since adapted to being under fueled. Studies have shown that this sort of yo-yo dieting will result in regaining around 145% of any weight lost. It makes for good repeat business for the people selling these products.
So, for sustainable, inevitable success in long term weight management, we need a more suitable strategy than just trying to starve the weight off.
Exercise will help, although what is most helpful is to train in a manner that promotes the maintenance of lean mass, such as muscle tissue and bone density, at the expense of adipose tissue. Now, the trend these days is to exercise with a focus on burning calories… but really all this serves is to replicate the effects of of those low calorie diets we already discussed. You’re not training to change your body composition, you’re just burning off the energy you’ve taken in at breakfast and lunch, leaving your body with an insufficient amount to function on. Again, your body is left effectively under-fueled and will find a way to adapt and compensate.
With an effective training strategy, fueling requirements actually go up. Now then, how much fuel would we expect to be suitable to maintain our goal weight,while providing necessary resources to fuel our active lifestyle and to recover and adapt to training?
In other words, eat for the body you want, not the body you have.
So then, for long term success we simply need to establish a habit of consuming a balanced diet to a total amount that is “about right” to maintain a suitable, healthy, goal weight. Not so little that we are under-fueled and lack the nutritional resources necessary to reap the benefits of training, while still at a significant deficit to what would be required to maintain current weight.
I have a related blog entry that will explain a little more about how to build a balanced diet to meet your requirements, thinking more about sports nutrition and less about weight loss dieting.