Do You Know the Enlightening Truth About Weight Loss?

Do You Know the Enlightening Truth About Weight Loss?

Do You Know the Enlightening Truth About Weight Loss?
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Brush up on the truth about weight loss whether you’re stuck in a plateau or just starting your weight loss journey.
James hopped off the scale and high-fived himself in the bathroom mirror, thrilled with how fast his low-carb diet was working. With just 2-months before his annual physical exam, he was super motivated to get his weight down. Just like he did every year.
Yep, James, a professional in his 40s, was a part-time low-carb dieter. He gave up all his favorite foods every year for 2 months before his doctor’s appointment.
And he spent the next 10 months gaining the weight (and more) back while enjoying pounds of pizza, cases of candy and oodles of noodles. Every year. Every year until a few years ago, that is.
Here’s 1 truth about weight loss: spaghetti is okay, but it shouldn’t fill up the entire plate. Photo credit: Carolina Cossío
After being diagnosed with premature heart disease, James discovered the truth about weight loss.
Weight control takes effort daily. Not just effort for 2 months out of the year.
While getting to know James, I learned that he – like a gazillion other clients – held a fear-based view of food.
Don’t eat this.
Suffering is good.
Here’s what he eventually learned:
Healthy eating is about eating and enjoying nourishing foods even more than it is about depriving yourself of whatever food today you believe is bad.
And:
The truth about weight loss is that it’s hard work, involves long-term behavior change, requires the focus to be on habits, and a good mindset will get you to goal.
He had an epiphany
James turned his mindset around faster than most of my clients. Instead of holding on to his long-held view of weight loss (temporary suffering), he embraced a new way of looking at health – a way of life. He became excited about the process of getting and being healthy.
He cut out midnight snacks by relaxing upstairs rather than close to the kitchen.
He made healthier choices in restaurants by deciding what he’d order in advance.
He made a game out of getting more variety of fruits and vegetables.
And he reminded himself why he was in it for the long haul: be healthy, be happy and provide for his family for a long, long time.
This Farro Waldorf Salad is loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and taste! Try to make things fun when you change your diet.
6 truths about weight loss & dieting
You too can experience the mindset shift you need to manage your weight (and health) – even if you’ve lost weight and gained it back a dozen or more times.
By the way, most people have many “failed” attempts before they finally lose weight for good.
#1: Obesity is not about your appearance
My colleague Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, principal and founder of Consciencehealth explains. “Obesity is the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that impairs health.” In other words, some people with a “normal” weight may indeed have obesity because obesity is about body composition and not about the number on the scale or about your pants size. Likewise, “a larger body is not by definition unhealthy,” Ted says. And of course, I agree.
Because obesity impairs health, we call it a disease.
How excess body fat harms
The most unhealthful fat is visceral fat, which accumulates deep in the abdominal cavity, close to your liver, pancreas, kidneys and other internal organs. If you carry a lot of visceral fat – especially in your liver –  you’ll likely eventually have health problems related to your heart, liver, blood sugar and even some types of cancer.
I asked my friend and colleague Karen Collins , MS, RDN, CDN, who’s an expert in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention to weigh in. Karen explains that excess body fat can cause inflammation, hormonal changes, and metabolic disruptions that promote at least 12 types of cancer and affect many risk factors for heart disease, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
So, obesity is about your health, not about your appearance. Ted says, we have a problem when busybodies tell people how healthy or unhealthy they are just by looking at them. That’s wrong, offensive, and very common.
Karen has some great info about inflammation , what it is, how to measure it and how to reduce it. Check it out.
#2: A small weight loss is huge
I hated when clients asked me how much weight they should lose. The question is based on the assumption that there’s one right weight for someone and that somehow I could know what it is. I have no such power. But this much I do know:
Your weight is personal. You get to decide. And you get to change your mind as often as you’d like.
That’s 1 more truth about weight loss.
I also know you don’t need to lose gobs of weight to see improvements in your health. In a fascinating study among people at high risk for type 2 diabetes, dieters who lost 5% of their starting weight – that’s 10 pounds for someone weighing 200 pounds – improved insulin sensitivity in muscle, fat and liver cells. They lost fat in the liver and improved function in the beta-cells of the pancreas (the part that makes insulin).
Dropping from 200 to 190 pounds may not seem like a lot, and it may not mean that the jeans pushed to the back of your closet suddenly fit, but big things are happening under the surface.
Losing 5 – 10% of your starting weight is rocking it
Less risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
Improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Lower blood pressure
Reduced knee and back pain
And that’s not all. Think energy, sleep and on and on.
Karen explains that “finding an eating pattern and lifestyle habits that help you reach and maintain a weight that is healthy for you is now considered one of the most powerful steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting cancer.” Here’s more about obesity and cancer .
The Obesity Action Community also talks about the benefits of dropping a few pounds .
#3: Your brain is in charge of your eating
But not in the way you might think. The medical director of obesity for Novo Nordisk Gabriel Smolarz, MD, MS, FACE, Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, explains it clearly. If you’re stuck in a weight loss plateau or if you keep asking yourself, “why can’t I lose weight,” your problem may be in the gray matter within your head.
The brain regulates all of our eating in 3 distinct ways, Dr. Smolarz says.
A truth about weight loss is that your brain regulates ALL of your eating. The primitive pathways that keep us from starving to death are amazingly powerful. Photo credit: Rob Schreckhise
Thanks to our ancestors, we have primitive pathways in our brains that drive our hunger and fullness. This is a stay-alive mechanism.
We like the way food tastes because the reward centers in the brain make eating enjoyable.
And using the brain’s executive function – the decision-making part of the brain – we consciously try to decide what, when and how much to eat.
As often happens with the disease of obesity, there’s a mix-up of signals in the brain. The hunger and fullness cues go awry. The brain screams “eat more” even though the energy supply (aka fat stores) in the body is sufficient.
The result: calorie counting, portion control strategies and other cognitive skills based in executive function can’t compete. Weight gain occurs because, with an imbalance in the hunger and fullness centers, the primitive brain is so much more fierce than simple decision making and willpower.
#4: Weight loss is a tug-o-war
Like James, you may have lost weight following a strict plan only to discover the pounds come back even quicker than you can bake a cake.
After you lose weight through calorie restriction, your body not-so-secretly tries to return to its previous size. Apparently, the body thinks storing more calories is the best survival mechanism. While that was once true, excess calorie storage in today’s land of plenty – where high-calorie food surrounds us – is a fast track to health problems.
Dr. Smolarz explains what happens:
Your new smaller body becomes more efficient and burns fewer calories. Your hormones become unbalanced. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases, urging you on to eat more. And fullness hormones decrease, making you less satisfied.
Simply, your brain doesn’t get the message it’s time to stop eating.
Weight loss truths numbers 3 and 4 help explain just how hard weight management is and often how it’s out of our control. The causes of obesity are so much greater than I can discuss here and more than scientists have so far discovered, I’m sure. Some other contributors: medications, working the nightshift, being born by C-section, your gut microbes and more.
{Not sure if you should weigh yourself. Here are 5 things to consider before stepping on the scale.}
#5: Dieters do keep the weight off
Lots of them do. Myself included.
For me, it took getting educated about diet and nutrition, unlearning bad habits, learning good habits and enormously changing my attitude about food and diet. My weight gain story started in elementary school. I think I went on my first diet when I was 8. My successful weight management story started in college.
And it’s led to a career that’s changed and rewarded my life.
Funny, but I now consider my younger, overweight body a blessing in disguise. I’ve got a great career, plus my health, energy level and self-image are much improved!
But it’s not just me. I know lots of former weight strugglers who’ve maintained lighter, healthier bodies for years.
How the weight stays away
You’ll find lots of success stories at the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), a registry of more than 10,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off. On average, they’ve lost 66 pounds and kept it off for more than 5 years. Check out the strategies they use to keep the weight off.
To talk about keeping lost weight lost, I reached out to James O. Hill, PhD, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Hill is also a founding researcher of the NWCR.
He says, “exercise is the best predictor of maintaining weight loss.” He goes on to explain that having a flexible metabolism is key to weight management and that exercise is key to having a flexible metabolism.
Just what is a flexible metabolism? I asked him.
Having a flexible metabolism means that your body is very good at switching between using carbohydrates and fat for fuel. After you’ve eaten, you have carbs ready to be used, but after an overnight fast, body fat is more available. You can think about it like a thermostat on your wall. If your system is sensitive, the temperature of your home changes quickly when you adjust the thermostat. But if your system is not so sensitive, it takes longer to change the air temperature around you.
Dr. Hill explains that this sensitivity or flexibility is likely important in weight management.
Even before talking to Dr. Hill or reviewing some of the research, I was confident exercise was critical to keeping my weight off for more than 3 decades. Now I can put a name to it: metabolic flexibility.
It smart to look for fun ways to be active. And Benny is the answer! Funny how being active produces even more energy.
And if you’re wondering about metabolism boosters, here’s the scoop .
#6: Body positivity & weight loss goals can be friends
Lots of people with large bodies are heavy with shame.
Let’s all work together to stop shaming others and ourselves. We can feel positive about our bodies no matter what size body we walk around in. Your weight does not define you or your worth anyway.
In reading this post, you’ve seen just a touch of how body weight is not entirely in our control. If you’re not convinced, scroll back up and reread weight loss truth numbers 3 and 4, and take a look at this cool infographic .
In recent years, I’ve heard more chatter about body positivity, and I think this is good. What I don’t think is good is health professionals and others claiming that body weight and fatness are unimportant or that it’s bad to try to lose excess body fat. Excess body fat, especially excess visceral fat, leads to health problems. That’s exactly why the American Medical Association and other organizations classify obesity as a disease.
I agree with Karen when she says, “We need to be able to talk about weight removed from a culture of body-shaming. People can take positive actions to reach and maintain a weight that’s healthy for them without restrictive diets that promote a cycle of weight loss and regain.” So true! Find a healthful way to lose a few pounds that doesn’t consume your mental energy and hurt your body.
It’s not about numbers on the scale. It’s about health.
Take your mind OFF the weight goal
Yes, I mean that. Take your mind off the weight goal.
I find people do so much better with weight loss when they focus on the process instead of the pounds.
What do I mean by that?
Instead of looking toward a specific number on the scale – after all, you can lose weight by getting the stomach flu, getting lost in a cave without food, or swallowing a tapeworm – look at your habits, mindset and behaviors. Instead of shaming yourself for not losing weight, high-five yourself for packing your lunch all week. Instead of relying on willpower to get to the gym, think about what will make working out more fun and convenient. And instead of shunning all your favorite foods until the scale reads the “right” number, learn the process of eating well most of the time. And not feeling guilty when you don’t.
Celebrate your small wins. Small wins lead to bigger wins. I promise! © Can Stock Photo / barsik
You’re not stuck at this weight
and that’s the truth!
Personal experiences, professional experiences, and research convinced me that weight loss is possible – even if you tried and failed before. A few ideas:
If what to eat is your question, work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to develop an individualized plan.
If you know what to eat, but you just don’t stick to your plan, check out my video course Stick With It : Build Motivation & Willpower for Healthy Habits & Get the Results You Want.
If diet and exercise changes don’t help you drop weight, make an appointment with a medical provider for diagnostic testing, evaluation and advice about weight loss medications, devices and surgeries.
Like James developed a new mindset, you can too. No more oscillating between deprivation diets and pounds of pasta.
The truth about weight loss is that it is hard work, involves long-term behavior change, the focus must be on habits, and a good mindset will get you to your goal.
If you’re tired of not meeting your goals, learn more about motivation, willpower and strategies for success. Enroll in Stick With It