Weight loss seems simple. A calorie is a calorie. Eat too many…gain weight. Eat too few…lose weight. What could be easier, right? Wrong. Weight loss is more than a simple caloric equation — the most important additional element being exercise, or movement. Still, everywhere you turn, there are so-called ‘new and improved’ ways to lose weight. According to the American Dietetic Association, Americans spend an estimated $33 billion a year on weight loss foods, products and services. With that amount of money at stake, it’s no surprise that an overwhelming number of miracle diets and weight-loss products make daily bids for the sweaty dollars of grossly overweight Americans.
The thing is, it’s the ‘die’ in diet that is making these specialty foods and products such hot commodities. Mention the word ‘diet’ and people instantly think of extreme weight loss measures like eating 2 peas for dinner and never, ever eating another sweet. The ironic thing is that while you cannot die from following a sensible diet, the diets of most Americans — even those who are temporarily achieving their weight loss goals — are killing us in record numbers. Yes, literally killing us. Generally speaking, diets (as in weight-reduction plans that limit the intake of food), are making us fatter and less healthy than ever before.
Think about it. How many 400 to 1,000 pound people walked the earth 50 or more years ago? Our children are now growing to 250 pounds by the age of 14! This would have been unimaginable just a generation or two ago. And no child can be blamed for making himself obese, because he didn’t make the early and instructional decisions that formed his dietary habits. His parents did! What are we feeding our kids to create these immense monsters? Is it simply an issue of not being able to say ‘No!’
What the hell have we allowed to happen to us? How did we let things get so out of control? For one thing, we gave up our power to the food manufacturers, largely in the name of convenience. Today, most of the foods we eat contain chemicals and additives that cause us to eat more. Will power is not enough to do battle with the highly paid food-scientist lab rats who have figured out how to manipulate our brains into consuming greater and greater quantities of low-quality food.
Of course, the temptation is to tell yourself you’ve tried everything and just throw in the towel. My guess is, though, that you have barely tried anything at all — perhaps one diet that didn’t deliver as promised or an exercise program you quit before you had time to see results. I don’t know about you, but as a nutrition expert, I am more convinced than ever that diets just don’t work. Exercise does, but you have to stick with it.
Let’s first agree on the terminology.
The word ‘diet’ has two distinct meanings:
1. Food and drink regularly provided or consumed.
2. A prescribed course of eating and drinking in which the amount and kind of food, as well as the times when it is consumed, are regulated for medical reasons or cosmetic weight loss; reduction of caloric intake so as to lose weight.
In other words, everything we eat is considered our diet. For the purposes of this article, however, our use of the word will primarily refer to the concept of a weight-reduction plan.
Fad diets don’t work.
Almost every diet is a fad, a passing craze taken up with great enthusiasm for a short time but with no lasting effect. Diet fads universally promise miraculous results in unrealistic time frames. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The words of that old adage contain GREAT wisdom:
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I know, I know. Who wouldn’t want to drop three dress sizes in a week, lose 10 pounds in 10 days, or turn that fat into muscle so you can look great in a Speedo? [Yes, Scott, I know fat doesn’t turn into muscle. Leave this alone and keep reading.] Ads for these fad diets work because they tell you what you want to hear: there’s a shortcut around the only two things that will get you and keep you slim: performing regular exercise and changing your entire eating regime. The ad-makers appeal to your emotions, and you allow yourself to believe them. The proponents of these diet books, capsules, drinks, and meal-replacement bars know that. It’s why they pay those ad companies big bucks!
The truth is that a fad diet will never get you thin in a healthy matter or keep you that way. You’d be malnourished to the point of extreme illness if you dropped three dress sizes in a week or lost 10 pounds in 10 days. And — the biggest untruth of all fad diet statements — fat will never, ever, ever turn into muscle. Fat cells are and will always be fat cells. Muscle cells are always muscle cells. You can lose fat — but building muscle is an independent activity.
Still, the fairy tale promise will always beckon — even after reading this, you may still decide to try a fad-diet shortcut. Obviously, I can’t stop you. Just go in with eyes open, knowing that even if you lose weight with one of these fad diets, you are invariably sacrificing great health for some very short-term results.
Let’s explore some of today’s more popular diets.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these diets to decipher why they might be increasing our nation’s waistlines and making us fat, fat, fat. And I mean F-A-T. Let’s bring these diets, eating plans, and nutrition programs under a microscope, and dissect which factors might be causing you and your kids to not only gain weight, but to continue to gain in record amounts.
WARNING [and this is the only one you’re going to get]: If you don’t want the truth and you want someone to blame for your lack of success, stop reading now. If, however, you do want to be able to tell diet fact from died fad fiction, if you want to know how to be thin and trim with a gorgeous physique — then read on.
Created by Dr. Robert Atkins and introduced in 1972 through his book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, this diet emphasizes low carbohydrate consumption, balanced by high protein intake.
Participants gear their eating towards meats (including poultry and fish), nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Fruits and starches are eaten occasionally. Participants also take nutritional supplements to ensure that they ingest adequate vitamins and minerals.
One guy who tried this program ate nothing but meat and cheese. After a couple of weeks, he had headaches and a terrible case of constipation. Later still, he had such a bad case of gout (uric acid collecting in the legs and feet) that he was out of work for a couple of weeks. He consulted the Atkins people, who started sending the man huge supplies of Atkins-plan food. With the supplemental foods, he got better and did well on the diet, losing 30 or so pounds.
But is this a plan you could call a lifestyle? Definitely not. If you can’t make it work straight from the book, you’re going to have to spend a ton of money on the Atkins food. Gee, could that be part of the overall plan? Odds are, as soon as you tire of paying for the food, you’ll go back to your old habits, and start gaining the weight back.
Beverly Hills Diet
This diet recommends eating fruit by itself, and never mixing protein with carbohydrates in order to properly digest food and not store it as body fat. The diet begins with a 35-day plan that specifies items to be eaten at each meal, without counting calories or fat grams. In the first 10 days, only fruit is permitted; on day 11 carbohydrates and butter are added; on day 19, protein is added. Fatty treats are permitted.
If you detest counting calories and are sick of eating low-fat foods, this plan might appeal to you. Although initial weight loss can be rapid, this diet has a very structured menu plan. Additionally, the diet is based on no scientific evidence; it’s dangerously low in protein and several vital vitamins and minerals; and it can cause diarrhea.
Blood Type Diet
The premise of this plan, introduced in the books Eat Right 4 Your Type and Live Right 4 Your Type, is that each blood type has its own unique antigen (any substance, including bacteria, toxins and the cells of transplanted organs, that when introduced into the body stimulate the production of antibodies), a marker that reacts in a negative way with certain foods. Also, individuals have varying levels of stomach acidity and digestive enzymes, traits which seem to correspond to your blood type. The books advise individuals with each blood type very detailed lists of foods they must avoid.
If you find having a set list of foods you can and cannot eat helpful, this diet might appeal to you. Specific guidelines are provided for foods, quantities, and timing of meals. Fairly obviously, weight loss will result if you restrict your food intake.
This plan is unrealistic for family members having different blood types, as it requires each to follow a completely different diet. Also, each plan unnecessarily eliminates specific groups of foods, which can result in nutrient deficiency. There is great merit in eating according to your metabolism, (the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available) but that’s not the same thing as eating based on your blood type.
Cabbage Soup Diet
Introduced in 1997 by Margaret Danbrot, the Cabbage Soup Diet is designed to last 7 days — just long enough to lose (up to) 10 pounds, then return to your regular eating plan. The incredibly structured menu for those 7 days revolves around a homemade cabbage soup. Dieters can eat as much of the cabbage soup as they like at any time. Other than that, there’s a strict schedule for when other fruits and vegetables can be eaten. Danbrot notes you should not use this diet for more than 7 days, as it does not provide balanced nutrition.
There doesn’t appear to be any short or long term medical studies to measure the effectiveness of the Cabbage Soup Diet. It is clear, though, that this diet does not provide the vitamins and minerals necessary to provide adequate nutrition. Also, because the diet focuses only on short-term weight loss, those who use it are likely to regain any weight they lose.
Diet patches supply herbs and mineral extracts through the skin in an effort to curb the user’s appetite. Ingredients administered through the skin enter the body immediately and at full strength, unlike ingredients administered orally, which must make their way through the body’s digestive process. During the relatively lengthy digestive process, ingredients tend to lose their potency. Diet patches claim to administer proper dosages, penetrating both the body and mind at constant rates for up to 16 hours.
Diet patch manufacturers claim their patches often contain all-natural ingredients and that they tend to be cost-effective. However, there’s no clinical evidence to support the theory that diet patches contribute to weight loss. Additionally, patches should never be applied to open wounds, cuts, rashes, or other skin injuries. They should never be placed on the eyes, lips, or other sensitive areas of the skin.
Fit For Life Diet
The Fit for Life Diet offers specific guidelines for types of foods to eat throughout the day. The diet is comprised of 70 percent fruit and vegetables, with dairy products and meats severely limited. Weight loss is thought to result from improved digestion, and is not based on counting calories or grams of fat.
The diet is appealing to those who hate counting calories, as you can eat as much of the specific foods as you wish; you never have to measure portions or worry about caloric intake. Weight loss tends to be rapid due to the elimination of many higher calorie foods. However, due to the limited food choices, protein, zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 are consumed in insufficient quantities. Additionally, in order to follow the food combining guidelines, you may have to radically alter the way you eat.
First introduced in the1930s as the Hollywood Diet by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D, a Yale University psychology professor, the Grapefruit Diet was designed to jumpstart a weight loss program and help dieters lose the largest amount of weight in the shortest amount of time. The low calorie, fat-free and Vitamin-C-enriched diet is based on the consumption of grapefruit and/or grapefruit juice, which is believed to contain special fat-burning enzymes. The low-calorie diet allows one to burn far more calories than are consumed, thus inevitable weight loss. There are many variations of the Grapefruit Diet, however, there is no scientific basis to the claim.
No systematic clinical studies exist to back up the claims made by the proponents of the Grapefruit Diet. Additionally, because the diet does not require a change in eating habits, the crash-diet effects move the body into starvation mode, which slows down metabolism. This will eventually lead to long-term weight gain rather than weight loss.
The Hamptons Diet
The Hamptons Diet is a merger and improvement upon the Atkins and Mediterranean diets. The basic premise of the Hamptons Diet is to eat more vegetables, fish, and omega-3 fatty acids, and to consume monounsaturated fats.
The Hamptons Diet introduces new a food pyramid, as well as a separate pyramid for each of the standard USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) food groups. The pyramid positions food choices for each food by levels of desirability. In the protein pyramid, for example, processed and fried meats are not actually prohibited, but they are undesirable in comparison to the other choices, so they appear at the peak of the pyramid, with a recommendation to limit their intake.
Herbalife has developed a variety of weight-loss programs that typically include a protein drink to be substituted for two meals each day, along with multivitamins and herbal tablets. They recommend one balanced meal each day, with a total intake of at least 1,000 calories per day.
This diet may appeal to people who like using shakes as meal replacements and appreciate not having to worry about counting calories or fat grams; and like the convenience of eliminating the need to plan for numerous meals and snacks throughout the day. However, some Herbalife supplements contain the ingredient sida cordifolia which is a botanical source of ephedrine alkaloids.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people younger than the age of 18 as well as pregnant or nursing women should not use dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids. Additionally, the need to buy special foods can become cost-prohibitive. This is an unrealistic answer for long-term weight loss planning.
See Grapefruit Diet.
Jenny Craig Diet
Jenny Craig began by providing frozen meals to clients as a means of food management in 1983. More recently, it has branched out into cookbooks and programs that encourage clients to choose from readily available foods, as well as an at-home program for people who do not live near one of their established centers. Food is shipped by UPS.
Weekly personal phone consultations for motivation and behavioral changes are central to the program.
The program relies largely on frozen meals, which while convenient, offer nowhere near the nutrition available in fresh food. Additionally, the Jenny Craig counselors are not highly trained health professionals. The Jenny Craig plan is an expensive menu-planning service that may or may not help you make the changes necessary to achieve your long-term weight loss goals.
Most juice fasts last from one to five days. During the fast, 100% fruit and vegetable juices, sometimes diluted with distilled water, are the only foods allowed. Organic, freshly squeezed juices are preferred, and all juices should contain no salt, sugar, or additives.
This plan is simple to follow since the choices are so limited. You’ll lose weight quickly because of the very low caloric intake, although weight loss is not usually the goal of fasting. Many people believe that juice fasts allow the body to rejuvenate and heal itself. One problem is that the extremely low-calorie diet, combined with zero protein, complex carbohydrates, or fat will quickly make you feel weak and disoriented and your metabolism will slow down with so few calories to burn. As a diet plan, fasting takes a good thing and goes too far.
If you try this plan, don’t plan on participating in any vigorous activity or needing your brain at peak mental function. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine. After the fast, ease slowly back into solid foods. Start with toast and cottage cheese or yogurt.
The Mayo Diet, which has no affiliation with the Mayo Clinic Health Center and Hospital in Rochester, MN., is typical of fad diets. It began more than 30 years ago, but its origin remains unknown. Primarily distributed via the Internet, junk mail, bulletin boards, word of mouth, and faxes, the diet has taken on many forms over the years, but the primary characteristics are that it usually contains grapefruit, is high in protein, and is low in carbs.
There are no medical studies to back up the claims made by the proponents of this diet. Additionally, this diet may promote temporary quick weight loss; however, it is not nutritionally balanced or a safe method of weight loss for long-term success. Such diets can be dangerous for some individuals.
Gaining popularity in the mid-90s, the Mediterranean Diet is not a diet per se, but rather encompasses the eating practices of people in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers have discovered that people living in this region exhibit some of the lowest rates of chronic disease and the highest rates of adult life expectancy in the world. The traditional Mediterranean diet includes locally grown fruits and vegetables that are consumed raw or with little processing.
Though people in the region tend to consume relatively high amounts of animal fat, they also consume large amounts of olive oil, which tends to counterbalance the health consequences associated with fat consumption. The Mediterranean Diet also includes moderate amounts of wine. The diet consists mostly of grains, fruits, beans, and vegetables that may improve longevity, lower the risk of heart disease, lower the risk of cancer, and lower cholesterol.
Founded in the mid-70s, NutriSystem is a commercial weight-loss plan. Dieters follow meal plans which recommend eating six times per day. The company advertises that these meal plans are low in fat and help ‘control your carbohydrates.’ The dieter purchases their food directly from NutriSystem and receives guidance from weight-loss counselors and personalized exercise instructors. NutriSystem also sells exercise equipment and nutritional supplements.
NutriSystem emphasizes the role of regular exercise, provides a weekly newsletter and chat rooms, and includes a weekly one-on-one e-mail chat with a personal counselor to help consumers stay on track. Those who have trouble with meal planning and portion control may find this plan appealing. A significant drawback is the cost of the program: according to their Website, a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees costs $50, before shipping. And you need to supply your own fruit, vegetables, and milk. While the system takes the guesswork out of dieting and incorporates exercise, it doesn’t prepare you for lifelong changes, unless you plan to use their food forever.
Richard Simmons Weight Loss Plan
Richard Simmons’ Move, Groove and Lose Plan incorporates daily motivational tips, on-line chats, new aerobic exercise videos, and a revised eating plan called the Food Mover Plan. Food Mover is modeled on the American Diabetes Association exchange system, basing individual caloric needs on gender, starting weight, and goal weight. The plan helps track protein, starch, fruit and vegetables, dairy, fat, and ‘extra’ food intake; it also promotes drinking lots of water, daily exercise, and regular positive motivation.
The plan includes all food groups and is designed for steady weight loss of one to two pounds per week. Simmons encourages anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, or with specific health needs, to work with a registered dietitian and their physician to modify their food plan to fit their individual needs. Upbeat motivation is often a plus for many people, although Simmons’ goofy style is often more annoying than motivational.
Herman Tarnower, MD, creator of the Scarsdale Diet, says his diet plan evolved from years of medical practice, day-to-day experience with all kinds of patients, and just plain common sense. Dr. Tarnower practiced medicine in Scarsdale, New York, the location from which the name of his program is derived. The low-carb, low-calorie weight-loss diet is a four-phase program. Gaining popularity in the 1970s, the diet includes a strict 14-day eating plan which provides for meals that are 43-percent protein, 22.5-percent fat, and 34.5-percent carbohydrates.
There do not appear to be any clinical studies of the Scarsdale Diet’s effectiveness. Additionally, the diet is designed for adults in normal health. It is not recommended for individuals with medical problems or pregnant women.
The basic Slim-Fast weight loss program uses two meal-replacement shakes, three snacks, and one sensible meal to lose one to two pounds a week. The program encourages an intake of 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, and lifestyle changes to promote long-lasting weight maintenance. Slim-Fast also provides information about lifestyle changes, exercise plans, healthy meal and snack ideas, and weight maintenance. Their Website includes an online support club and an ‘Ask the Dietitian’ section for ongoing support.
However, in spite of the flexible program based on a healthy weight-loss strategy, one person who chose this plan complained he was hungry all the time. He said he was hungry when he went to bed, and hungry when he woke up. And he wasn’t losing any weight, either! Even if it had worked, being hungry all the time was an indicator that sooner or later the guy would drop the plan and go back to his old habits. The man consulted the Slim Fast experts, who determined that he was not eating enough. They modified his plan, and…voila! He began losing weight.
But, if the plan takes expert intervention to work, most people will have little to no success with it. And once again you are buying a lot of specialized food. Hardly a recipe for success if you want to attempt to live life normally.
South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet was first introduced by Dr. Arthur Agatson, associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Medical School, in 2003, through his book with the same name, South Beach Diet. The diet targets certain ‘bad’ carbohydrates. Marketed as being easy to stick with (you eat three normal meals, as well as required snacks and desserts after dinner), and easy to understand (you don’t need to count calories, fat grams, or measure out strict portions), it proceeds in three distinct phases.
Since the diet was introduced so recently, there has not been enough time to perform studies regarding the long-term effects. People with diabetes should have their kidneys tested before they begin this diet. People with kidney problems should talk with their doctors before beginning this diet.
To follow the Special K Kick-Start Diet, eat one cup of Kellogg’s Special K, Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries or Kellogg’s Smart Start with 2/3 cup of skim milk and fruit for breakfast, and again for either lunch or dinner for a total of two weeks. Eat a sensible third meal and snack on fruits or vegetables.
The Special K Kick-Start Diet is similar to many other meal replacement plans, and frankly it’s not one of the best. There are no guidelines for the healthy non-cereal meal and no suggestions for increasing activity or exercise. Here’s a thought: combine all the different meal replacement plans (Kellogg’s, Kashi Go-Lean, SlimFast, Revival Soy, etc.) and pick and choose among them for two meals per day. That way you can enjoy a wider variety of replacement options.
Subway Diet (featuring Jared)
The Subway Diet has taken on a life of its own. The Subway sandwich chain doesn’t endorse the weight loss plan popularized by Jared (the star of the widespread advertising campaign), but they do capitalize on his success. Go figure. Jared had only a low-fat Subway sub, small bag of chips, and diet drink for lunch and dinner each day for a year — and lost 245 pounds. Rather than promoting a specific plan, the Subway Website provides basic healthy weight loss suggestions, such as loading up on as many veggies as possible, eating a healthy breakfast, eating slowly and enjoying your food, choosing calorie-free beverages, and regular exercise.
If fast food is a way of life, then Subway is definitely a healthier choice. Still, you can’t consume fast food every day and expect to remain healthy or stay slim.
While everybody wants to be like Jared, even Subway realizes that his results are not typical. He also took the diet to the extreme, skipping breakfast and limiting his caloric intake to an unhealthy 1,000 calories per day. A Subway-only diet over a long period of time will result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies — cheating you of essential calcium, zinc and Vitamin D. In addition, Subway foods can be extremely high in sodium, if you add pickles, olives or salt.
Weight Watchers has a new Winning Points Plan that’s based on a point system, where every food is assigned a number of points based on its fat, fiber, and calorie content. Each person is assigned a daily range of points they can consume. Weight Watchers doesn’t work from a list of forbidden foods or tell you what you can or can’t eat. Instead, their current focus is to provide the information, knowledge, tools and motivation you need to develop your own successful long-term weight management plan. Weight Watchers groups can be found virtually everywhere, including at many work locations and online.
If you’re looking for that magical diet that will cause the weight to instantly melt off, you won’t want this healthy, commonsense plan. Weight Watchers has changed over the years and encourages everyone to figure out how to control their weight over time. Incorporate exercise, and this could be a great program.
One person using the Weight Watchers system appeared to be making a fair amount of progress, but she wasn’t doing a lot of exercise. As I stated earlier, that’s a recipe for long-term failure. It’s easy to lose weight on any kind of regimented program where you’re eating less. But unless you make exercise an equal part of the plan, you cannot maintain the weight loss.
Introduced in the 1995 book by Dr. Barry Sears, Enter the Zone, the Zone diet recommends lots of lean proteins and naturally occurring carbohydrates, like those found in high-fiber vegetables and fruit. The Zone diet recommends that 40 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from fat, their so-called 40-30-30 proportions.
The Zone diet is said to work for two reasons: (1) adherents reduce their overall caloric intake; and (2) it avoids the starvation mode typified by most ‘crash’ diets by utilizing the 40-30-30 food combination.
However, the diet is very low in carbohydrates, which can quickly sap your energy levels. It’s also low in fiber and some vitamins and minerals. Figuring out how to make each and every meal and snack follow the 40-30-30 ratio can be daunting.
Fad diets actually make you fatter in the long run.
Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, and the Grapefruit Diet all work. Yes — if you want to lose mass fairly quickly, any one of them will work for you. BUT, the results probably will not last; in fact, you most likely will get fatter because it is almost impossible to follow these diets 100% of the time, and most people will eventually get sick and tried of eating a certain way. Some people will even feel physically ill, depressed, and have other mood and health issues when following particular fad diets.
This is what I’m saying: there is no shortcut method to losing weight quickly and keeping it off. To do it right, you mush eat properly and exercise regularly — ideally combining weight training and cardio exercise.
If they don’t work, why are they so popular???
OK — fad diets make us fatter. So why do we follow them? We’re Americans and we’ve been trained to believe that it’s our right to demand the quick fix! Nothing would make me happier than sitting here and telling you that I have a magic weight-loss pill — or I can simply wave my magic wand — and in seconds we’ll all have the bodies of our dreams. Hell, I’d be thrilled because I’d be a billionaire — no what am I thinking — a multi trillionaire. Bill Gates would have nothing on the income that results like those would promise. Maybe I should try it. I do have a magic wand and, while you will probably never get weight loss results from it, at least you won’t become fatter than you were before. Meaning my magic wand is at least better than the majority of these diets.
The thing is, a certain amount of credit is due to some of these diet programs. After years and years, they are slowly improving so they’re not as unhealthy as they used to be. A little government intervention might have helped, of course, in that a law was passed a few years ago stating that no diet could be recommended by the FDA if it were below 1,200 calories per day. Almost all of the diets used to be way below that — but since the law passed, most of today’s popular diets hover right around 1,200 calories and not much more.
The fact remains, however, that cutting calories is not the answer to fat loss, weight loss, and your battle with the bulge — unless you want to suffer later on down the road. Focus first on increasing your activity level before you ever try to reduce your calories. Exercise first — and do it correctly. Weight training will always be the most efficient method for burning calories and decreasing your waistline. Running, walking, and other forms of cardiovascular exercise are important, but you will get way more bang for your buck if you follow a good weightlifting program. You only need to worry about getting big and bulky if you are following the wrong program, so go do your homework, or, better yet, hire a personal trainer who will help you lift properly to lose all that weight and fat.
With any diet you choose, you must exercise!
What do you do now? The diet that promised to get you slim quickly actually has caused you to get fatter than you were before. Before you decide to try a different diet, think about what we’ve already discussed. The only thing a different diet is going to do is help you lose some weight, temporarily — until your body refuses to go along with that unrealistic eating plan, forcing you to quit the diet and regain even more weight. The thing is, each time that you lose and gain a significant amount of weight, you make it more and more difficult for your body to stay thin, healthy, and fit. The yo-yo diet craze has taken you by storm, caused you to be fatter than ever, and made it almost impossible for you to lose that fat.
You can still lose the fat and get as thin as you want to be, but it is going to take a lot of effort and a big commitment on your part. The common problem with most popular diets is that, no matter what, you must exercise. If you begin a new diet or eating plan but don’t exercise, you can expect to fail on that diet. Period. Exercise is a fundamental part of healthy living and the proactive key to noticeable and sustained fat loss, increased stamina, elevated energy, and improved mental clarity. You must exercise. Even if the thought makes you cringe — your body needs it for you to be healthy. It’s kind of like filing your taxes, in that you might not want to, but the consequences of not doing it are far worse — although exercise is a million times more important than your taxes!
You keep saying you want to get in shape or lose that excess weight you’ve put on over the last 10 years. Well, there are no more excuses! The first step is to move that butt and get going to the gym — or hire a professional personal trainer and someone well qualified to help you adjust your eating plan or nutritional program. Whatever you do, get quality advice about which exercises and programs will best help you achieve your goals. (If you need help knowing how to hire a qualified personal trainer, check out the personal trainer directory or read my book, How to Hire a Qualified Personal Trainer.)
One of the benefits of working with a trainer is that they can design a program for you that will keep your interest while helping you achieve your goals. Don’t delude yourself — you will still have to work hard. But a trainer can help you keep the exercise interesting, making it much more likely that you will stay with it long term in order to see results.
Calorie reduction alone will hurt you in the long run.
Diets such as Slim Fast, South Beach, Atkins, The Zone — and my new favorite, Special K (eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, another one for dinner, and a sensible lunch), are all a big crock of hooey. OK — it is true that you can lose weight on any one of these diets because they so drastically reduce your intake of food (calories), and therefore your body must lose mass. It only makes sense that when you consume fewer calories than your body is used to, your body will start to burn more calories than you take in.
The Law of Thermodynamics states that: (a) if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose mass; (b)conversely, if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain mass; and (c) if you eat the same amount of calories as you burn, your mass will remain the same. This means it’s fairly easy to get someone to lose weight quickly — all you have to do is lower your intake to create a caloric deficit, making you lose weight and appear to shrink in size, which is what these diets do.
So what’s the problem, then?
Your body is immensely adaptable, and will quickly adjust to its new (lower) caloric intake, and when it does it will start shedding mass. The problem is that this mass being shed is both muscle and fat, and if you don’t exercise during the process, it’s a whole lot more muscle that goes away than fat.
You might think this is a good thing, until you realize how important your muscle is to the whole weight-loss process. When muscle is healthy and active, it is able to burn up a ton of calories, giving someone with more muscle a higher metabolic rate. This means you can eat more and still lose weight because the extra muscle keeps your metabolism high during the day by burning more calories. Some people call muscle the body’s fat-burning machinery.
By following one of these diets without incorporating exercise, your body will lose some fat and lots of muscle. This muscle loss slows down your metabolism, making it easier for you to gain fat or weight, even when you’re on a lower-calorie diet. Eventually, your body will begin starving itself, which is exactly what it’s doing when you go on these kinds of crash diets.
How do these diets hurt your body? For one thing, because the lower calories are not providing your body with enough nutrients, your body has a hard time functioning properly. As a result, you instinctively resort to eating more and more. What is ‘more’ now might not even be anywhere as much as you used to eat; it’s just more than you ate on the diet. But now, since your body has a lower metabolism, you start to gain mass. And since you’re not exercising (and, more importantly you’re not working out with weights), your body starts to gain back all its weight and more — and the majority of this weight comes in the form of fat.
OK, we’ve established that reducing the calories you eat and increasing the calories you burn is an effective way to lose fat and weight. However, if you were to do only one of these, it would be much better to increase your activity and burn more calories than it would be to try to drastically reduce your caloric intake — and risk starving yourself or lowering your metabolism. Burning more calories is always the preferred way to drop the fat and weight.
Counting calories is a good place to start.
Counting calories is important when you first begin changing your eating plan to get healthy.
You should always know how many calories you are putting in your mouth via the foods you eat. For one thing, you might think twice about putting some of those foods in your body if you stopped to realize how many calories that particular food contains. It can be tedious and time-consuming to write down everything and measure your food so you can know exactly how many calories you are eating. After a while, though, you won’t have to measure or do much work because you will instinctively know how much meat makes up a three-ounce serving. (FYI, three ounces of raw meat is about the size of a small deck of cards.)
Knowing how many crackers you ate or how many measuring cups of cereal you had for breakfast is vital so that people begin to realize what kinds of junk they are eating. Most people don’t realize the amount of work it takes to lose or gain one pound of fat. If you want to gain one pound of fat, you must consume 3,500 more calories than you burn — and if you want to lose one pound of fat, you must burn 3,500 calories.
Ideally, you will cut the garbage and unnecessary calories out of your diet. But as a place to begin, it’s much better to exercise more and increase your metabolism. Think of it this way, the more you exercise, the higher your metabolism, and the higher your metabolism, the better results you’ll see from your exercise. A higher metabolism makes you more active, and when you’re more active, you burn fat more quickly and easily.
Focusing only on cutting calories typically leads to many problems and will actually damage your body more than it helps, in the long run. Still, calorie-counting may be necessary to some people under certain conditions, particularly for those who are just beginning an overhaul on their eating and exercise regimens.
There are different methods for finding out how many calories you burn. One is a new electronic device that measures the calories you expend during the day. This special armband also measures the quality of your sleep, your activity level, and the number of steps you take in a day. Click here for more info.
The quality of your food counts as much as the quantity.
Knowing how many calories you consume versus how many calories you burn or need to burn will make it a whole lot easier to lose that fat. BUT, I don’t believe you can eat anything just as long as it is below your prescribed caloric intake. My years as a personal trainer and certified nutritionist have shown me that it isn’t that simple. For one thing, the human body is much more complex than that, and what you put in it doesn’t always completely leave — especially prepackaged foods that are extremely high in additives and preservatives.
It’s downright impossible to eat the proper amount of calories for your body to lose weight if you’re consuming unhealthy foods. And food manufacturers know this! Certain foods contain substances that actually cause food cravings and hormonal imbalances. They stimulate your appetite and cause the mood swings that send your metabolism and emotions out of control so you binge and eat more. Stop for a minute and you can see the effects of this everywhere you look. We are a nation of fat, unhappy, unhealthy people. And it’s going to take a lot more than will power to solve this epidemic of obesity and ill health.
As long as you continue to eat the wrong foods for your body’s biochemistry, your body will continue to want to eat, not stopping until it’s satisfied. Counting and watching your calories is important, but if you eat the wrong foods, the counting will just be a waste of effort. If you eat for your biochemistry, you won’t even have to watch or count calories because your body will always be satisfied. You will never want to overeat because your body’s getting all the nutrients it needs and doesn’t want to eat any extra food.
When planning for the reduced calories you want to consume, think about foods that will work great on your system. For the most part, these are fresh, clean, certified organic foods. Things you know for a fact that are naturally healthy because you’ve done your research and are shopping where they sell natural foods, not things that come in a package slapped with a sticker that says ‘all-natural.’ Be careful, food manufacturers spend unbelievable amounts of money on great ad campaigns to get you to believe just about anything. Understand this: their goal is go get you to buy their product, not to get you thin and healthy. But if telling you their food is all-natural will get you to buy it, that’s what they’ll say on their packaging!
Of course, we’re not machines, and occasionally, even the best eater will have a cheat day where you eat lower quality foods. Don’t worry — your body will recognize this, often by making you feel ill. This is a quick reminder that you you’ve strayed off the plan and probably don’t want to eat a whole lot more of these foods.
Measuring your caloric intake against the calories you burn is a major part of fighting fat, but don’t use it as a crutch, thinking “If I don’t eat all day, I can have alcohol every night, or eat lots of big desserts, and still stay thin.” Calories are an important key to the weight loss equation, but you must use them wisely. A few simple healthy eating principles will keep fat off forever.
Eat 6 Small Meals a Day
Eating 6 small meals a day — or eating every couple of hours — will keep up your metabolic rate so you are consistently burning calories. This eating plan also constantly fuels your body, so your blood sugar never drops to an all-time low, meaning your hunger monster never reveals its ugly head causing you to devour everything in sight. With your blood sugar remaining steady because you’re eating every couple of hours, your body will remain in more of a fat-burning state.
I once met a woman who lost 100 pounds, and I asked her how she did it. She went on to tell me that before the weight loss, all she would eat all day long was one big meal at night. When she switched to eating 6 small meals throughout the day, it was nothing to lose 100 pounds, and she has kept the weight off for more than 2 years now. She only changed one variable about her eating, but she changed one of the most important factors for creating lasting results.
Eating 6 small meals will also keep the body out of a starvation state. The result is that your body will burn fat faster than ever; since you’re consistently refueling your body, it will never have to store the food as fat. Eating one small meal will provide your body with enough fuel to keep it going until your next small meal, and since you’re not overeating, you should never store any fat — you should just keep burning fat all day long.
Your mother was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast got its name from the idea that while you sleep, your body fasts, or moves into a starvation mode because it’s not e