I have spent a good amount of time in doctor’s offices, physical therapists offices and surgeons’ offices lately. With two sons having two surgeries and one haveing wisdom teeth removed, I have found myself sitting in waiting rooms on a regular basis. It’s not always a bad thing, though, as it is a wonderful time to catch up on reading. That’s how I came across the June 5, 2017, copy of TIME, a magazine I do not regularly read.
The cover is titled, “The Weight Loss Trap”. Of course, I picked it up to read. Aexandra Sifferlin has written an extremely thorough article on the state of American’s diet and weight dilemma. If you haven’t read the article I’m going to do a recap here because I think the message is so important for all of us to remember – whether we are trying to lose 100 pounds or five, or not even trying, but maybe know someone who struggles with weight.
The following is my recap of the article. At times I inject a sentence, but for the majority I am relaying the message from the magazine and take no credit for the content, quotes and findings.
The most important sentence is on the cover page of the article, “Here’s the best-kept secret about weight loss: no single diet – from low carb and paleo to low fat and vegan-will work for everyone.” I finally realized this a few years ago and have done my best to relay this message here on this site, as well as to my nutrition clients. While losing weight may sound as easy as calories in v. calories out, we all know that losing weight is really, really hard. And keeping it off can be even harder for people. If you have ever watched the show, The Biggest Loser, you have seen that even with the perfect conditions, doctors on site, motivating trainers, strict meal plans and a day full of working out, does not always bring the same results. The body “fights like hell to get the fat back.” Over time contestants studied gained back 66% of the weight they lost on the show and some grew even heavier than before the competition.
Finding answers to weight loss has become critical for the American people. Theses statistics are staggering to me and very depressing.
The vast majority of American adults are overweight; nearly 40% are clinically obese. Doctors now know that excess body fat dramatically increases the risk of serious haelth problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, respitory problems, major cancers and fertitlity problems. A 2017 study found that obesity now drives more early preventable deaths in the U.S. than smoking.
Kevin Hall, a scientist at the National Institue of Health (NIH) began researching the whole weight loss puzzle after a friend asked him to watch The Biggest Loser. That sparked Kevin to study 14 of the contestants for a scientific paper. He hoped the the study could help him understand waht was happening in their bodies so he could help the 71% of overweight American adults. Last year the NIH provided an estimated $931 million in funding for obesity research, including Hall’s study. That research is helping find answers to why dieting is so hard, why keeping hte weightoff is even harder and why weight loss seems to work only sometimes – and for only certain people. These researchers finally agree that exercise, while beneficial, is not an especially reliable way to keep off body fat for the long term. And it’s not calories in v. calories out that brings success. The composition of a person’s diet, not how much of it they can burn off exercising, keeps the weight loss.
The research also supported the theory that individual responses to different diets, from low fat to vegan to low carb, vary tremendously. “Some people on a diet program lose 60 lb. and keep t off for two years, and other people follow the same program erligiously and they gain 5 lb.”. (Frank Sacks, a leading weight-loss researcher and professor of caridiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The key to weight loss is highly personalized and evidence shows that its’s possible for anyone t reach a healthy weight-they just have to find the best way for them.
America has been obsessed with dieting from as early on as 1830. in the 1930s there was the grapefruit diet, the 1950s cabbage soup diet and the 1960s saw the mass commercialization of dieting in America. Weight Watchers began during this time and currently has approximately 3.6 million active users. Most of these diets touted the eat fewer calories and you will lose weight message. In the 1970s the low-fat craze began to form making people believe that if they ate fat they would get fat. That is not at all what happened. In fact, folks began to gain weight. In 1990 obese adults made up less than 15% of the population. In 2010, that number was about 25% of the population, and today that number is 40% with kids and teens at 17%. This uptrend is frightening.
Understanding how a given diet works for one given person is the “holy grail of weight loss science”. For 23 years a National Weight Control Registry has been held to keep track of people who successfully lost weight and have kept it off. A person must have lost at least 30 lbs and kept it off for a year or longer. There are more than 10,000 people in the registry ranging all across the 50 states. What is interesting is that everyone on the list lost amounts of weight in different ways. 45% lost weight on diets on their own and 55% lost weight on a structured weight loss program. 98% modified their diet and 94% increased physical activity. The most important thing it seems is that they all had to make changes in their everyday behaviors.
The majority ate breakfast, weigh themselves weekly, watch less than 10 hours of TV a week and exercise about an hour a day. Looking at attitudes and behaviors the researchers also found that most were not Type A folks. However, most were morning people and most were motivated by something other than a smaller waist.
Scientists have also found others factors that may attribute to why weight loss can vary so much for different people on the same weight loss plan, and it’s not just genetics. In fact, obesity related genes account for only 3% of the differences of people’s sizes.
“The old paradigm was that poor diet and lack of exercise are underpinning obesity, but now we understand that chemical exposures are an important third factor in the origin of the obesity epidemic. . . Chemicals can disrupt horones and metabolism, which can contribute to disease and disability.” (Dr. Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New Your University School of Medicine) Another area that may influence how our bodies metabolize foods are the bacteria living in our guts. Scientists are now researching how specific diets may help people dependingon how they respond to different foods.
If you are still with me here, I applaud you! This is a long post, but believe me, the TIME article is much longer! I want to include here the sidenotes of the article because I think they are really helpful to us all, as we seem to want to know more about what works for other people and what we things we can try to be more successful in our own weight management. Here goes:
Percentages for successful dieters who have lost weight and kept it off:
98% Changed their diet in some way
90% Exercise on average one hour a day
78% Eat breakfast every day
45% Were NOT on a diet program
55% Used a Weight Loss Program
75% Weight themselves weekly
62% Watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
Average weight loss was 66 lbs
Average number of years of weight loss is 5.5
- Keep a journal, writing down not just what you eat, but how you feel, what is going on in your life and how you feel after eating. After a while, you look through your journal for patterns. It wasn’t that I had no willpower; my brain was reacting to certain habits that made it hard for my willpower to do its job. Once I removed those patterns . . . my willpower muscle could finally flex. Erika Nicole Kendall, 33, lost over 170 lbs. over 2 years.
- Avoid all sugary drinks. They provide empty calories and produce belly fat. Dr. Dean Schillinger, chief of General Internal Medicine at University of California, San Francisco.
- Give yourself a break. You don’t have to eat salad all the time to lose weight. There are so many ways to tweak ingredients and make food you love to eat. . . . give yourself an occasional cheat day or reward for sticking to your plan. You want to lose weight in a healthy way, without hurting yourself. Nivedith Renga, 26, lost 65 lbs in 9 months.
- You need a plan that satisfies hunger. Most diets fail because hunger erodes willpower. Susan Roberts, professor of nutrition at Tufts University and founder if iDiet.
(TIME magazine, June 5, 2017)
I have always said that losing weight is not an easy thing. This article lays out some of the why it can be so hard. It can be a lot of trial and error to see just what works for each individual. The important thing is that the individuals keep working on tweaking their programs to see just what works. Perseverance is key in losing the weight and keeping it off.
If you have your own tips that work for you, I’d love to hear them. I’m sure others would also.
Enjoy Your Day!