HOW DO DIETS AND WEIGHT LOSS WORK
There are millions of diets out there, so how do you know what one really works, or really works for you?
To figure this out it's important to understand how weight loss happens.
When you understand the fundamentals of dieting and weight loss you empower yourself to make the right decisions when it comes to your body and wallet.
The U.S. weight loss market reached a record $78 billion in 2019 , however the obesity pandemic continues on. This means there are a lot of supplements, food products and diets out there being sold that don't necessarily work and lots of desperate people out there willing to buy them.
Many people embark on their weight loss journey without doing the due diligence of validating the nutrition claims made by the company selling the product. Instead they decide to follow them blindly in hopes of a weight loss miracle, oftentimes ending up the same or worse off than when they started.
HOW DOES WEIGHT LOSS WORK
According to the laws of thermodynamics, energy is never really created nor destroyed, it just moves around or gets transformed from one to another.
Humans are no exception to these laws. We don't make energy for metabolic functions (breathing, pumping blood, ect.) we convert energy that's already stored within our food.
We eat, we digest, we absorb, we circulate, we store, we transfer energy, we use energy, and then we repeat.
Metabolism is the sum of all these biochemical processes that occur in the body.
“Energy balance” is the relationship between “energy in” ( calories taken into the body through food and drink) and “energy out” (calories being used in the body for our daily energy requirements).
When we take in more energy through food or drinks than our daily energy intake requires we gain weight. (calorie surplus)
When we take in less, we lose weight. (calorie deficit)
When we take in the same, we maintain our weight. (calories at maintenance)
Just like fat can't magically appear it can’t magically disappear either with some pill or tea.
Looking at weight loss this way might make it seem simple enough however there are many factors at play such as our individual environments, our genetics and epigenetic expression, our hormones, what we can digest and absorb and/or our physiological and psychological stressors.
All of these things can work together in ways to affect how much you eat, how much you move, and how much energy your body uses for metabolism and movement. All of this said it doesn't mean our bodies can break the laws of thermodynamics, the equation still holds.
21ST CENTURY DILEMMA
In a perfect world how much you eat would match perfectly how many calories a day you burn.
However over millions of years of evolution many of our bodies processes no longer match the current way we live.
In the wild animals naturally match their food intake to their activity and bodies' needs. If they eat more, they move more or eat less later on.
For us humans in the 21st century, we have so many tasty, abundant and convenient foods and waaaaaayyyy fewer opportunities for daily movement. We eat more and move less. On top of that, we have other stressors and factors affecting our appetite, hunger and fullness cues, such as stress or lack of sleep quantity and quality.
When we stop moving enough, we stop working well and our energy regulation mechanisms get out of whack.
We depend a lot more on planned activities nowadays to help us regulate, but even then most of us work sedentary jobs, so someone who is active daily will find it extremely difficult to out run their poor diet. Appetite can only drop so low, it often outpaces the sedentary metabolism most of us are victim to these days, making us gain weight.
Plus the average american diet is mostly made up of highly processed / fast foods, these foods are modified from their original whole food form, are usually lacking in important nutrients, are high in calories, and are engineered to be too good to put down. They do not work well in conjunction with our bodies natural physiology and overpower our normal satiation mechanisms. This leads us to overeat making weight loss even more complex.
HOW DIETS WORK
Diets help people lose weight by creating a calorie deficit using different approaches. Here are a few examples of popular diets and how they work.
By controlling the individual's caloric consumption by eliminating food types. An example of this type of diet would be Keto where the dieter cuts out carbohydrate consumption. With Keto a deficit can be created when dieters eliminate high calorie foods in order to avoid carbohydrates. (most being fast and processed foods)
By controlling the amount of food by using different point systems like weight watchers, or Noom, or just plain calorie counting using a tracking app.
Reducing the eating times with intermittent fasting creates a deficit by reducing the time during the day you have to eat, and therefore eat one or two less meals.
Suppressing appetite (pills), you feel less hungry and ideally eat less.
Unfortunately diets do not address the real reason you came to be overweight in the first place. They are merely a means to an end and unless you can sustain your new diet long term, keeping the weight off will be impossible.
One of the most important questions people forget to ask themselves is, "Can I do this forever?".
And the quest continues for the perfect diet that doesn't exist.
SO WHAT IS THE BEST DIET OR THE BEST WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT AND KEEP IT OFF FOR GOOD?
There are two things you need to do and this will be a little different for everyone, there is no one way that works for all people. The first one is to stop punishing yourself by denying yourself the foods you love. Educate yourself, take the time to learn about your caloric and macronutrient needs based on your daily activity and lifestyle and then learn how to read nutritional labels and understand the calorie content of your food. This way you'll be able to include all foods in balance and see the goals you want. As you start eating in balance you'll feel better, have more energy, you'll regulate your appetite and you'll have less cravings.
The second is recognizing how your environmental and psychological factors influence your food choices because they are what have created the habits you have today. They are the reason you chose to eat the foods you do and have the body and health you have.
Therefore it doesn't matter what diet you try and follow, if you've developed a habit of using food for stress or emotional relief no diet can fix that, you need to build awareness around the situation first and then work on changing it.
Nobody wants the bad habit of overeating or binging on overly processed foods, what you are actually looking for is the change in state doing so delivers. Momentarily eating overly processed food makes you feel happy or helps you escape.
Habit formation doesn't happen over the course of a day but from years and years of repetition. The good news is, once you become aware of them, you can work on changing them, and finding different activities or hopefully good habits that make you feel just as good or even better to replace the bad ones. Your brain can not differentiate between the two, it just wants to feel good.
If you want to make changes that last forever but aren't sure where to start, click on the link below and let's chat.