For most people, losing weight is a stressful and frustrating process ” a battle against will-power and depravation.
We are overwhelmed with too much information, conflictingor misleading information and downright dishonest information about weight loss. In an effort to sell products and services targeting people who need to lose weight, we have invented diets and approaches to dieting that have little to do with why people gain weight in the first place.
This issue, coupled with today’s lifestyle and food environment has created a significant problem and daily struggle for over half of the American population.
The goal of these columns will be to move the conversation of weight loss from speculation about what may or may not work to a good solid factual conversation about what really works. It doesn’t mean that what I will say will make weight loss an easy battle, but you will have accurate and truthful information about what works, what doesn’t work and why.
Many people believe they have a faulty genetics that cause weight gain. This is the single most common reason people cite when they gain weight or struggle to lose it. It is a tough issue because if your genetics are working against you then it’s seems like a lost cause.
If you look at the research it becomes very clear. Approximately, 4 to 6 percent of population has a true metabolic disorder that causes significant weight gain. That means that 95 out of every 100 people walking down the street have no metabolic disorder. That doesn’t mean that some people won’t gain or lose weight a little easier than others, but even in those cases, the actual difference in gain and loss due to genetics is minuscule. Remember, just 100 years ago 5 percent of the population was overweight, today 68 percent is overweight and we didn’t have the Atkins Diet, Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, Trim Spa or those crazy lose 30 pounds in 30 day diets back then.
If you still believe this is more of a genetic issue then it’s worth checking out some of the better studies. One of the best is out of the New England Journal of Medicine.
They took referrals from prominent physicians for patients with metabolic issues that caused their being overweight. They are called diet resistant people. They had these diet resistant patients referred to a study center where they were monitored for an extended period of time. The entire difference between the diet resistant people and so called normal people, right out of the New England Journal of Medicine, was that the diet resistant people ate about twice as much as they reported eating and exercised 25 percent less. Other than that, there was no difference between the diet resistant people and normal people.
Know the facts
Now if you’re still convinced your weight is not due to lifestyle then it’s worth asking your doctor about a basic blood test that can measure hormones and other chemical levels to see what medications might address your weight. But for the vast majority of people, this is not a genetic issue. This is good news because it puts the power to control your weight back into your hands.
When starting a weight loss program, the 70/30 rule of thumb is a useful concept to keep in mind. Approximately 70 percent of initial weight loss is generally due to improvements in diet and about 30 percent due to exercise. Reducing calories through a sensible diet is the quickest way to drop weight. It is unrealistic for most people who are struggling to lose weight to exercise vigorously enough to really take off the pounds, so diet becomes a major focus. Genetics can shift the emphasis of diet and exercise about 5 to 10 percent either direction. And the impact of a negative shift can be overcome with a little extra attention to both diet and or exercise.
Now here’s the catch, there is no long term weight control without increased physical activity. It is essentially impossible to keep the weight off long term through diet alone. There has been plenty of research and there is no evidence that states the contrary.
The National Weight Control Registry (www.nwcr.ws) which is a group of academics that records the habits of people who have lost weight and kept it off, shows that people who engage in about 2,800 calories of physical activity per week have been able to keep their weight off for 5 years or more. No group who has lost considerable weight has achieved those statistics through diet alone.
Now here’s another interesting point. What else happens if you become more physically active? What does every study show? If you are more physically active, you are also more likely to take up other healthy lifestyle habits, more than if you do any other behavior change. If you exercise, you’re more likely to watch what you eat, you tend to be more socially active, less stressed, you tend to wear your seat belt, to get regular medical check-ups, etc. So clearly, physical activity has to be the cornerstone of weight control and good general health as well.
We’ll talk more about what to do specifically to start a safe and effective weight loss program in the weeks ahead. What can you do today? Take a short walk. Walking 30 minutes per day is one of the best things you can do to get started. It is easy, it’s fun and after a week or so you’ll really begin to feel the difference. Thank you for reading and good luck on a healthier happier you.
Mike Carville is a N.A.S.M. certified Personal Trainer and owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City and Monster Gym in Grass Valley. He has worked in the fitness industry for 15 years and specializes in programming for new exercisers and weight loss. He lives with his wife Kimberley and two children, Aurora and Cooper in Nevada City. Mike is available for questions and speaking engagements. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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