By Aaron Morse, MD
Sleep Health MD, Sleep Medicine Specialists
Anyone who has tried to lose weight understands what a challenge it can be. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are working toward that goal:
It’s Not Your Fault
First of all, it’s not your fault! Multiple studies have demonstrated that 75% of obesity is genetic. So why are we experiencing an “obesity epidemic” that is so much in the news? For some genes to be “expressed”, that is, to actually cause a problem, they may need to be “triggered” by environmental factors and there are some very powerful ones that contribute to weight gain.
The Western Diet
The first one is diet. For complicated reasons, the Western diet has shifted to one that causes weight gain. In my opinion, the main villain is carbohydrate. There is profit in calories and powerful economic forces have contributed to a diet rich in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. It tastes good and it triggers an appetite for more.
Think sodas, French fries and high fructose corn syrup (which is in almost everything). This is the basis for a huge industry, and industry sponsored “research” years ago led to the obsession with fat, which was replaced in our diets by carbohydrates. Carbohydrates cause insulin to spike, which is very effective at dropping the blood sugar (resulting in hunger) and pushing carbohydrate calories into fat storage. Fat does not affect insulin, so consuming carbohydrates is more effective at causing increased fat storage than consuming fat.
Why do some people gain weight when others do not, even though their diets may be similar? The answer is in the genetic susceptibility to these environmental factors.
The Role of Physical Activity
The second factor is physical activity. Notice, I did not say exercise. The plethora of labor saving devices has gradually reduced the amount of activity necessary to go about our lives.
In the past, people walked more, or worked all day on the farm, so even those who might be genetically susceptible to obesity or had poor diets did not gain weight because of continuous calorie expenditure throughout the day. I’m not talking about ½ hour per day on a treadmill, but continuous movement throughout the day.
Why Is Weight Loss So Hard?
Weight loss is very difficult because the body resists losing weight. When our ancestors lost weight, it was due to lack of access to food, so the body developed mechanisms to protect itself from starvation. With weight loss, hunger hormones increase and the metabolism slows down and becomes more efficient so fewer calories are burned. The evolutionary advantage of conserving calories may have improved survival in the past, but now works against us when trying to lose weight.
Another challenge to weight loss is that the brain has a weight “set point”. That is, it wants you to maintain your weight, almost like a temperature setting on a thermostat. With weight loss, it can take a year or more to reach a lower set point, so close attention must be paid to diet during this time.
How to Start
Approaches to weight loss are highly individual, and the details outlined below may not be appropriate for everyone, but they are a good starting point.
1. Cut Back on Carbs
Point one: Carbohydrates are poison! (Well, this may be a slight exaggeration). When we were hunter gatherers, we had very little access to carbohydrates and lived on animal protein along with fruits and vegetables that were foraged. As a result, our bodies were not programmed to deal with carbohydrates, so consumed carbohydrates are efficiently converted to fat.
The purpose of fat is energy storage for emergencies. The body first wants to metabolize carbohydrates and only burns fat when carbohydrates are depleted. Bottom line, before you can lose fat, you must reduce your body’s access to carbohydrates.
In addition to sugar and alcohol, which are major no no’s for those losing weight, the “big four” are bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. The first thing to do is try to eliminate or markedly reduce your intake of this stuff. And don’t forget that fruits tend to be very high in sugar, so it is important to watch your fruit intake.
2. Bump Up the Protein
Protein is the best appetite suppressant there is, so a high protein diet can be helpful for weight loss. The use of high protein meal substitutes for several meals per day has been demonstrated to contribute to successful weight loss. There are many different brands and forms of these substances that can be found in grocery and health food stores and are usually available as powders or liquids. One example is Premier Protein. I like this because it is premixed (less hassle and mess), inexpensive ($24 for 18 boxes at Costco) and (in my opinion) fairly tasty. It has 30 grams of protein ( a lot: about the same as a 6 ounce hamburger), 1 gram of sugar (hardly any) and only 160 calories Using Premier Protein (or something similar) for breakfast and lunch and having a healthy high protein low carbohydrate dinner is highly likely to produce weight loss.
3. Play the Waiting Game
When one is trying to lose weight, the enemy is hunger. While high protein drinks are fairly good at suppressing hunger, mid morning and mid afternoon snacks (again high protein, low carbohydrate) can be very useful in keeping hunger under control. Examples include a handful of nuts, a piece of chicken or fish, or a small amount cottage cheese or plain yogurt. So a weight loss diet may mean eating 5 times per day: two high protein drinks, two snacks and dinner.
It is also important to know is that there is a hunger suppressing hormone produced in the intestine that is activated when you eat. It takes about 20 minutes, however, for this hormone to go from your intestine to your brain to signal that you are no longer hungry. Therefore, EAT SLOWLY! If you finish your meal and are still hungry, try to wait 20 minutes before eating more.
Chances are, you won’t want it.
4. The Role of Exercise
What about exercise? The bad news is that you can’t exercise your way to weight loss. Getting on the treadmill for an hour and burning 300 calories can’t make up for taking in 2500 calories per day, so diet is the most important factor in weight loss.
The good news is that the health benefits of moderate exercise are enormous.
Walking 150 minutes per week (i.e., 30 minutes per day 5 days per week) cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease in half. Obese people who exercise regularly live longer than non obese sedentary individuals.
Exercise is more important for weight maintenance after weight loss. Studies have suggested that those who exercise (walking is all you need to do), 60 minutes per day are more likely to maintain their weight.
Remember, the Tortoise Won the Race
Slow and steady is the smart way to go. Losing weight can take time, but even small improvements can have a positive and long-lasting impact on your health and in your life. We hope these tips are helpful, and remember to always check with your doctor before starting any type of weight loss or exercise program.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
This is remarkably very helpful to others that are planning to lose weight. They may need more motivation to succeed. However, just this article provides a simple and short of giving advice on losing weight.
I really appreciate your tip to try and make small and steady improvements so you can motivate yourself to lose weight. My wife and I have been thinking of losing weight together, but we are having trouble coming up with the right motivation to do it. I will be sure to tell my wife that small and simple things will lead to the best results.
We think it’s a good way to go, and is not too overwhelming when first starting out. Let us know how it works for you! 🙂
As much as it is genetic, however, we should also need to take a look at our healthy all the time. Fewer carbs and eating a healthier food is a must. It is also best to have a regular exercise would be a great help as well.
Thanks for this advice for weight loss. it’s nice to know that you should eat slowly, since it takes about 20 minutes for a hormone to let you know you’re not hungry. I’m interested to learn if this can be complimented well by drinking lots of water as you eat to help you take your time when eating.
Dr. Edelman said yes, whatever works well for you.
Exercise is the foundation for any weight loss regimen. During the summers I will bike to work and I am always in much better shape and have more energy. I believe that exercise should be the first thing that a weight loss service will allow.
It’s really interesting how you said that 75% of why you gain weight is because of genetics. My wife and I are wanting to lose weight but we really need to get on a weight loss program if we are going to do that, even if our genetics are at fault. At least we could talk to a professional and maybe figure out what we might e able to do in order to lose what we want to.
Wow, these are very helpful points for those who are planning to lose weight. Thanks for this great advice on weight loss.
Great Points which can truly help to lose weight, the fastest way.
Thanks a ton for giving such a valuable article.
I thank you for posting this article. It’s very helpful and understanding. Gaining weight can be difficult at times but when I read your article I found it very interesting you’ve shared a lot of good information. It’s not about skipping meals to lose your weight but a healthy diet and exercise are the proper way to lose your weight.
I had no idea that walking 150 minutes a week could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease in half. With putting on some extra pounds this past year due to stress from work, this sounds great! Along with taking extra time for walking and exercise, I’ll look into a weight loss program to help me reach my weight goal.
Thanks for your comment Larry, and way to go! 🙂
I thought it was interesting how you said that the best appetite suppressant is protein, which means it can be useful for weight loss. My brother received an injury while playing football which led to him being bed-ridden for about 6 months. During that time he gained a lot of weight, so he has been looking for a medical weight loss program that can help him get back to his original size.
Hope the information was helpful to you Dean.
Great article and very helpful advice in this particular article! Walking has been our greatest weapon to many of the ailments i have seen and worked with. It’s the little changes that make the largest differences.
Thanks a lot for sharing!
I liked that you mentioned that weight loss programs are not meant for everybody. I would imagine that it would be important to consult medical assistance when trying to formulate a weight loss plan for yourself. That way, you are losing weight in a healthy manner.
It’s really impressive that if you work out for a half hour a day you can cut the possibility of heart disease in half. My dad is getting older and he really could use a bit of help with his health and I think that a bit of exercise would be good to help him lose a bit of weight as well. Getting him to a center that will help him keep track of his exercise seems like a great idea!
I’ve been meaning to lose a couple of pounds that I gained ever since I started working. Thank you for stating that high protein consumption is a great way to lose weight; because it is the best appetite suppressant. These are great tips, but if none of these works then I should start looking for a weight loss program that can help me out.
I’m looking for the right weight loss program for me. These are great tips for lasting weight loss. Thanks for sharing!
I like how you mention the importance of diet in weight loss and how it can be difficult to lose weight since our bodies frequently resist losing weight. My husband’s mom has been wanting to lose a few pounds since she doesn’t feel good or healthy anymore but has been having trouble doing it on her own. I think she should look into a good medical weight loss treatment that can help her get where she wants to be.
Hi, Thanks for sharing this article, I would recommended for Camp Pocono Trails, many campers have never felt in control of their weight.
I’ve been trying to lose weight, but I can’t just seem to lose weight. I like how you mentioned that being physically active can help keep the weight off, even if I eat a little too much. Thanks for the great tips for keeping weight off.
It’s interesting to know that about 75% of people who suffer from obesity are caused by genetics. My brother and I might be one of those people you mentioned because we can’t lose our excess fats no matter how hard we exercise. Maybe it is time to find other options like surgery and see if this is safe.
I had no idea that carbohydrates were capable of stimulating your appetite to consume more. My brother tends to have trouble focusing at work unless he gets enough to eat during breakfast, but he wants to find a way to start losing weight before his wedding without sacrificing his ability to perform well at work. I wonder if speaking with a medical expert could help him find a solution.