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You CANNOT Out-Train a Bad Diet

A Nutritional Guide for Healthy Weight Loss

By now we all know that finding a healthier version of yourself depends on diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten the full truth when it comes to being healthy. We are fed the narrative that weight loss depends on spending 10 hours in the gym and eliminating one source of calories in our diet while doubling down on another. Admit it, every time you try a new fad diet, or commit to an exhausting new workout routine, you lose weight initially, but then eventually lose steam and transform back into your former self. Healthy, sustainable weight loss seems like something you just don’t have the willpower to do.

But, this is simply not true. We don’t have to overcomplicate the story, or feel guilty, to find a healthier version of ourselves.

Let’s break it down into every aspect of what you can do to simplify your outlook on achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Why is Weight Loss so Difficult to Maintain?

Maintaining a healthy body weight has always been associated with self-discipline and willpower. You count calories. Do portion control. Work out first thing in the morning three times a week.

Although weight loss may be accomplished by submitting yourself to these rigid, disciplinarian tactics, the minute you’re frustrated with your co-workers or get sick for a week, portion control goes out of the window. Exercise can easily take the backseat when you have kids ages 3 and 5, go through some financial stress, or have an aging parent to take care of.

The reality is that shedding the unwanted pounds is not the hardest part of weight loss. It’s keeping the weight off for good despite life’s occasional curveballs.

Is long-term weight loss really possible? Or should you resign yourself to the fact that you’ll eventually regain what you’ve lost?

Does it all boil down to having loads of willpower? Or is there more to self-control that’s involved in long-term weight loss sorcery?

Actually, no. Biology is at play. Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, says the difficulty in keeping the extra weight off reflects biology and not merely a pathological lack of willpower. Specifically, when we lose weight, leptin (the hormone responsible for food satiety) actually goes down when we lose weight.

However, all hope is not lost. We can aim for sustainable weight loss by using a few key strategies.

The Basics of Nutrition

When we think about adopting a new weight loss regimen, it’s important to remember that calories in and calories out ultimately dictate our weight loss. Therefore, diet is our best friend when it comes to finding the perfect balance to a nutrition program.

However, diet is not simply about calories. Food is where we get everything that our body cannot make for itself. The makeup of our diet keeps us from being malnourished, susceptible to illness, depressed, and unable to perform at the gym.

In order to understand exactly where our calories come from and what we need to consume to be healthy, we need to understand the basics of nutrition and the reason we need a balanced diet.

What are macronutrients?

What you eat can be broken down into 3 macronutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Unless you have a specific medical condition, you need all 3 to maintain proper health and functioning. Without sufficient amounts of any of these sources, your body will not operate at peak condition. And without a proper balance of these nutrients during a diet program will hinder the success you achieve in reaching your goals.

When trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories from these nutrients than you expend. For example, if you determine that, between your Basal Metabolic Rate and your activity (from moving, eating, and exercising), you burn 2,000 calories per day, to stay the same weight you’d have to eat roughly 2,000 calories every day. However, to lose weight, you would have to place yourself into a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit indicates that you are eating fewer calories than you burn per day — i.e., in this case, potentially restricting intake to only 1,800 calories per day.

But as we already mentioned, though calories consumed versus calories burned ultimately determines success or failure in the weight game, is it all that matters?

Well, it depends.

If your goal is simply to lose weight, regardless of whether it be fat- or muscle-weight lost, then yes, calories are all that matter.

However, if you’re attempting to improve your body composition by losing Body Fat Mass and gaining Skeletal Muscle Mass, then no, calories are not all that matters. Balancing your macronutrients properly does.

Why fats were considered bad

Released in the U.S. in 1992, the food pyramid was designed as an easy way for people to remember which foods they should be getting their calories from and the relative importance of each. Carbs were healthy and good, and so they formed the base; fats were bad and placed at the top.

The fat category lumped everything together from healthy fats like Omega-3s and olive oil to saturated fats and sugar. This concept helped trigger the fat-free craze. Although this concept seems pretty normal to us now, at the time in the late 1970s it was actually considered quite radical – so much so that then-president of the National Academy of Sciences, Philip Handler, described the proposed shift as a “vast nutritional experiment.”

Essentially, the Dietary Guidelines suggested that people eat less fat and get more calories from bread, grains, rice, pasta, etc. This was intended to protect Americans from weight gain and heart disease. This is why the “high carb, low fat” diet seems familiar and normal to you, and probably why you think eating fat makes you fat.

What was the result of this recommendation?

Beginning at around the time when the guidelines were first recommended in 1977 and their release to the public in 1980, the percentage of Americans classified as obese increase by almost 20% as they followed the government’s advice to cut fat and increase carbs. Why have obesity rates in the United States skyrocketed over the last 18 years? Because the idea that “fat makes you fat” is wrong. Fat is just another nutrient source, the same as carbohydrates and protein.

What makes you fat is taking in more energy (calories) in a day than you use. That’s called being in a caloric surplus.

Can Eating Fat Make You Gain Weight?

Part of the reason people get confused and think that the fat they eat makes their body store fat is that we use them interchangeably to describe both body fat and dietary fat.

The fat that is stored by our bodies is more accurately called “adipose tissue.” Adipose tissue stores are made up of primary adipocytes or fat cells and are responsible, among other things, with storing excess energy for times when you’re not able to give your body the energy it needs on a given day. It is necessary for survival, and losing too much of it is bad for your health, as is explained in this 2013 study.

The fat you eat is dietary fat and is one of the three essential macronutrients your body can get energy from. Would you believe that people actually used to eat more fat than they do now and at the time obesity rates that were much lower? It’s true, they did, and it’s true