You can do it. You can lose weight and be healthy.
What you need are just a few tools. Below I discuss some of the best evidenced-based tools that I have found.
I would start slow and just choose one to focus on. Master it. Then pick another. The more knowledge you have about effective weight loss, the better your chance of success.
Keep stacking-up better habits and you will snow-ball into better health. As science gives us better answers I will try my best to share them with you.
Let’s get started.
The best diet is the one you stick with
There are literally thousands of diets to choose from. So, how are you going to choose the “best diet.”
One study shows us that the type of diet makes absolutely NO difference in your weight loss . . . but oddly whether you simply STICK WITH IT did make a difference.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers compared four of the most popular diets; the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone Diets.
All 4 diets resulted in modest weight loss (between 3-6 kilograms or about 6-12 pounds) and there was NO difference in weight loss between the diets.
There was NO difference in weight change BETWEEN the diets. Whether it was Atkins, Ornish, Zone or Weight Watchers; they all had roughly the same weight loss.
However, adherence (to any of the diets) did predict weight loss. The more adherence, the more weight loss across all diet types.
So, the take home is to pick a diet you can live with in the long term.
You need to find your “why” – what is your motivation
With any goal-setting activity it is important to go deep and figure out your internal motivation . . . this is your “why.” Superficial “motivations” may not be strong enough for you to commit to losing weight.
In the International Journal of Research Marketing researchers studied young females to see if thin models would influence their weight loss motivation.
The participants who were exposed to images of thin models were less confident they could attain their weight goal. They also GAINED a bit of weight AND consumed more snacks as well as more calories. The other group was exposed to images of normal weight models and they actually lost weight.
So, exposure to thin models led to less confident undergraduate females who consumed more food leading to weight gain.
This implies a “What the Hell” effect.
Being exposed to thin models repeatedly as they complete their food diaries may have led to feelings of failure and futility.
Studies have found that goals thought to be so extreme and difficult are actually counterproductive. This may be an example.
Pinning-up pictures of thin models may increase your weight and may be de-motivating.
Instead you should picture yourself in your healthiest state and focus on the real reason why you are interested in weight loss.
This is your “Why.”
Finding your “why” is simple.
Make a list of all the things that would be better if you were at a healthier weight (here’s an example list I made to get the your brain juices flowing):
- You have more energy
- You are able to sleep better
- You are more productive at work
- You are able to travel more
- You are able to play with your kids
- You are able to climb Kilimanjaro
- You have a more vibrant (uh-hum) sex life
Now, tear down the the cover model and put up this list.
Review this list daily instead of images of thin models and you are on your way.
Use Diet + Exercise
We have learned a ton from members of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). These participants have lost an average of 73 pounds and have kept the weight off for more than 5 years.
This is quite an accomplishment. We can learn from these amazing people and the data that they helped to generate.
One commonality amongst this group of real-life “losers” is that the vast majority of them use diet and exercise to lose their weight.
In fact, Only 1% used exercise only to lose weight. Only 10% used diet alone.
89% of participants used BOTH diet and exercise.
The lesson here is simple: you need both to succeed.
Get off the Couch You Spud
One effective way to lose weight is to stay off the couch.
This seems like simple-stupid advice, but I’m serious. In fact, I am often guilty of too much couch time myself. As I write this – I’m on the couch.
The participants of the NWCR watch less than 10 hours of TV per week. This is just over an hour per day.
How do you compare?
If you are like the average American you maybe getting up to 6 hours of TV time per day.
One great reason to avoid the couch is that couch-time may preferentially cause an increase in belly fat.
A study from the International Journal of Obesity showed that being inactive caused a preferential increase in visceral fat (this it the “belly fat”)
In this study male subjects were put group on bed rest for 60 days, an extreme form of inactivity, while another group performed strength training. They completed DEXA scans on the subjects before and after to compare fat distribution.
The inactive group gained 29% more abdominal fat over the 60 days, but only gained 7% fat on the arms and legs. The active group . . . lost fat in the abdomen, arms and legs.
This shows that fat deposition seems to occur preferentially in the abdomen with severe inactivity.
If you want to lose belly fat – start by getting off the couch.
- Weight Loss Secrets from the National Weight Control Registry
- The Couch-Potato Dilemma: Inactivity proven to cause more belly fat
Systematically build better eating habits
Every year many of us commit to new goals . . the New Year’s Resolution.
Often our goals are forgotten by February.
It is not enough to just commit to a goal. You need a plan. A detailed plan to specifically define your goals and create a framework to succeed.
To do this you need to use the science of psychology.
The science of psychology has determined that their are a set of tools that can be helpful in creating habits that stick.
These psychological tools are “Implementation Intentions,” “Mental Contrasting,” and “Positive Reinforcement.”
I broke down all of these tools in an article and it’s a bit on the long side. So, instead of reproducing it all here you’ll just need to follow the link below for more.
Redesign Your Environment for Healthy Eating
Dr. Wansink, in his book Mindless Eating (AF), lays out why our environment matters so much when it comes to eating and how to stay thin by redesigning our environment in his latest book Thin by Design (AF).
You can make a big impact on what you eat by rearranging your environment to promote healthy choices.
The simple concept is that the more we see bad foods, the more we eat them.
You can apply this to your home environment to design a place that promotes weight loss.
Pick a better snack
The snacks you choose will certainly make a difference. Potato chips? Probably one of the worse snacks you can choose. One commonality amongst healthy diets is consumption of fruits and vegetables. No one disagrees with the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet and they promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
There are several reasons. First, fruits and vegetable fill you up – mostly with fiber and water. Both of these have no calories. Second, fruits and vegetables are filled with polyphenols and flavonoids – phytochemicals are being found to promote more weight loss. One ingredient alone is unlikely to benefit you, but in totality – a combination of many fruits and vegetables may help to burn more calories.
Chocolate is a natural substance from a bean packed with phytochemical and a polyphenol called epicatechin. I love chocolate, so call me biased, but a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests dark chocolate may help with weight loss as well.
I would stick with dark chocolate and limit yourself to a couple of European style small squares a day. Dark chocolate is rich and this richness may help you to control yourself a bit . . . or not.
If your into coffee – Chlorogenic Acid may have similar properties to help burn your fat off. But I do not suggest you consume any product solely to get a “metabolism boost” because that does not work. However, eating natural foods in combination may have more benefits than just decrease in calories that help you maintain a healthy weight.
You should avoid too many foo foo coffee drinks however. Frappes and lattes with syrup shots have enough sugar to make you seriously fat over time. See how a latte a day will make you fat. Stick to dark coffee or espresso and try to limit flavor shots.
Nuts are also a great snack, though they have ben vilified for being packed with fat. Fortunately, studies have found that nuts do no cause weight gain. They are packed with nutrients and the fat they do contain does not get fully absorbed.
For instance, a study out of Loma Linda University in California, supplemented diets with almonds for six months. The 81 participants consumed about 2 ounces of raw or dry-roasted almonds per day, yet did not gain significant weight.
Other feeding studies as well as epidemiology studies suggest that nuts do not cause weight gain and maybe protective. Go nuts!
- Dark Chocolate Weight Loss: One Tasty Health Benefit
- Go Nuts for Weight Loss? Will eating nuts cause weight gain or weight loss?
- A Latte a Day Will Make You Fat
- Coffee addicts rejoice! This antioxidant in a cup of Joe may help burn your fat off.
Be Vigilant About Tracking Your Weight
Many of the participants in the National Weight Control Registry keep track of their weight.
In fact, 44% weight themselves at least once daily.
Another 31% report weighing themselves at least once per week.
Weighing yourself allows for quick corrective action when the weight changes in the wrong direction.
Weighing yourself is an ultimate REALITY check. It allows you to assess your progress and see how the changes you are making are working (or not working).
Now, weight is only one metric. There are others. Weight in fact may not be the best marker, but it is cheap and easy. You only need a scale and not a DEXA scanner.
Over time as you improve your level of fitness and your fat mass decreases you will find that the overall weight is not very helpful. Don’t be too upset. This is good news. You have increased your muscle mass enough that it now contributes a significant enough amount to your weight that your weight changes very little (or maybe increases).
Your weight may also fluctuate by several pounds depending on several factors such as salt intake (those darn Salt and Vinegar potato chips) or dehydration from a hot day at the outdoor shopping mall. So, do not worry about day-to-day deviations in your weight.
Track progress over weeks and months.
The time of day will also make a difference, so keep it consistent. I weigh myself in the morning before I shower.
I recommend a digital scale, to avoid the needle ‘wagging’ at you.
Some scales also calculate fat percentage, which maybe helpful to follow as a trend over time.
You can use HIIT to jumpstart your weight lose
If you want an exercise to help jumpstart your weight loss than I would have you consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is simply doing short bursts of intense activity followed by some rest.
The Dr. Izumi Tabata from Japan studied a sprint cycling program of 8 bouts of 20 second cycle sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest.
This was only 4 minutes of exercise!
Since this initial study several others have been completed testing out other HIIT routines.
HIIT routines have been found to accomplish as much or more than continuous exercise, but in 1/2 the time.
Studies in particular have shown us that HIIT may be able to help you jumpstart your weight loss and help to get rid of abdominal or belly fat.
Studies using HIIT on a cycle for 20 minutes, 3 times per week during this 15 week period lost more abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat and improved their insulin sensitivity more than the standard 40 minutes of pedaling a bike.
Better results in 1/2 the time.
If cycling is not your thing than consider doing HIIT on an elliptical.
A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2014 specifically looked at high-intensity interval training with an elliptical.
This 12-week study took 16 patients with diabetes or pre-diabetes and had them complete HIIT on the elliptical 3 times per week for 12 weeks.
They found improvements in several bio-markers:
- Fasting blood glucose
- Waist and hip circumference
- Appendicular (skeletal) fat mass
- Leg lean body mass
- Appendicular lean body mass
- Systolic blood pressure
- Resting heart rate
- VO2 max (a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness)
Are you looking to really suffer? If you wan to torch yourself, consider a HIIT Burpee workout.
If you want to learn more about the exciting world of high-intensity interval training then read on below:
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Weight Loss: The Science Explained
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Elliptical Workout Routine
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Tabata Routine
- Burpee Workout for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If nothing else – try a walking program
If HIIT seems too intense for you or you just need to get started, than I would suggest simply going for a walk.
An interval walking program has been found to be beneficial and maybe even superior to a continuous walking program.
A study from Diabetes Care compared interval walking to continuous walking in those with Type II Diabetes.
The continuous group walked at a modest, continuous pace, while the interval group did 3 minutes of fast walking followed by 3 minutes of moderate intensity walking.
The groups walked for 60 minutes, 5 days per week for a 4-month period.
The interval group improved fitness by 16%, while the continuous group showed NO improvement.
The interval group lost 4 kg (9 pounds) of weight.
Abdominal fat also improved in the interval group. Lastly, the interval group showed improvement in some (but not all) of the blood sugar measures.
The continuous walking group showed NO improvements in any of these measures.
Benefits occurred by simply doing the walk in intervals. So, if you choose walking as an exercise do it FAST, then slow. Do 3 minute intervals and walk for at least 30, to preferably 60 minutes, 5 days per week.
Want more on interval walking?
You did it! Well done. Now take action. Pick one evidenced based habit to start today.
Let me know how it goes.
Drop me a line at weightlessMD@gmail.com.
On the net: