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Diets Work if You Do

Kymberly Williams-Evans, Ma and Alexandra Williams, MA

Timing diet and exercise for weight loss

What’s the BEST diet to lose weight?

Nutrition, diet, and weight loss professor Dr. Holly Wyatt tackled that steamy hot, fashionable question at the recent Fitness Health Bloggers Conference we attended.

Guess what?  After analyzing data galore, comparing famous and popular diets point by point, looking at short and long term weight loss rates, it comes down to …….

The best diet is the one you will actually stick with. The one you will do, do, or die. Well, not die, but diet. Apparently the actual macronutrient composition of a diet plan is NOT key to weight loss. That is, it almost does not matter whether you choose low carb, low sugar, high protein, Paleo, gluten free, dairy-free, taste-free, food combining, all organic, or any other “THE LATEST ONE WAY” out there. What matters when it comes to succeeding with weight loss is being consistent with reduced intake over the time needed to drop pounds. Remember, that for weight loss, you are looking at a  calorie restricted diet with a specific duration and end point.

As well, the diet or nutrient composition that might work wonders for one person could be a failure for another. More and more, researchers are finding that weight loss diets need to be tailored to each individual. No single book, theory, method or fad will be right for the masses. You could be the one person who succeeds on high protein whereas your best friend needs to go high carb. Wouldn’t it be great to be the person whose body and genes respond to a chocolate diet?

Check out Dr. Wyatt’s chart tracking the results of diets varying in fat/protein/ carbo composition. Notice that at 6 months all dieters lost weight at about the same rates. And at 2 years, all dieters were still averaging similar results regardless of food make-up. Comparing the Zone, Atkins, Learn, Ornish diets reveals… envelope please… all diets had people who lost and people who gained. The key was ADHERENCE. (As opposed to say, book sales that have to have the latest gimmick to attract buyers).

Dr Wyatt also compared low calorie to very low calorie diets to assess success with losing weight. Another surprise — while the very low calories dieters initially lost more weight, at the one year mark both sets of dieters ended up at the same place. Why? Because a very low cal diet is tough to sustain. Some of you have been there, yes? To put that Fit Fact another way, a greater rate of initial weight loss does not yield a better result at end of the year.
Which brings us to the next question:

Is dieting the BEST way to lose weight?

And the answer is “yes.” Not “yes, go on a diet that involves you feeling like you’re fighting against your food,” but “yes, eat foods that are good for you and eat fewer calories than you are now.” Of course, you could go on a crazy cookie diet and cut out 500 calories from your daily intake, but really? As exercise professionals and happy workout people, we were very curious how the exercise vs. diet results broke down. The last 20 years have seen percentages all over the place: 50/50 diet/ exercise; 90/10; 70/30. You get the picture. We were rooting for the exercise side of the equation as we know the benefits of an active life. Plus we like having people in our group fitness classes.

But DANG IT if current thought is saying loudly and clearly: To LOSE weight, it’s all about calorie reduction. Moving enough to achieve energy imbalance takes a lot of activity. A lot. As in, if you liked exercising and moving that much, you probably would not be needing to lose weight in the first place. As Dr. Wyatt and her colleagues point out, most people find it easier to cut out 500 calories a day than to exercise for the hour needed to burn that same number.  What do you find easier – cutting out one baked good or after-dinner snack per day oooorrrr hitting the gym for an hour?

Hold on though, because for MAINTAINING weight loss, it’s largely about moving.

The Human Hamster Wheel Looks Like Fun Exercise

The rest of your life. Moving as long as you want to stay lower weight.  Because at some point, you will achieve your weight loss goals. Then you have a lifetime ahead of you to maintain. Now we are talking EXERCISE.

Yes, physical activity is ultimately the MAGIC PILL to weight maintenance and a lifelong healthy weight. More than anything else, MOVE if you want to keep weight off. More specifically, chalk up (or the modern equivalent – Add up on your phone app) your daily activity minutes. To maintain weight loss, the minimum recommendation is 60-90 minutes of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise most days of week. That was kind of key so to repeat:

You need to do something cardio most days of the week, for at least an hour a day, at a comfortable yet not too casual pace to keep from (re)gaining weight.

We never said a lifetime of low weight, health and fitness was easy.  We did say it could be fun though! And it can be. Check out prior posts that address the BEST workout, and how exercise, even when it sucks, can make you happier. Then get busy! (Did you click any of those links? Come on now. Do it if you want to lose or keep off weight).

Readers: What weight loss or weight maintenance tips do you have to share? 

Interested to lose weight? Stay fit? Learn and Laugh with us a bit? Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Subscribe to our blog. Follow us on Twitter: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. We put all sorts of handy icons in the right sidebar for you to click on too.

Disclosure: Refuel with Chocolate Milk  provided us with a scholarship for the conference registration: FitFluential made it possible for us to be session speakers and panel moderators. Yes, we LOVE sponsors who help us get accurate, timely, good info to you!
Slides credit: Dr Holly Wyatt of the University of Colorado, Denver Anschutz Health and Wellness Center



About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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15 Responses to Diets Work if You Do

  1. wonderfullyworthy July 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Very helpful, thanks!

  2. diana July 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Sticking with a diet has always been my problem. Reading this post makes me want to try again and this time find a diet that works for me. Great article!
    diana recently posted..21 Skin-Brightening Summer SmoothiesMy Profile

  3. Amy@spotonwellness July 10, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    What fantastic information. You really hit all of the key points that Dr. Wyatt talked about. I found it interesting that all of the “diets” on the “market” today all lead to the same results. That was really kind of shocking to me. But, I can see how psychologically it works better because the person feels more in control of their eating, because they have come up with the “plan” themselves. Thus, they will maintain that “diet” longer because people will do something more freely when they think it was their idea. I will now have a different approach when talking to my clients about losing weight.

    Great post my friends :)

  4. Tamara July 10, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Love how you pulled all of this info together! I’m hoping that it’s me who responds best to the ‘chocolate diet’!
    Tamara recently posted..Holy Crap Energy Bars recipeMy Profile

    • KymberlyFunFit July 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      Professional suggestion – try the chocolate diet and get back to us whether you are the genetic unique one for whom it works. Track the data just in case we post about it. If it’s not you, maybe it’s ME
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Diets Work if You DoMy Profile

  5. Molly Ritterbeck July 10, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I think this is an awesome post for information – thanks for sharing!!!
    Molly Ritterbeck recently posted..WANTED: Cute, Sleek, Warm Workout Gear for Alaska!My Profile

  6. Jody - Fit at 54 July 10, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    This is sooooooooooo true! I may not like some of the “diets” out thee BUT the key is that a person find something they can live with long term. Me, I have switched thins up over the years but it is just tweaks here & there to my basic plan. I have to adjust to work, age & life. :-) I will say that my bod does look better eating the cleaner foods vs. other stuff even at the same calorie count. :-) GREAT POST!
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted..The Body Wrench STRENGTH Moves – VIDEO POST!My Profile

  7. Shira July 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Excellent post! With all of the noise out there about different diets and fads, I’m glad you enlighten people that the ultimate key to success is adherence. I was also happy to see that science shows there is no advantage to extremely low cal diets in the long term because that approach always creates intense deprivation feelings that torpedo any diet!

    BTW, your disclaimer made me crave some low fat chocolate milk. I know you gals are 3,000 miles away but can you arrange a home delivery to arrive right about NOW? :)
    Shira recently posted..Walk Like the AmishMy Profile

  8. Charissa July 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Great info…and cardio is such a great way to maintain my weight.
    Charissa recently posted..Smoothie LoveMy Profile

  9. Rose Walsh July 11, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    It is an incredible post and bang on all the myths about effective weight loss. Life is never easy for persons who are overweight, and they have to deal with following diet plans and weight loss workouts.

    I personally have believed that one has to be comfortable and in a healthy shape to enjoy the goodness of life. I have really liked your article as it states the importance of maintaining weight. I know many of my friends always had a trouble keeping steady weight. Determination and consistency are two keys for efficient weight loss.
    Rose Walsh recently posted..InsanityMy Profile

  10. Mariella Lombardi July 13, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Right to the point. Keeping a diet is the tricky part of course. I guess so many people blame the fact that they are not losing weight or gaining more weight on their diets, but most of the time they don’t do it the way it was intended or they cheat because they think it is not a big deal.
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted..US Marine Replaces TRX Destroyed By a Roadside Bomb – The Benefits of Using the TRX Suspension Training!My Profile

  11. KarlSzostok July 21, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    What utterly terrible information! Dated rhetoric validated via very questionable “facts”
    Firstly Dr jamie timmons has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that long steady state cardio is the least efficient method of cardio for weight loss. Stating macronutrients are irrelevant when you didn’t test a low carbohydrate group is irresponsible. High protein, very low carb diets out preform all other macronutrient combinations. This has been replicated and supported by a plethora of studies. Don’t take my word for it, just google it.


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