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 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?
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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