There's been controversy circulating over the The Biggest Loser NY Times article that came out recently stating contestants' metabolisms were so damaged from weight loss that they inevitably regained weight back. The article claims weight loss maintenance is impossible due to hunger hormone disruption and a slower metabolism, both known side effects of weight loss. This news disheartened many looking to shed pounds. But there's no need to lose hope because what you may or may not know is that six years ago I lost 80 pounds and guess what? I haven't regained the weight back. The truth is if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need a Healthy Approach To Weight Loss.
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Why A Healthy Approach To Weight Loss Is Necessary
Slow & Steady Wins The Race
The problem with The Biggest Loser is that it's too fast. Contestants are put on crash diets for a few weeks and working out several hours a day. This is an extreme weight loss method and a kind of regiment anyone would lose weight doing but is it realistic? Absolutely not!
A successful approach to keeping weight off is eating healthy, unprocessed foods, limiting sugar, staying active and doing all of them FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. The key is to make changes slowly so the body doesn't freak out like it did with the contestants. During my weight loss, I introduced small changes every six weeks. This slow and steady approach is something I talk more about in my book.
Be Active Not A HIIT Junkie
The human body is not biologically wired to endure the amount of physical stress these contestants place on their bodies with long, intense workouts. The body is very sensitive to stress. Intense exercising causes it to go into fight or flight response. It doesn't know the difference between exercise and someone chasing you with a gun. Extreme exercise causes the body to suppress leptin (a hunger hormone) resulting in slower metabolism leading to weight gain. When you put someone under extreme physical demands like The Biggest Loser, it's no surprise they'll regain weight.
Another important point to highlight is that exercise produces free radicals in the body which the immune system has to fight against. This can cause inflammation and chronic inflammation has been linked to virtually every disease. The point is too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing.
You may recall I lost weight simply by walking every day. Now I may not be a scientist but intuition tells me less intense activity during weight loss suppresses the fight or flight response. The body is already under stress from a small caloric deficit. Coupling that with extreme workouts is a recipe for hormone disaster.
A healthy approach to weight loss includes a healthy approach to fitness. Think about the activities you want to be doing when you're 60 or 70. Those are the activities to do during weight loss to keep stress at a minimum. It's about being active for life, not a HIIT junkie.
Weight Loss Is Bootcamp
When I talk to people about my weight loss, I explain it's like going to bootcamp. You learn how to eat healthy and how to incorporate activity into your life. One of the reasons I feel it's important for overweight people to track their food is because you learn so much from it like:
- What a servings size is, most people are grossly overeating & unaware of it
- Where imbalances are in macronutrients, you don't need that much protein really
- How much sugar is lurking in your food, sugar is making you fat & it's hidden in everything
- Not all calories are created equal, you can eat boatloads of veggies instead of one measly cookie
- Where your emotional dependencies exist with food
- How hard you have to workout to burn 100 calories
The things you learn during weight loss help you make lifestyle changes. But you have to be willing to accept the changes you're making are forever; not for a few weeks or months that you "put yourself on a diet" which leads me to...
Diets Don't Work
Science may be black and white, but health is not. My biggest issue with modern medicine is that patients are labeled and treated the same way.
Every person on this planet has a different biological composition. You cannot treat people with different DNA the same way. This is why diets don't work.
It's also why some people can go Paleo, gluten free, vegan, do Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Advocare or whatever the latest diet trend is and lose weight and others can't. There are no pills or surgery that cure obesity. The cure is a lifestyle change and that lifestyle change is for life.
Maintenance Doesn't Mean Reverting To Old Habits
People gain weight after weight loss because they revert back to old habits of poor food and lifestyle choices. The truth is after you've lost weight, the work hasn't stopped. In fact, it's only just begun. Weight loss boot camp prepares you for the new life you will be living after you've lost weight. You can't go back to old habits and except to keep the weight off.
I've said this many times. Losing weight is easy, keeping it off is much harder which is why there's so much fear associated with regaining it. Personally, I believe there should be more programs focused on weight loss maintenance than weight loss itself. This is something I'm considering as I build my nutrition coaching practice.
Focus On Health, Not The Number On The Scale
It's true, there's an obesity epidemic but really it's a lifestyle epidemic. People are stressed, working crazy hours, eating processed, unhealthy foods and aren't being active. What's unfortunate is that doctors are forced by insurance companies to prescribe medications instead of getting intimately involved with their patients to overhaul their lifestyles.
The focus should be on getting healthy, not a number on the scale. One small change can be very powerful naturally leading to the scale decreasing. If you're really in it for the long run, your health should be what matters, not your pant size.
Don't Lose Hope
For many I imagine this article was discouraging but let me assure you, your destiny is not defined by a study. It's defined by what you believe and what you believe directly translates into what you do. You are in control of your destiny so don't lose hope. The journey towards better health is worth it no matter what science says!
My hope is that my story gives you hope. Hope that weight loss is possible and hope that weight loss maintenance is not impossible. Getting healthy was one of the most rewarding, empowering, confidence boosting, positive things I ever did for myself. It changed my whole life. Image how it could do the same for you!