I generally don’t like to put the word ‘failure’ in the title of my articles. I much prefer to focus on strengths and successes. However, the failure rate of people trying to lose weight is astounding and begs the question of “why?” to be answered. 96% of those that resort to the standard diet routine will ultimately gain it back. In the United States alone, consumers are spending more than 63 billion dollars per year on weight loss programs, products and diets. It seems strange to be spending so much on something that is proven to fail. But what is it about this that brings so much failure and how can we increase the odds of success in something so vital to our health?
Breindy is a lady in her 70’s. She is overweight and takes multiple medications for high blood pressure and she has just been put on medication for type 2 diabetes. After contemplating doing our program for over a year, she finally agreed to start. Progress has been slow but steady in terms of some weight loss. There has been a little progress with her blood pressure as well but Breindy could be doing a lot better. She has to do better if she wants to reduce her meds and not become a full-fledged diabetic. What is in the way of better progress? Breindy cancels a lot of her sessions. It’s as if every other little thing takes precedence. Why isn’t our health given the same priority?
Weight loss is tough stuff! Nevertheless, success can be attained and all of the benefits that come with that can and will change your life. But let’s put aside the “why” (which as a coach I always try to do) and look at the “how” of the situation.
At the first visit to our weight loss program, clients receive a paper which is titled “Who Succeeds.” It then lists the following:
- People who consistently come to their sessions as scheduled
- People who aren’t in a hurry to lose weight
- People who understand that this program requires work
- People who track their food in writing
- People who record their exercise
- People who call or email when they have a problem
- People who don’t need to be perfect
Dr. Mark Hyman is a family physician specializing in weight loss. He has narrowed down the great failures of people trying to lose weight into 5 major categories, and of course, conversely, what those who are successful do in order to have real, long-term weight loss.
- You use willpower instead of science to control your appetite
Diets trigger hunger. You can only starve yourself for so long. Our hunger dramatically increases, our cravings ramp up and our metabolism slows way down to conserve energy. Eating certain foods (low fat, higher carb or sugary foods) actually increase hunger and slow metabolism. So make sure you eat enough to satisfy your appetite. Eat protein at all of your meals and avoid eating 3 hours before bed. Combine protein, fat and low-glycemic, non-starchy carbs (vegetables, fruit, small amounts of grains and beans) at each meal. Fat, protein and fiber slow insulin spikes.
- You focus on calories (eating less and exercising more)
Some calories make you fat, some calories make you thin. What we now know is that any foods that spike insulin (sugar, flour and even excess grains, fruit and beans) trigger a shift in your metabolism. What does insulin do? It drives all the fuel in your blood from the food you just ate into your hungry fat cells (visceral or belly fat). Remember, two things happen when your body thinks you are starving – you increase hunger and slow metabolism. Focus on nuts, seeds, chicken, fish, grass fed meats, and non-starchy, low-glycemic vegetables. Limit the use of grains and beans. Sugar is only good in very small doses. Dr. Hyman agrees with something I have written about in the past, don’t use artificial sweeteners – they trigger sweet receptors, hunger, and slow metabolism leading to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- You eat a low-fat diet
Most people still believe we should avoid egg yolks and that eating a low-fat diet will help them lose weight. People also believed that fat has 9 calories per gram and carbs 4 calories per gram and that if we cut out fat, we would lose weight.
Harvard scientist Walter Willet reviewed all the science on low-fat and weight loss and found that it is not eating fat that makes you fat, but sugar. A recent study by David Jenkins found that a low-carb (26%), high-fat (43%) vegan diet was more effective for weight loss and reducing cardiovascular risk factors than a vegan low-fat diet. The high-fat group lost 4 more pounds and dropped their cholesterol 10 more points by eating high fat. Concentrate on healthy mono-unsaturated fats, some saturated fats and never eat trans-fats.
Other studies show you can increase your metabolism by 300 calories a day eating more fat (eating the same total calories a day). That’s like getting the weight loss benefit of running for an hour a day without getting off the couch. Of course, exercise is beneficial for weight loss and health in general. Don’t fear fat. It actually makes you feel full and satisfied, speeds up your metabolism and helps you lose weight. Eat good fats at every meal. Eat clean animal fats (organic eggs with the yolk, chicken, grass-fed meats are all helpful if possible) and fish with omega 3 fats (sardines, herring, wild salmon).
There are reasons beyond your diet or amount of exercise that affect your weight and metabolism. The biggest hidden causes of weight gain or resistance to weight loss are the things that cause inflammation. What causes inflammation? Hidden food allergies or sensitivities.
Be tested by an expert to see if you have gluten, dairy or other allergies. But be careful about gluten-free products—they can contain a lot of sugar and there is no need to go gluten free or dairy free if you don’t have allergies. Eating refined, high-sugar, carb, low-fiber diet or taking antibiotics, and acid blockers can play an enormous role in metabolism and health. They can either trigger inflammation or alter how your food is broken down and absorbed.
Science has discovered that common environmental chemicals (pesticides, household cleaners, make up, pollution and heavy metals) can contribute to making you fat. Find hidden causes of weight gain. With the help of a good dietician, try an elimination diet. Try cutting down on inflammatory foods. Start with gluten and dairy. 100 percent for 3 weeks.
- You don’t have a plan
Health is something that has to be planned. Most of us fail because we don’t “design our health”; that is, we don’t set up the conditions for success. Arrange your environment for success! Have all the right foods in the house, the right ingredients all ready and have your plan for exercise for the week in advance. Everybody needs a buddy! Do this with someone or in a group setting. But remember, whatever you are doing in terms of diet and exercise, you have to plan for it!
Dr. Hyman also says, the science of health and weight loss is not a mystery. But old ideas die hard. If you look out for these five ways that diets fail and focus on the principles of success then you will build habits and practices that work. In addition to paying attention to these 5 areas, beware of the following 6 things:
- Set realistic goals
- Make sure you are not eating emotionally
- Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed
- Eat enough and make sure you nourish your body
- Stop searching for quick fixes—there aren’t any.
- Remember that losing weight in a healthy manner, will bring good health.
Failure in weight loss might be the usual, but this is one place where our health is at stake in a big way. Failure is a part of life, and you might have failed at this before, maybe even several times. But try again! But this time, do it right. Get the right kind of food plan, the right kind of exercise and get help on the behavioral modification front, because it will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”