New Year, New Life, New Size: Which Weight Loss Strategy to Choose?

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The world has been buzzing about weight loss, how to do it fast and how to do it effectively in a healthy way. The thought of the need to go on a diet to lose some weight visits everyone at least once in a lifetime, regardless of age, gender, nationality, race, and place of residence. According to the global report “What’s in our food and on our minds,” it became clear that diets are what truly unites humanity.

The Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey polled more than 30,000 online respondents in 63 countries.

64% of respondents said they follow a diet that restricts or prohibits the consumption of certain foods or ingredients. At the same time, it is residents of Africa, the Middle East (84%), and the Asia-Pacific region (72%) who most often stick to the diet. Every one in two respondents thinks they are overweight, and the majority (78%) prefer to go on a diet to fight it. Most likely, they will cut down on fats (69%). Cutting out sweets (65%) while decreasing the size of the portions seems a popular idea with 46% of respondents. So, if you decide to shed a pound or ten pounds, do not feel embarrassed and lonely in the world of the standards so hard to attain. You are not alone. Aspiring to a healthy weight is a wonderful idea, yet, as with everything else, you need to pay due attention to the methods, speed, and, of course, moderation.

Let’s figure out what weight loss strategy is proved to be the most effective and safest for our health.

Fast or slow?

Dieting is considered a necessary evil: no juicy steak with fatty gravy and no chocolate cake at a birthday party because you are “on a mission.” It means a rumbling stomach when you have to fall asleep hungry because you have read that “your body systems are sleeping at night and everything consumed after 7 or 8 pm will head directly to your sweet cozy fat storage.” Dieting is a pain in your ass, and as for any inconvenience, you wish to finish it as soon as possible. That is why the Internet is full of fashionable super effective diets. But you know that any sort of extreme is not healthy.  None of these diets has ever gained support and approval from licensed doctors.

On the other hand, slow diets go with a relatively small weight loss (no impressive results like “minus 10 pounds in two months”), and most importantly, they say you’ll have to stick to your new healthy diet plan for the rest of your life.

How to choose?

There is some good news for you: the study “The effect of rate of weight loss on long-term weight management: a randomized controlled trial” confirmed that fast weight loss is more effective than slow weight loss. The study participants were divided into two groups. And some volunteers were dieting for twelve weeks, while others were for thirty-six weeks. At the end of the program, those who lost 12.5% ​​of excess weight or more began a weight maintenance program designed for 144 weeks. In the group of those losing weight slowly, only 50% of the participants were able to achieve this result, but among those who lost weight quickly, 81% reached their goals.

 It should be noted, however, that 70% of “dieting fast” and 72% of the “dieting slowly” groups eventually returned to their original weight. So if we rely on the results of this study, it turns out that losing weight quickly is more effective than slowly, yet the risk of returning to the previous weight is almost the same in both groups.

Then again, we need to remember that losing weight faster should not mean going to extremes. The so-called “fast” diets, which involve a dramatic weight loss in a short time, imply a scanty food choice and, as a rule, end up in the Yo-yo effect. In other words, people quickly gain weight after a diet. Typically, the pounds lost on a strict diet return within a year. If you perform several such experiments in a row, most probably, you may face a serious metabolic disorder. As the study shows, short-term, “fast” diets cause the level of leptin to drop (a hormone that helps us develop a feeling of fullness (including adipose tissue is involved in its secretion). As a result, the study participants were more likely to feel hungry during the diet. As the diet period was over, they ate more and more often. It’s not surprising that within a year, they gained up to 65% of their original weight.

Finally, the yo-yo effect poses a danger to our health. By losing or gaining more than about 10 pounds per month, we cause constant weight fluctuations and put unnecessary pressure on our vessels. The results of research called “Consistently stable or decreased body mass index in young adulthood and longitudinal changes in metabolic syndrome components: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study” have proved that constant diets and subsequent weight gain ultimately increase the risk of heart disease way more than just being overweight.

What is weight loss rate safe?

Mayo Clinic experts recommend striving to lose no more than 1-2lb per week to prevent your body from experiencing the abnormal stress that bounces you back to your “natural” +11lb after you snap. Taking small yet consistent and rational steps helps your body to adapt to changes and makes it feel like your regular regimen.

But do we achieve this by limiting the diet or changing its content? Let’s figure it out!

What are you willing to give up?

Two pounds of fat, and we are losing weight precisely by burning fat, “costs” 7,716 calories, according to Caloric Equivalents of Gained or Lost Weight. Therefore, if we set a goal to lose 2lb per week, our daily diet should “lose weight” by 1100 calories. Can you just “cut off” those extra calories? Yes, but only if you eat 4,400 calories daily: research that lasted two years, “Safety of two-year caloric restriction in non-obese healthy individuals,” confirmed that no more than 25% of daily calories could be discarded safely for your health. Calculate your daily calorie intake, cut off a quarter from it (but make sure that the remainder is not less than 1200 calories as less is simply dangerous), and “burn” the rest of the calories through exercise. The main thing is to reduce the calorie content evenly, without refusing some groups of nutrients (for example, carbohydrates). Just make your portions smaller!

However, if you are not ready to starve on your way to slimmer proportions, you can take another turn: calculate the ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. And the first thing you can do is increase your protein intake. Based on the results of the study by the University of Washington, found under the title “A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations,” even without reducing calories, you can lose up to 10lb in twelve weeks, simply by increasing the proportion of protein in the diet. The diet of those volunteers who succeeded consisted of 30% protein, 20% fat, and 50% complex carbohydrates.

The authors of another study confirm the effectiveness of a protein diet for weight loss and clarify that if you consume 0,6-0,8 grams of protein per pound of weight, then the feeling of hunger becomes less, the desire to snack disappears, and it becomes easier to control weight. At the same time, only fat is burned, and muscle tissue is preserved – this is especially important for people over 40 since, at this age, a gradual and steady decrease in muscle tissue in the body begins.

Fats or carbohydrates?

Who is the culprit of our frustration, fats or carbohydrates? Science has finally figured it out. Based on the results of several studies, diets that reduce carbohydrates proved to be more effective than those that reduce fat. For example, volunteers who participated in a 2003 study lost 20lb of excess weight on a low-carb diet and 8.8lb – on a low-fat diet. The participants of another research, “Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet,” demonstrated similar results. For twelve weeks, those who consumed fewer carbohydrates lost 22lb of weight, whereas those who were limited in fat – only 11lb.

Moreover, diets that reduce the proportion of carbohydrates have even more health benefits. They reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as well as heart diseases. Keep in mind that the intake of carbohydrates should be reduced and not removed altogether. Their share in the diet should not be lower than 20%. Carbohydrates play an important role in a variety of processes in our bodies. Under no circumstances should you cut out carbs unless otherwise indicated by your healthcare specialist.

Dieting or exercise?

The correct answer to the question above is both. Our body needs exercise for not only a greater calorie deficit, but studies have shown that exercise causes our bodies to burn more calories for quite some time after a workout is over. You can read the report on the study called “A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours,” where it was observed that after an intense forty-five-minute workout, the metabolism remained accelerated for another fourteen hours. As a result, the test subjects were literally losing another 190 calories on training days.

One more fantastic effect of physical exercise is that it has the potential to turn white fat into brown. The trick is that brown fat cells consume energy rather than store it. In the training process, the hormone irisin, which converts white fat into brown adipose tissue (BAT) or brown fat, is formed more actively.

In their work “Brown Fat: A Fat That Helps You Lose Weight,” scientists conclude that 1,8oz. of brown fat can help us burn a fifth of our daily calories – that’s almost the quarter we need!

At the same time, an adult’s body contains on average 0,94oz. to 0,96oz. of brown fat. However, if you play sports actively and regularly, the amount can be increased, and the process of losing weight will go much faster.

Fast and forever?

Well, it will probably not work like a “forever” solution. But to do this as safely and effectively as possible, you should slightly reduce your daily food intake (but no more than a quarter), increase the proportion of protein, reducing the proportion of carbohydrates (but so that they account for at least 20% of all incoming calories), and exercise several times a week (aerobic activity is more suitable for burning fat). 

Most importantly, do not tie your self-esteem to the size of your clothes. And remember, the weight comes and goes. It is manageable, while something that is inside us, our inner beauty, our kindness, sense of humor, and confidence, deserve so much more attention.

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