Eating for Weight Control
Obesity and consistently elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels have long been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. But what happens when these metabolic risk factors fluctuate over time, as can happen when people flip-flop between diets? The answer may hail from a study in the journal Circulation involving a massive 6.7 million people.
Anyone who’s achieved a weight loss goal, then watched his or her waistline expand over the following months, can attest to the incredible frustration of seeing hard-earned results fade away. The reasons for weight regain are many, but a big contributing factor is how the body tends to recognize missing pounds as a need to slow metabolism and burn fewer calories, making it harder for people to maintain weight loss.
Physiologists regularly extol the importance of carbohydrates as a vital fuel that drives exercise and sport performance. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbohydrates were the major source of nutrients and energy for people throughout the world. Carbohydrates that come primarily from plants in the form of vegetables, fruits and grains are a direct link to the earth’s food chain. However, evidence is mounting that carbs from added sugars in cookies and soft drinks present several health risks.
It’s time for Americans to shift their focus from calories, macronutrients and micronutrients to taste, culture and mindfulness. After all, our preoccupation with dieting and health fads has us restricting foods, chasing unsustainable weight loss goals and feeling bad about our nutrition choices—but all we have to show for it is rising rates of overweight, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Over the past few decades, researchers have shown that an individual’s
genetic makeup can play a big role in his or her propensity to gain weight and keep it on. For instance, one person may have a gene that makes him more efficient at converting food calories into body fat, while someone lacking this gene can apparently eat as much as she wants without packing on a single pound. Maddening for some, to be sure. But now it seems that dietary choices may have the power to override certain genes associated with body weight.
It appears that the way our brains are hardwired can play a big role in eating habits and long-term weight loss success, according to research published in the October 2018 issue of Cell Metabolism. In the study, Canadian researchers ran MRI brain scans on 24 people while showing them images of different foods. Participants then began a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet in a weight loss clinic.
Calorie counts notwithstanding, research keeps showing that nuts can help in the battle of the bulge. One example was a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018 in Chicago. In that experiment, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating a daily 1-ounce serving of any type of nut—including peanuts and nut butters—in place of calories from low-nutrition foods was associated with a lower risk of long-term weight gain and obesity in more than 125,000 adult men and women.
QUESTION: Now that I have results from my DNA test, can I use them to figure out which weight loss diet would work best for me?
Winning the battle of the bulge may mean going without food for just a little longer. A small, 10-week British study with 13 participants found that people who were required to delay their breakfast by 90 minutes and eat their dinner 90 minutes earlier than normal lost on average more than twice as much body fat as those in the control group, who ate their meals at their usual times. The research was published in the Journal of Nutrition Science.
It’s a million-dollar question: What aspects of food make us more likely to pack on the pounds? Everything from saturated fat to food additives to sugar has been blamed for our obesity epidemic. Now we may have a better idea of what kind of diet contributes most to Buddha-belly, at least in rodents.
The journal Cell Metabolism published research in 2018 showing that mice piled on more weight when fed a relatively high-fat diet than they did when they ate other diets, including those rich in protein or—surprise, surprise—sugar.
Did you know that dieting is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worse, with up to two-thirds of dieters regaining more weight than they lose (Mann et al. 2007)? Isn’t there a better way to eat healthfully?
One option is intuitive eating, which forgoes dieting and focuses on driving long-term improvements in your relationship with food. “Intuitive eating is the ability to read, interpret and follow your internal cues regarding the right amount of food for your body,” says Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD, curriculum director at Precision Nutrition.
Perhaps the next big eating trend is the not-too-sexy-sounding medium-carb diet.
No wonder people tend to order fried wings and other nutritional duds at rowdy sports bars. A recent study from the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business discovered that people tend to make healthier food choices in the presence of low-volume, softer music or background noise than they do in loud environments.
“Diets” don’t work. By now, most health and fitness professionals know that restrictive meal plans usually fail. We also see how diets deprive people of foods they enjoy, fueling a constant cycle of weight loss and gain.
But what do we tell fitness clients who want to lose weight? The key is helping them reframe their diet mentality toward healthful living and better nutrition—without sacrificing their favorite foods or compromising taste. These tips will help you provide that guidance.
Research has shown that the best weight loss plan is the one people can stick with for the long term (Johnston et al. 2014). For some, that may be a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. For others, it may be a high-carbohydrate plan that’s low in saturated fat. Yet another group may need a complete macronutrient balance.
Benefiting from family ties. When 20-year-old Erick first met Ethan Kopsch, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Bird Rock Fit in La Jolla, California, Erick was less than eager to start a training program. Kopsch had been training Erick’s mom for some time, and she was so pleased with her progress that she encouraged Erick and her daughter, Michelle, to work with the trainer.
New research may help solve the problem of why many people who increase their activity fail to lose weight. Although exercise burns calories, previous studies have shown that many people compensate for the increased activity by eating and resting more, thus negating some potential weight loss benefits.
Now that we are in the thick of football season, the jubilation or sadness that comes with rooting for the victors or the vanquished may influence eating behaviors come Monday. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that the outcome of an NFL game can alter fans’ eating habits a day later, for better or worse.
Studies have shown that people with obesity have a blunted sense of taste, so they have to eat more richly flavored foods (more sugary and higher in fat) to glean as much sensory satisfaction from a meal as their leaner peers. This could help in understanding why heavier people have a hard time losing weight.
An ever-expanding pile of research papers is challenging the idea that we need to avoid full-fat varieties of dairy products like yogurt and milk. There may be no need to settle for fat-free versions that could be less satisfying: For instance, a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving more than 2,900 U.S. seniors aged 65 and above found that whole-fat dairy consumption appears to do little harm when it comes to cardiovascular disease.