3 Weight Loss Truths

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If you haven’t been bombarded with weight loss ads over the past week, you’re probably on a remote island soaking up the sun with the waves gently teasing your feet (bring me next time). There’s something about the start of a New Year that makes people freak out, lose their senses and develop completely unrealistic eating plans they will never follow for more than a few days. Before you get sucked into a crazy diet or juice cleanse, you should know the top three truths about weight loss.


1) No One Eats “Clean” all of the Time

Instagram and Facebook are full of photos of broccoli, brown rice and chicken meals neatly placed in Tupperware and followed by #mealprep #eatclean. The only thing more boring than looking at these meals is eating them day after day. No one eats like this all of the time. No one.
I’ve worked with a number of elite athletes who cut weight before a fight, match or event. They diet down, compete then loosen up their diet a bit before they need to diet down again. They aren’t eating bodybuilding-type meals every day year-round.

2) There is No One Perfect Diet

Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, juice cleanses, Paleo, Whole30. There is no “perfect” because what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me. Figure out what changes you can realistically stick with, combine these with the general principles of healthy eating and start there. Forget what everyone else is doing, how your neighbor dropped 50 lbs. or what the actress on the cover of a magazine did. If you can’t stick with a plan, it won’t work.

Progress, not perfection, is the goal.

Celebrate each “win,” those small changes you’ve made that will add up to a big difference. You won’t necessarily notice a weight loss right away by making a few simple switches in your diet. However, I would rather people focus on the immediate difference – more energy, feeling better, more sleep, than the number on the scale. Feeling better each day will drive you to continue when the scale isn’t moving much.

3) You Must Exercise for Weight Loss

Can you lose weight without exercising? Yes absolutely. However, if you do not exercise you will lose more of your weight as muscle then fat. In addition to burning fewer calories each day when you lose muscle, you will notice a decline in strength and as you get older and everyday activities will become harder to do – lifting groceries, gardening, washing your car.

If you are not an exerciser and typically fall off when you start a new workout program, figure out what you like to do and do it. Forget all of the back-and-forth “noise” about high intensity interval training, the amount of rest in between sets and if you should train until muscle failure (until you cannot possibly lift the weight again). Instead, determine what brings you joy. What do you love to do? Dancing, yoga, hiking? What did you love doing as a kid? Hula hooping, double Dutch jump rope?

Do what makes you happy. Get moving and stay moving.

In addition to following these weight-loss truths, spend time feeling good about your body every single day. I meet so many people that are hyper focused on losing 5 pounds or 50 lbs. As they rattle off the reasons why they want to lose body fat and how this will drastically alter their life and make them happy, my mind often drifts off. I wonder what percentage of their thoughts are consumed by losing weight and dieting and if they are hyper-focused on controlling this aspect of their life because something else isn’t right. A marriage, their job, a friendship, their child’s behavior. If I ask the right questions something else they are ignoring often comes up.

Maintaining weight within a good range is very important for overall health. Obsessing about weight and dieting isn’t. I’ve coached enough people to know that one day you’ll look back years from now and wonder why you wasted so much time hating your body.

You’ll look back and say, “damn, I looked good! I wish I felt better about myself.”

“I wish I wore shorts in the summer.”

“Why didn’t I go to the beach in a bathing suit?”

“I wish I went to that party.”

I promise you, no one is criticizing your body. Every one around you is too busy focused on themselves. So go out and wear shorts, put on a bathing suit, try on that dress.

If you don’t love your body now, you won’t feel your best every day. You won’t enjoy life to the fullest. Work in this first (or in conjunction with healthy eating / a healthy approach to weight loss).

Because it’s a waste of time to spend your days bashing the body that does so much for you.

Best Weight Loss Program: Weight Watchers

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The absolute best way to lose weight is to get a customized nutrition program from a Registered Dietitian who specializes in both weight loss and whatever else you need help with (PCOS, kidney disease, PKU, diabetes, sports nutrition etc. – there are a number of specialty areas) and combine that with a good training program that meets your current state of health and physical capacity.  However, for a multitude of reasons, some people like what I call Canned Weight Loss Programs. Programs that work with the masses and give a one size fits all approach. And, there’s nothing wrong with this but, you should go into it knowing what to expect.

Programs that give you meals like Nutrisystem, work if you follow them.  And, they take the guesswork out of dieting if you just want to lose weight asap without having to put any thought into it. These programs are fantastic for busy people on the go but those who need variety may get sick of the meal options sooner rather than later. Nutrisystem like programs get you used to appropriate portion sizes but, they do not teach you how to pick and choose and put together your own meals.  And while that sounds easy, it is typically where people fail.  They fail to plan and end up making poor choices because they are hungry and have no food with them or come home and can’t figure out what to make for dinner.

As a professional who has worked with many clients who are on Weight Watchers, I feel this is one of the better, more sound dieting approaches out there.  While you count points (which are determined based on calories, fiber and fat in food) versus calories, you’ll get used to sticking within a basic calorie budget with some room for those days you go out to eat, hit a party etc. (each person gets 35 extra points per week). And, aside from learning portion sizes and re-training yourself with how much food you should be eating in a given day, Weight Watchers forces you to plan at least some of your meals.  When you choose a higher calorie breakfast, you’ll start thinking about how many points you have left and what you should eat for lunch and dinner to stay within your point allotment.

Like all canned programs, Weight Watchers falls short in a few areas. First, you are only required to eat 2 dairy per day. In a world where many people have blood levels of vitamin D that are deficient or insufficient and we aren’t consuming enough of this vitamin:  55% and 68% of U.S. men and women aged 31-50 consume below the Adequate intake for vitamin D, 2 dairy just aren’t enough. In addition to making it more difficult to get vitamin D, dairy is your best bet for getting calcium and 42% and 67% of U.S. men and women consume less than the Adequate intake for calcium*.  Secondly, Weight Watchers encourages a high fiber (good), higher carbohydrate diet. Many women I’ve met with are falling short on protein and healthy fats on this diet. And, high carbohydrate (even if you cut calories) just doesn’t work well for some people especially those with blood glucose issues, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or insulin resistance. Anyone who fits in one of these categories needs an individual tailored program that manages their blood sugar levels.

For a Canned Diet Program, Nutrisystem works, Jenny Craig works, and Weight Watchers works and teaches you something about portion sizes in a supportive group environment. But, if you choose Weight Watchers, know ahead of time you are very likely to fall short on both vitamin D and calcium (a multivitamin will not make up for the calcium shortfall and in many people it won’t help your vitamin D levels too much either) and if you have PCOS, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes or any blood sugar abnormalities, I do not recommend Weight Watchers. Instead, talk to a dietitian who specializes in weight loss and these issues. It’s worth the time and cost – you’ll end up less frustrated and with a better chance of being successful.

*NHANES data 2005-2006.