Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Top 5 Reasons People Are Unsuccessful Losing Weight

       I’ve been helping people lose weight for over 15 years.  I’ve studied Exercise Physiology at the Master’s level and Human Nutrition at both the Master’s and Doctoral level.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the vast majority of people who are trying to lose weight are unsuccessful.  These people know they need to lose weight in order to improve their health and appearance; they sincerely want to lose weight, but are unable to do it.  In fact, 95% of people who try to lose weight will be unable to maintain a permanent 5% weight loss. 

          Throughout my years of clinical work with weight loss clients and academic studies, I’ve learned that there are some very good reasons why people are unable to accomplish their weight loss goals.  When they figure these out, weight loss becomes not only possible, but dare I say simple.  Following are, in my opinion, the Top 5 reasons why people are unsuccessful in the weight loss game.

Reason #5: Not initiating a strength training program 
          Once we hit our 25th birthday, we start to lose our muscle mass at the rate of 1% per year.  This is a natural part of the aging process.  Each pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day, whether you exercise or not.  As we go from our 20’s to our 30’s and 40’s, it is very natural to gain weight because we are burning fewer calories each year.  A well designed resistance training program not only stops the loss of muscle, but can add to it, so you burn more calories each and every day.

          Furthermore, we have amazing defense mechanisms to prevent us from losing weight.  You must remember we evolved in times of famine and food scarcity.  Those of us who survived to pass on our genes gained body fat quickly and lost it slowly.   As a defense mechanism, when we lose weight without resistance training, half of the weight we lose is fat while the other half is muscle.  The body does not want to let its fat stores get too low, so it burns muscle to spare the fat.  This results in a lower metabolism and eventually any weight lost is regained.  When you add weight training to your plan, you preserve your lean body mass and lose almost pure fat.  This results in permanent weight loss.

Reason #4: Unrealistic expectations

          Many people have completely unrealistic expectations with regards to their weight loss.  They feel that if they are not losing 2, 3, 4, or even 5 pounds a week that their plan isn’t working and they give up.  Nonsense!  A pound of fat is 3,500 calories.  To lose a pound of fat in a week you have to create a daily deficit of 500 calories.  This is not easy to do at all.  My goal for my female clients is ¾ of a pound a week and for men it is 1 pound a week.  Three quarters of a pound doesn’t sound like much but it adds up to 3 pounds in a month, 18 pounds in 6 months and 36 pounds in a year.  People who are successful losing weight lose it at this rate.

Reason #3: Not getting enough cardiovascular exercise

          Many people who are trying to lose weight hit the treadmill for 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week and expect to lose weight.  It won’t happen.  Both my experience working with weight loss clients and current research suggest that we need to do way more than that to lose weight.  Cardio must become a part of your daily routine if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

Reason #2: Following a low fat diet
          Many who are seeking to manage their weight choose a low fat dietary plan.  Unfortunately, this strategy sets them up for failure.  First of all, low fat diets simply don’t work long term.   In meta-analyses, low fat diets have been found to cause a modest initial weight loss that is completely regained after one year.  There are several reasons for this: #1) Fat provides satiety. #2) Fat helps to stabilize your blood sugar and reduces high insulin levels when consumed with carbohydrates.  Furthermore, since protein levels in our diets remain relatively stable, if you are eating low fat you are eating high carb and that is not the way to lose weight.

Reason #1: Eating the wrong type of carbohydrate

          The #1 reason why people are unsuccessful losing weight is because they are choosing the wrong carbohydrate sources.  Certain carbohydrates spike our blood sugar.  They are known as high glycemic load carbohydrates.  Other carbohydrates have a more modest effect on our blood sugar, these are called low glyemic load carbohydrates. 

          Consuming an abundance of high glycemic load carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels which can promote fat storage, decrease fat breakdown and most importantly, dramatically increase hunger and overeating.  Eating the right type of carbohydrates is pretty much the best thing you can do to aid in the weight loss process.

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