The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Diet Isn't Working

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Weight Watchers

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading researchers finally agree, for instance, that exercise, while critical to good health, is not an especially reliable way to keep off body fat over the long term.

And the overly simplistic arithmetic of calories in vs. They also know that the best diet for you is very likely not the best diet for your next-door neighbor.

Individual responses to different diets--from low fat and vegan to low carb and paleo--vary enormously. Chan School of Public Health. Hall, Sacks and other scientists are showing that the key to weight loss appears to be highly personalized rather than trendy diets.

And while weight loss will never be easy for anyone, the evidence is mounting that it's possible for anyone to reach a healthy weight--people just need to find their best way there. Dieting has been an American preoccupation since long before the obesity epidemic took off in the s.

In the s, Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham touted a vegetarian diet that excluded spices, condiments and alcohol. At the turn of the 20th century, it was fashionable to chew food until liquefied, sometimes up to times before swallowing, thanks to the advice of a popular nutrition expert named Horace Fletcher.

Lore has it that at about the same time, President William Howard Taft adopted a fairly contemporary plan--low fat, low calorie, with a daily food log--after he got stuck in a White House bathtub. The concept of the calorie as a unit of energy had been studied and shared in scientific circles throughout Europe for some time, but it wasn't until World War I that calorie counting became de rigueur in the U.

Amid global food shortages, the American government needed a way to encourage people to cut back on their food intake, so it issued its first ever "scientific diet" for Americans, which had calorie counting at its core. In the following decades, when being rail-thin became ever more desirable, nearly all dieting advice stressed meals that were low calorie.

There was the grapefruit diet of the s in which people ate half a grapefruit with every meal out of a belief that the fruit contained fat-burning enzymes and the cabbage-soup diet of the s a flatulence-inducing plan in which people ate cabbage soup every day for a week alongside low-calorie meals.

The s saw the beginning of the massive commercialization of dieting in the U. That's when a New York housewife named Jean Nidetch began hosting friends at her home to talk about their issues with weight and dieting. Nidetch was a self-proclaimed cookie lover who had struggled for years to slim down. Her weekly meetings helped her so much--she lost 72 lb. When it went public in , she and her co-founders became millionaires overnight.

Nearly half a century later, Weight Watchers remains one of the most commercially successful diet companies in the world, with 3. What most of these diets had in common was an idea that is still popular today: Even the low-fat craze that kicked off in the late s--which was based on the intuitively appealing but incorrect notion that eating fat will make you fat--depended on the calorie-counting model of weight loss.

Since fatty foods are more calorie-dense than, say, plants, logic suggests that if you eat less of them, you will consume fewer calories overall, and then you'll lose weight. That's not what happened when people went low fat, though. The diet trend coincided with weight gain. Research like Hall's is beginning to explain why. As demoralizing as his initial findings were, they weren't altogether surprising: That's because when you lose weight, your resting metabolism how much energy your body uses when at rest slows down--possibly an evolutionary holdover from the days when food scarcity was common.

What Hall discovered, however--and what frankly startled him--was that even when the Biggest Loser contestants gained back some of their weight, their resting metabolism didn't speed up along with it. Instead, in a cruel twist, it remained low, burning about fewer calories per day than it did before they started losing weight in the first place. The contestants lose a massive amount of weight in a relatively short period of time--admittedly not how most doctors recommend you lose weight--but research shows that the same slowing metabolism Hall observed tends to happen to regular Joes too.

Most people who lose weight gain back the pounds they lost at a rate of 2 to 4 lb. They show that it's indeed biology, not simply a lack of willpower, that makes it so hard to lose weight. The findings also make it seem as if the body itself will sabotage any effort to keep weight off in the long term. But a slower metabolism is not the full story. Despite the biological odds, there are many people who succeed in losing weight and keeping it off.

Hall has seen it happen more times than he can count. The catch is that some people appear to succeed with almost every diet approach--it just varies from person to person. But within each group, there are people who are very successful, people who don't lose any weight and people who gain weight.

Understanding what it is about a given diet that works for a given person remains the holy grail of weight-loss science. But experts are getting closer. For the past 23 years, Rena Wing, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, has run the National Weight Control Registry NWCR as a way to track people who successfully lose weight and keep it off. Hill, Wing's collaborator and an obesity researcher at the University of Colorado.

To qualify for initial inclusion in the registry, a person must have lost at least 30 lb. Today the registry includes more than 10, people from across the 50 states with an average weight loss of 66 lb. On average, people on the current list have kept off their weight for more than five years. The most revealing detail about the registry: And most of them had to try more than one diet before the weight loss stuck. The researchers have identified some similarities among them: The one commonality is that they had to make changes in their everyday behaviors.

When asked how they've been able to keep the weight off, the vast majority of people in the study say they eat breakfast every day, weigh themselves at least once a week, watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week and exercise about an hour a day, on average. The researchers have also looked at their attitudes and behavior.

They found that most of them do not consider themselves Type A, dispelling the idea that only obsessive superplanners can stick to a diet. They learned that many successful dieters were self-described morning people. Other research supports the anecdotal: The researchers also noticed that people with long-term weight loss tended to be motivated by something other than a slimmer waist--like a health scare or the desire to live a longer life, to be able to spend more time with loved ones.

The researchers at the NWCR say it's unlikely that the people they study are somehow genetically endowed or blessed with a personality that makes weight loss easy for them.

After all, most people in the study say they had failed several times before when they had tried to lose weight. Instead they were highly motivated, and they kept trying different things until they found something that worked for them. During his tenure there, the NWCR published one paper with partial funding from Coca-Cola, but the researchers say their study, which Hill was involved in, was not influenced by the soda giant's financial support.

Hill, Wing and their colleagues agree that perhaps the most encouraging lesson to be gleaned from their registry is the simplest: The Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa is founded on that thinking. When people enroll in its weight-loss program, they all start on the same six-month diet and exercise plan--but they are encouraged to diverge from the program, with the help of a physician, whenever they want, in order to figure out what works best for them.

The program takes a whole-person approach to weight loss, which means that behavior, psychology and budget--not just biology--inform each person's plan. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert and the medical director of the clinic. Everyone here is doing things slightly differently. In most cases, people try a few different plans before they get it right. Jody Jeans, 52, an IT project manager in Ottawa, had been overweight since she was a child. When she came to the clinic in , she was 5 ft.

Though she had lost weight in her 20s doing Weight Watchers, she gained it back after she lost a job and the stress led her to overeat. Weight loss shakes help a person lose weight by acting as a meal replacement.

Instead of eating a meal high in calories, you are instructed to drink a calorie controlled shake filled with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Most diet shake manufacturers request that at least one meal of day be made up of solid food. Speak to your doctor about your plans to use weight loss shakes as part of your diet. Although plans vary, you typically consume two shakes per day on the diet plan along with a calorie controlled diet.

Dinner should be made up of half vegetables and the other half lean proteins and starches. Instead of relying on only the shakes to lose weight, you can also consider the use of Slim Fast brand bars. The bars are also calorie controlled and used to replace one of your normal meals. Shake flavors include chocolate, French vanilla, cappuccino and strawberry. Each shake serving contains approximately calories, 6 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein.

Besides weight loss shakes, meal replacement selections include soups, puddings, meal bars and oatmeal. Shake flavors are chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, banana and orange.

Herbalife also offers a line of weight loss shakes. To prepare the shakes, you blend two scoops of the concentrated formula and one cup of fat free milk. To lose weight, you are instructed to drink two shakes each day and one well-balanced meal.

Natural Living