Learning Permanent Weight Loss, Part 2
by Will Brink
Here is the conclusion of my article from last week on Learning Permanent Weight Loss.
The missing link for long term weight loss
We now make our way to another test to help you choose a nutrition program for long term weight loss, and it does not actually involve nutrition. The missing link for long term weight loss is exercise. Exercise is the essential component of long term weight loss. Many diet programs do not contain an exercise component, which means they are losers for long term weight loss from the very start. Any program that has its focus on weight loss but does not include a comprehensive exercise plan is like buying a car without tires, or a plane without wings. People who have successfully kept the weight off overwhelmingly have incorporated exercise into their lives, and the studies that look at people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off invariably find these people were consistent with their diet and exercise plans. (4)
I am not going to list all the benefits of regular exercise here, but regular exercise has positive effects on your metabolism, allows you to eat more calories yet still be in a calorie deficit, and can help preserve lean body mass (LBM) which is essential to your health and metabolism. The many health benefits of regular exercise are well known, so I won’t bother adding them here. The bottom line here is, (a) if you have any intentions of getting the most from your goal of losing weight and (b) plan to keep it off long term, regular exercise must be an integral part of the weight loss strategy. So, you can eliminate any program, be it book, e-book, clinic, etc. that does not offer you direction and help with this essential part of long term weight loss.
Side Bar: A quick note on exercise:
Any exercise is better than no exercise. However, like diet plans, not all exercise is created equal, and many people often choose the wrong form of exercise to maximize their efforts to lose weight. For example, they will do aerobics exclusively and ignore resistance training. Resistance training is an essential component of fat loss, as it builds muscle essential to your metabolism, increases 24 hour energy expenditure, and has health benefits beyond aerobics.
The reader will also note I said fat loss above not weight loss. Though I use the term ‘weight loss’ throughout this article, I do so only because it is a familiar term most people understand. However, the true focus and goal of a properly set up nutrition and exercise plan should be on fat loss, not weight loss. A focus on losing weight, which may include a loss essential muscle, water, and even bone, as well as fat, is the wrong approach. Losing the fat and keeping the all important lean body mass (LBM), is the goal, and the method for achieving that can be found in my ebook(s) on the topic, and is beyond the scope of this article. Bottom line: the type of exercise, intensity of that exercise, length of time doing that exercise, etc., are essential variables here when attempting to lose FAT while retaining (LBM).
Psychology 101 of long term weight loss
Many diet programs out there don’t address the psychological aspect of why people fail to be successful with long term weight loss. However, quite a few studies exist that have looked at just that. In many respects, the psychological aspect is the most important for long term weight loss, and probably the most underappreciated component.
Studies that compare the psychological characteristics of people who have successfully kept the weight off to people who have regained the weight, see clear differences between these two groups. For example, one study that looked at 28 obese women who had lost weight but regained the weight that they had lost, compared to 28 formerly obese women who had lost weight and maintained their weight for at least one year and 20 women with a stable weight in the healthy range, found the women who regained the weight:
• Had a tendency to evaluate self-worth in terms of weight and shape
• Had a lack of vigilance with regard to weight control
• had a dichotomous (black-and-white) thinking style
• Had the tendency to use eating to regulate mood.
The researchers concluded:
“The results suggest that psychological factors may provide some explanation as to why many people with obesity regain weight following successful weight loss.”
This particular study was done on women, so it reflects some of the specific psychological issues women have – but make no mistake here – men also have their own psychological issues that can sabotage their long term weight loss efforts. (6)
Additional studies on men and women find psychological characteristics such as “having unrealistic weight goals, poor coping or problem-solving skills and low self-efficacy” often predict failure with long term weight loss. (7) On the other hand, psychological traits common to people who experienced successful long term weight loss include “…an internal motivation to lose weight, social support, better coping strategies and ability to handle life stress, self-efficacy, autonomy, assuming responsibility in life, and overall more psychological strength and stability.” (8)
The main point of this section is to illustrate that psychology plays a major role in determining if people are successful with long term weight loss. If it’s not addressed as part of the overall plan, it can be the factor that makes or breaks your success. This, however, is not an area most nutrition programs can adequately tackle and should not be expected to. However, the better programs do generally attempt to help with motivation, goal setting, and support. If you see yourself in the above lists from the groups that failed to maintain their weight long term, then know you will need to address those issues via counseling, support groups, etc. Don’t expect any weight loss program to cover this topic adequately but do look for programs that attempt to offer support, goal setting, and resources that will keep you on track.
“There’s a sucker born every minute”
So why don’t you see this type of honest information about the realities of long term weight loss more often? Let’s be honest here, telling the truth is not the best way to sell bars, shakes, books, supplements, and programs. Hell, if by some miracle everyone who read this article actually followed it, and sent it on to millions of other people who actually followed it, makers of said products could be in financial trouble quickly. However, they also know – as the man said – “there’s a sucker born every minute,” so I doubt they will be kept up at night worrying about the effects that I, or this article, will have on their business.
So let’s recap what has been learned here: the big picture realities of permanent weight loss and how you can look at a weight loss program and decide for yourself if it’s for you based on what has been covered above:
• Permanent weight loss is not about finding a quick fix diet, but making a commitment to life style changes that include nutrition and exercise
• Any weight loss program you choose must pass the “Can I eat that way for the rest of my life?” test,
• The weight loss program you choose should ultimately teach you how to eat and be self reliant so you can make informed long term choices about your nutrition.
• The weight loss program you choose should not leave you reliant on commercial bars, shakes, supplements, or pre-made foods, for your long term success.
• The weight loss program you choose must have an effective exercise component.
• The weight loss program you choose should attempt to help with motivation, goal setting, and support, but can’t be a replacement for psychological counseling if needed.
I want to take this final section to add some additional points and clarity. For starters, the above advice is not for everyone. It’s not intended for those who really have their nutrition dialed in, such as competitive bodybuilders and other athletes who benefit from fairly dramatic changes in their nutrition, such as ‘off season’ and ‘pre-contest’ and so on.
The article is also not intended for those with medical issues who may be on a specific diet to treat or manage a specific medical condition. The article is intended for the average person who wants to get off the Yo-Yo diet merry-go-round once and for all. As that’s probably 99% of the population, it will cover millions of people.
People should also not be scared off by my “you have to eat this way forever” advice. This does not mean you will be dieting for the rest of your life and have nothing but starvation to look forward to. What it does mean, however, is you will have to learn to eat properly even after you reach your target weight and that way of eating should not be a huge departure from how you ate to lose the weight in the first place. Once you get to your target weight – and or your target bodyfat levels – you will go onto a maintenance phase which generally has more calories and choices of food, even the occasional treat, like a slice of pizza or whatever.
Maintenance diets are a logical extension of the diet you used to lose the weight, but they are not based on the diet you followed that put the weight on in the first place!
Regardless of which program you choose – and my programs always attempt to follow all the above lessons – use the above ‘big picture’ approach which will keep you on track for long term weight loss. See you in the gym!
Fitness Expert and Industry Consultant
References(1) Truby H, et al. Randomised controlled trial of four commercial weight loss programmes in the UK: initial findings from the BBC “diet trials” BMJ 2006;332:1309-1314 (3 June),Sign Up To The Lean Body Coaching Club!
(2) Michael D., et al, Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction. A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2005;293:43-53.
(3) Comparison of Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction—Reply. Michael Dansinger. JAMA. 2005;293:1590-1591.
(4) Kruger J. et al. Dietary and physical activity behaviors among adults successful at weight loss maintenance. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:17 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-17
(5) Byrne S, et al. Weight maintenance and relapse in obesity: a qualitative study. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Aug;27(8):955-62.
(6) Borg P, et al. Food selection and eating behaviour during weight maintenance intervention and 2-y follow-up in obese men.Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Dec;28(12):1548-54.
(7) Byrne SM. Psychological aspects of weight maintenance and relapse in obesity. J Psychosom Res. 2002 Nov;53(5):1029-36.
(8) Elfhag K, et al. Who succeeds in maintaining weight loss? A conceptual review of factors associated with weight loss maintenance and weight regain. Obes Rev. 2005 Feb;6(1):67-85
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About the Author
Will Brink is a columnist, contributing consultant, and writer for various health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications. His articles relating to nutrition, supplements, weight loss, exercise and medicine can be found in such publications as Let’s Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors. He is the author of Priming The Anabolic Environment and Weight Loss Nutrients Revealed. He is the Consulting Sports Nutrition Editor and a monthly columnist for Physical Magazine and an Editor at Large for Power magazine. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
He has been co-author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. He runs the highly popular web site BrinkZone.com, which is strategically positioned to fulfill the needs and interests of people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge. The BrinkZone site has a following with many sports nutrition enthusiasts, athletes, fitness professionals, scientists, medical doctors, nutritionists, and interested lay people. William has been invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs.
William has worked with athletes ranging from professional bodybuilders, golfers, fitness contestants, to police and military personnel.
See Will’s Ebook Publications Online Here:
Bodybuilding Revealed – A complete guide to building muscle, including nutrition , supplement reviews, training and diet. With a full chapter on mass building workouts by Charles Poliquin and access to the fastest growing private members forum on the net where you can chat with Will Brink directly and which contains over 400 brand name supplement reviews. Also includes access to a large number of muscle building tools including diet planners, exercise videos, meal planners, nutrition database and much more.
Fat Loss Revealed – Everything you need to know about diet & nutrition , 40+ fat loss supplement reviews, workouts, cardio and the mental edge are covered in Will Brink’s ultimate guide.