It's that time of year again. You know the time that everyone and their neighbor vows to once again put weight loss as their #1 New Year's resolution. Isn't it amazing how those pounds seem to magically creep up on you without any sort of warning sign? One day you're not to far removed from your high school weight and then a few holiday seasons go by and the next thing you know you find yourself shopping in the extra large section of the department store. Uuugghhh!!
Nobody wants to find themselves in the official "overweight" or "obese" category after they weigh in at their next doctor's office visit. At least I've never heard of anyone bragging about this. Have you? And shedding those extra pounds is becoming more than just about looking better on the outside. It's quickly becoming about what's happening on the inside as more and more scientific literature comes out linking those extra pounds to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.
So if losing weight is so important to so many then why is it that so many people find themselves making the same resolution year after year? I believe it's because most of us are bombarded with advertisements, gimmicks, and misleading information when it comes to the food that we eat. By getting back to the basics and gaining an understanding of the fundamentals on how foods affect the body you can empower yourself to achieve the long term, successful weight loss that you've always wanted. But it's going to take an open mind, willingness to learn, and most importantly a commitment to changing your every day habits. You already have the desire, now all you need is the right information to get you up and running. So what is the recipe for success when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off?
Keys to Successful Weight Loss
1) Eat a low fat, plant-based diet
- The typical western diet consists heavily on meat and dairy products which are both relatively high in their respect to fat content compared with the predominant foods of a plant-based diet which include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and starches.
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 20-35% of your total calories can be obtained from fat which is similar to the National Cholesterol Education Panel (NCEP) guidelines which recommend a range of 25-35% of your total calories from fat. The problem with these recommendations is they don't work. In fact, a study compared long term weight loss results over a period of two years with individuals who followed either a plant-based diet or a low-fat NCEP diet. The individuals on the plant-based diet lost nearly 3 times as much weight after 1 year than those on the NCEP diet and nearly 4 times as much weight after 2 years .
- Another study found that adopting a low fat, plant-based diet was associated with significant weight loss in overweight women even without putting any restrictions on total calories or portion sizes .
- Plant-based diets that focus on eating health promoting foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) typically contain less than 20% of their total calories from fat. Plant based foods that are an exception to this are nuts, seeds, and avocados (keep your intake of these to a minimum). Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn  have both had enormous success with their patients on this type of diet by keeping the overall fat consumption to around 10% of total calories consumed.
- You also want to keep your consumption or use of oils to a minimum and this includes olive oil and canola oil. Oils are 100% fat no matter how you look at it and they do not promote weight loss or overall health.
2) Include plenty of fiber in your diet
- Fiber plays a crucial role in your diet by adding bulk to your stool and absorbing large amounts of water which help you feel fuller which decreases the likelihood of you overeating.
- Fiber acts like "nature's broom" gathering up all the toxins and undesirable substances in your gut such as cholesterol as it moves through your digestive tract. Since fiber is not absorbed by your body these substances are excreted in your waste products.
- Fiber is only found in plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, etc.) and is completely absent in animal-based foods (meat, dairy, eggs).
- In a study of middle aged women there was a 49% reduction in risk of major weight gain in those who had a high-fiber diet compared to those who consumed a low fiber diet .
- Individuals consuming a low fat, high fiber diet lost over 4 times as much weight as those eating a high fat, low fiber diet after a 3 year follow up period in another study .
3) Include a majority of your calories as complex carbohydrates
- You've probably seen or heard that high carbohydrate diets are bad for you and will increase your overall weight but this is only true when a majority of your carbohydrates have been refined. Refined carbohydrates are made when the food manufacturers take a complex carbohydrate such as whole wheat bread or brown rice and strip all the beneficial nutrients and fiber out of it leaving you with nutrient deficient calories.
- Complex carbohydrates include beans, split peas, vegetables, lentils, and whole grains.
- Your body prefers carbohydrates as it's primary source of energy. When carbohydrates are consumed as whole foods then they do not readily get stored as body fat which reduces your incidence of weight gain.
- In fact, high carbohydrate diets reduced the likelihood of developing obesity compared to high fat diets .
To Sum It All Up
In order to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to weight loss you need to understand how different foods affect your body. Fad diets will come and go but a basic understanding of food will put you at the head of the class when it comes to losing weight, keeping it off, and improving your overall health.
My advice to others is that when they focus on their overall health through proper nutrition choices then the weight will take care of itself. What's the point of losing 20 lbs in two months if it isn't sustainable and worse yet puts your overall health at risk? This is often the case when trying diets such as the Atkin's diet or South Beach diet.
The scientific world has already proven through multiple studies over several years that the safest and most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to adopt a nutrient dense, plant-based diet that is low in fat and sugar consumption and limits or avoids animal-based foods. You just can't go wrong with this approach. If you don't believe it then I challenge you to give it a try for 3 months and see for yourself the benefits of this approach. You'll lose weight, gain health, and feel much better.
Below are some resources to help you expand your knowledge and ultimately your success rate in achieving the weight loss you've always wanted to see but never could quite attain.
Pursue A Healthy You
Dr. Fuhrman's Weight Loss Diet Reviews
Janice Church Goes From Fat to Fit
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's Health Page
I wish you the very best in your quest to lose weight and take back control of your own health. May 2011 be a year of health, happiness, and smaller pant sizes!
Now I'd like to hear from you...
Have you tried different diets and if so which ones?
Do you have a long term success story to share when it comes to weight loss?
Do you have any other advice for those trying to lose weight?
Dustin Rudolph Pharm.D.