Your diet is not the problem

Most diets pay way too much attention to what you eat and not enough to why and how you are eating it.  You get detailed instructions about exactly what to eat and what not to eat. And if you follow the instructions, you will almost certainly lose weight.

But if you are overweight, the real problem is not your diet. It’s your habits that need to change.

“Interventions that focus on changing an individual’s behaviour are not usually successful at changing an individual’s habits because they do not incorporate the strategies required to break unhealthy habits and/or form new healthy habits,” researcher Gina Cleo points out 

Lose all the weight you want on whatever diet regimen you choose. If you haven’t fixed the underlying habits, you are almost certain to regain the weight.

Cleo’s latest study, published last month in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight adults who lost weight through focusing on changing their eating and movement habits (as opposed to following a certain diet) were more likely to maintain their weight loss for up to 12 months.

“Maintaining weight loss is often the hardest part of the weight-loss journey,” she says, “yet it was successfully achieved by our participants on the habit-based programs, without the need for dieting or strenuous exercise.

This is exactly what we are seeing in the Weighless Program, a year-long coaching program for sustainable weight loss. Although we certainly talk about food and movement, there is no prescribed diet or exercise program. Instead, we focus on dismantling that dieter’s mindset and creating the habits and mindset that lead to weighing less, permanently.  (Here’s what that looks like.)

And it’s working! After 10 months in the program, 80% of our members have lost anywhere from 3 to 18% of their starting weight. Many have been successfully maintaining a lower weight for months. And no-one has spent a single day dieting.  It’s exhilarating to witness people finally break free of destructive yo-yo dieting patterns and discover what it’s like to weigh less.

Click here to see what our members are saying.

You don’t necessarily need to join a group or a program to do this.  But if you think some professional guidance and support would be useful, you can find more details about our next Weighless group here.

 

Dieters Mindset vs Weighless Mindset

I’m guessing you’ve been on your share of diets. (And isn’t that, right there, proof that diets are not the answer?)

Although they rarely deliver permanent weight loss, diets do succeed fabulously at one thing: they’re great at creating a dieter’s mindset. And that mindset tends to follow us around, even when we’re in between diets.

What’s the dieter’s mindset? It’s a tendency to see every food as either “good” or “bad.” Even worse, it’s a tendency to see OURSELVES as “good” or “bad” depending on what we’ve eaten that day.

It’s the dieter’s mindset that puts thoughts like these into your head:

“I shouldn’t have eaten that cake after lunch. But as today is obviously ruined. I might as well go out for nachos after work.”

“I’ll be extra good tomorrow.”

“It’s sugar-free, so make it a large.”

“That’s it: No more carbs (or whatever…) until I lose five pounds.”

Ironically, that dieter’s mindset doesn’t actually help you weigh less, does it? No, it locks you in to a lifetime of dieting.

One of the most important things we do in the Weighless program is to pull that dieter’s mindset out by the roots. In place of those toxic messages, we plant ones that, over time, really do help you weigh less.

The Weighless Mindset is is about making friends with both food and yourself–and reinforcing the habits that support the life (and body) you want to have. Just ask the hundreds of Weighless members who have stopped dieting and started weighing less! Here’s some of what they have to say.

Ready to join them?

All the details are here.

The case for super slow weight loss

[UPDATED on Sept, 1, 2020 to include new research]

One of the things that sets the Weighless approach apart from other weight loss programs is our emphasis on slow weight loss.  Instead of coaching our members to lose a couple of pounds a week, we try to hold them to a few  pounds a month.

Crazy, right? And yet there is a method to our madness.

The famous (and heartbreaking) “Biggest Loser” study demonstrates just how much damage fast weight can do to your metabolism. After six years, virtually all of the contestants had regained every pound (and more)–despite continuing to eat fewer calories. 

And then there’s the loss of lean muscle.  Most people can only lose 2-3 pounds of body fat per month. If you’re losing weight faster than that, the rest is likely to be lean muscle. Believe me, that’s NOT what you’re trying to lose.

Although our approach may seem like an insanely slow way to lose weight, we’re finding that it’s actually a much quicker (and less unpleasant) path to sustainable fat loss. Interestingly, our members frequently report that after losing weight the “Weighless way,” they look and their clothes fit as if they have lost much more than they actually have.

Losing weight slowly not only preserves your metabolism and muscle mass. It also gives you more time to acquire the habits and practice the skills that will help you maintain a lower weight, heading off the dreaded–and seemingly inevitable–rebound weight gain.

It all makes sense, right? But occasionally, someone in the group will ask if there is published research to support the merits of the super slow pace of weight loss we endorse. Fair enough. I’ve built a reputation for being evidence-based, and most of the people who sign up for my programs cite this as one of the reasons they trust my advice.

Show Me the Research

A few studies have compared the effects of slow vs. fast weight loss. For example:

A 2016 study involving almost 60 subjects found that those who lost weight more slowly lost less muscle mass, which was associated with less weight regain. A similar (but longer) study dating back to 1994 compared the effects of “fast” vs. “slow” weight loss and found that the fast losers lost more weight initially but were much more likely to regain it.

Frustratingly, many of the studies that compare fast and slow weight loss define “slow” as 4-5% of your total body weight per month, which is still too fast by our standards.  But here have been at least two excellent studies where the slow pace is in line with our recommendations.

This 2014 study involved 200 subjects, both men and women. Over the course of the study, the subjects  lost 15% of their starting body weight, on average. The slower group lost at a pace of about 1.5% of their total body  weight per month. The faster group lost at a more typical rate of 4.5% of their total body weight per month.  Although both groups lost the same amount of weight, the slow group lost 10% more body fat and 50% less lean muscle as the faster group. 

This 2018 study by a different research group involved 68 subjects (all men) who lost  6% of their starting body weight. Once again, the slower group lost 1.5% of their total body weight per month and the faster group 4.5% per month. But the difference in body composition was a lot more dramatic. The slower group lost 50% more fat and 75% less lean muscle than the faster group. 

Our approach is certainly informed by research–but it also draws heavily on our experience and common sense. And although we are not (yet) conducting a controlled trial, the results we are seeing and the feedback we are getting from our members are enormously validating.  I think we’re onto something here…and maybe the researchers will take notice.

What’s the best diet for your genetics?

Personalized nutrition is getting a lot of attention these days. Companies will analyze your DNA and tell you what foods and supplements you should and shouldn’t eat based on your genetic profile. But a huge new study throws cold water on the idea of matching your diet to your genetics.  Participants with a “low-carb genotype” (who would hypothetically do better on a low-carb diet) were no more successful on a low-carb diet than on a low-fat diet. The same was true for those with a “low-fat genotype.”

The study also found that, overall, low-carb diets are no better or worse than low-fat diets at producing weight loss.  Those are the two headlines from this study. (Examine.com has produced an excellent detailed analysis of the study, if you want to take a deeper dive.)

But there is so much more here that warrants mentioning. Here’s what really got my attention:

None of the study participants were asked to count or limit their calories. Instead, both groups were told to limit their intake of added sugars, refined flour and junk food, and to eat lots of vegetables and whole foods. And that was enough to produce weight loss.  In other words, when you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. And when you’re eating a healthy, whole foods diet, low carb is no more effective than low fat.

[bctt tweet=”When you pay attention to the quality of your food choices, the calories often take care of themselves. ” username=”nutritiondiva”]

The other thing that’s notable about this study is that the participants received intensive coaching throughout the year. They were taught how to choose foods that kept them satisfied for fewer calories.   They were encouraged to avoid distracted eating and eat more mindfully. Making sustainable changes was a bigger priority than achieving fast weight loss.  (All of this will sound very familiar to participants of  the Weigh*less program, our 12-month coaching program for sustainable weight loss.)

[bctt tweet=”Making sustainable changes matters more than achieving fast weight loss.” username=”nutritiondiva”]

At the end of the study, the most successful participants reported having changed their relationship to food. And that’s ultimately what’s required for permanent weight loss. Not calorie or fat or carb counting.

Click here to learn more about the Weighless Program.

Why I’m not reading self-help books in 2018

Today, I found myself watching an interview with the author of a new book, one of those personal growth books that promises to change your life. As I listened to the interview, I was thinking: “This author seems really wise and I like her message. I could use this in my life. I should read it.”

And then I realized that I don’t need to read one more book on how to be a more authentic version of myself or make my life work better or achieve my goals.

It’s not that I know everything there is to know about these things.  Far from it. But there comes a point at which reading yet another book or article or blog post or subscribing to yet another podcast or newsletter becomes a substitute for doing the work.

Analysis without action doesn’t produce change

Taking consistent action,  however imperfectly, beats another month (year/decade) perfecting my philosophy and planning my approach. If I want to make more progress toward my goals, I need to quit researching and start putting some of what I already know into action.  And through trial and error, I’ll learn what works for me. 

This is something that we talk about a lot in the Weighless program.  So much of the work we do in this year-long program focuses on mindset and attitudes: how we think about food, eating, and our choices in that regard.  But, as our members quickly discover, insights are only as good as the actions they lead to.  That’s why we spend an equal amount of time on concrete strategies for changing habits.

You can change your mind without changing your behavior. You can also change your behavior without changing your mind. It’s only when you manage to change both that you’re on the road to lasting success.

If you weigh more than you’d like to, and you’re ready to stop analyzing and start solving the problem, we would love to have you with us in our next group. Learn more here.

 

 

 

Do you have the right nutrition goals for 2018?

As 2017 winds down, a lot of us are starting to think about our goals and resolutions for the coming year.  What are yours? Are you planning to “eat clean in 2018”? Give up sugar? Work out more? Eat out less? (Or maybe just eat less?)

How are this year’s goals different from last year’s?

If you find yourself re-making the same resolutions year after year, the problem may not be with you. It might be the goals.

Here are two of the most common reasons we fail to achieve our goals:

Too Vague

Eating clean certainly sounds like a good idea. The problem is that no-one really knows what it means. Similarly, goals like ‘working out more’ or ‘eating out less’ tend to falter because they are too vague.  More or less than what?

Choosing goals that are specific and measurable, such as ‘getting to the gym 3 times a week,’ or will greatly increase your chances of notching a win.

Too Extreme

At the other end of the spectrum are those take-no-prisoners goals like completely eliminating sugar from your diet. Or, going from never exercising to getting up every morning at 5am to work out for 60 minutes before work.

Nothing vague or unmeasurable about these! But setting goals that are unrealistic or unattainable (for you right now) can also set you up for failure. The first time you oversleep and miss your workout, you may be tempted to bail on the whole enterprise.

Choosing the Right Goals

I’ve found that the goals most likely to be acheived tend to have the following attributes:

Incremental:  If you actually cooked dinner a grand total of four times in 2017,  resolving to cook every meal from scratch in 2018 is probably not an achievable goal. How about resolving to cook two meals a week? (Cook extra so that you have leftovers!)

Sustainable: I once decided that doing 45-minutes of yoga every morning would make my life better.  And no doubt it would if I lived on Mars, where every day is 24 hours and 40 minutes long. Here on Earth, it turns out that I can only fit yoga in 3 times a week (which is way better than zero times.)   If achieving your goal requires more time, money, or energy than you have–or can make–available, the odds of long term success aren’t good. Try to choose goals that don’t require bending the time/space continuum.

[bctt tweet=”Try to choose goals that don’t require bending the time/space continuum.” username=”nutritiondiva”]

Aligned with your values:  Behavior change is always challenging. But changing your behavior because someone else thinks you should is nigh unto impossible.  When considering which goals you might like to set for yourself in 2018, think about why each one is important to you and choose the one(s) that bring you closer to who and how you want to be in the world. Those are the goals that are worth pursuing.

Setting and achieving meaningful goals is a big part of what we do in the Weighless Program, a year-long group coaching program focused on behavior change and sustainable weight loss. Click here to learn more.

Despite billions spent on dieting, obesity rate hits new high

Americans are spending more on dieting than ever before–more than $60 billion a year.  The percentage of obese adults is also at an all time high of 40%.

Do you think there might be a connection between these two trends?  I do.

Clearly, dieting  is not the solution to the obesity problem. In fact, I think it’s a big part of the problem.

Problem #1:  Even the most “responsible” diets encourage you to lose weight far faster than your body can actually lose fat. As a result, you end up losing a little bit of fat and a lot of water and lean muscle tissue.

Problem #2: Diets teach you how to lose weight but they don’t teach you how to weigh less.  (There’s a big difference.)  As a result, most people will eventually regain all the weight they lose…or more.

Problem #3: When you regain the weight, you don’t gain back the lean muscle that you lost while dieting. You replace it with fat, which makes it even harder to lose weight the next time.

It’s time to try something different

Last summer, my colleague Brock Armstrong and I launched WeighlessTM, a program that shows people how to stop dieting and start weighing less. Weighless is not a diet or exercise program. It’s a structured lifestyle change program that combines nutrition science, behavior modification, professional guidance, and community support.

The results have exceeded even our high hopes. It’s been absolutely exhilarating to see people escape a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and find the path to sustainable weight loss.  I’m more convinced than ever before that diets are not the answer to our obesity epidemic. (They’re a big part of the problem.)

If you think you might be ready to stop dieting and start weighing less, there are more details about the Weighless program here.

Losing weight will shorten your life? Not exactly.

A new study finds that people who lost more than 15% of their body weight over a five year period were actually more likely to die than those who didn’t lose weight. What’s more, the biggest losers were more likely to die than people who gained 20% during the same period.

How can this be? We’re constantly bombarded with headlines about the obesity epidemic and how it’s shaving years off our life span. Are you really better off remaining overweight than losing weight?

[bctt tweet=”Poor health causes weight loss, not the other way around.” username=”nutritiondiva”]

This latest study does not distinguish between intentional and unintentional weight loss, nor did it take into account the cause of death. People who are terminally ill tend to lose weight. But there’s a world of difference between losing weight due to serious illness and intentionally losing weight.

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

One way to see this quite clearly is to distinguish between the loss of total body weight and the loss of body fat. The loss of total body weight may be associated with increased mortality. But the loss of body fat is associated with increased life span.

Another way to separate out the effect of wasting disease is to distinguish between intentional and unintentional weight loss. Previous studies have shown that while unintentional weight loss is associated with increased risk of death, intentional weight loss can reduce mortality by 15%

The Bottom Line(s)

Actually, I have three bottom lines for you

Bottom Line #1. Losing excess body fat will improve your health.

Bottom Line #2. Losing weight slowly will increase the percentage of body fat you lose.

Bottom Line #3. Losing a modest amount of weight and keeping it off will do more to improve your health than repeatedly losing and gaining large amounts of weight.

Need help with sustainable weight loss? That’s what the Weighless program is all about. ​Learn more.

Does losing weight really lower your disease risk?

James writes:

“Everyone refers to weight as being a risk factor for various diseases. But is it true that losing weight actually lowers one’s risk?  Or could some other factor be responsible for both disease risk and a higher weight?”

If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight absolutely does reduce your risk of various complications and diseases. Because when you lose weight, it’s not just the the number on the scale that changes.  Losing weight can reduce your blood pressure as well as your fasting blood sugar, for example, and that in turn lowers your risk for stroke and diabetes.

[bctt tweet=” When you lose weight, it’s not just the the number on the scale that changes. ” username=”nutritiondiva”]

And, by the way, losing even a small amount–as little as 5% of your current weight–can significantly reduce your risk of various conditions, even if you are still overweight. For this reason, you’d be better off losing a modest amount of weight and keeping it off than losing a large amount of weight and gaining it back!

(And if you’ve had enough of yo-yo dieting, you may be interested in a new project I’m working on.) But keep in mind that having a risk factor for a disease does not mean that you are certain to develop the disease.  If you are a smoker, you are much more likely to develop lung cancer than  a non-smoker. But some smokers don’t get lung cancer–and some non-smokers do.

Which Risk Factors Should We Focus On?

Some disease risk factors are things we can’t change–such as our age, race, gender, or genetic heritage. I’m at higher risk of developing osteoporosis than James is, simply because I’m female.

Other risk factors, such as our body weight, eating habits, exercise, and other lifestyle habits, are within our control. I can lower my risk of developing osteoporosis, for example, by not smoking and getting regular exercise.

No Guarantees So Enjoy the Ride!

Despite what some people will tell you,  there is no way to completely disease-proof your body. All we can do is focus on our modifiable risk factors and hope for the best. And because there are no guarantees, I think it’s important to strike a balance between lowering risk and maintaining quality of life. Or, as my friend Yoni Freedhoff likes to say, “Live the healthiest life you can enjoy living.”

Given up on losing weight?

The number of overweight and obese Americans has climbed steadily in recent decades, from 53% of adults in 1988 to 65% in 2014. At the same time, fewer overweight Americans are trying to lose weight–just 47%, down from 55% back in 1988.

The authors of the study, which was published in JAMA this month, wondered whether we’ve simply made our peace with being fat.

“As more people around us are getting heavier, we simply believe we are fine, and no need to do anything with it,” lead author Liang Zhang told the AP News Service.

That may be part of it.

But I think another big reason that so many have given up is that they’re starting to doubt that permanent weight loss is really possible. And, really, who can blame them?

Who could blame you?

Most people with a substantial amount of weight to lose have tried repeatedly to lose it. Many have succeeded in dropping large amounts of weight only to gain it all back. Multiple times.

Not only is dieting an unpleasant way to spend your life, but research shows that losing weight alters your body chemistry in ways that stack the cards against maintaining a lower weight. Why bother?

Let’s try something different

I have been thinking hard about this problem. I think I know what we’re doing wrong and how to change the equation. It’s not about a special diet or distribution of nutrients or combination of foods, but something else entirely. A few months ago, my colleague Brock Armstrong and I launched a program designed to help people lose weight in a way that both their bodies and their brains can sustain for life. The results have been life-changing for those in the program.

We’re going to be opening enrollment for a new group soon. Click here to learn more about the Weighless Program.