What We Know About Weight Loss – It’s All About The Brain

Weight loss gimmicks abound, but most are ineffective when they’re actually put to the test. Fortunately, studies show that certain weight loss techniques actually work when they’re used properly. A Forbes Magazine article cites six ways to lose weight that actually stand up to scientific scrutiny. Here’s what they are and how to use them:

Focus on dieting rather than exercise

Exercise is good for you, but it also takes time and effort. In contrast, cutting calories is as simple as deciding not to eat something. Samuel Klein, MD, of Washington University’s School of Medicine told Forbes, “Decreasing food intake is much more effective than increasing physical activity to achieve weight loss. If you want to achieve a 300 kcal energy deficit, you can run in the park for three miles or not eat 2 ounces of potato chips.”

A study published in the journal Obesity bore out the fact that when you pit diet alone against exercise alone, diet comes out ahead in terms of weight loss. However, the researchers found that combining these two strategies is even more powerful when it comes to shedding pounds. If you only choose one, cutting calories is the best bet.

Use exercise to help recalibrate your metabolism

NASA studies show that inactivity quickly slows down your metabolism. The effect is quickly reversed once you start being active again. While your metabolism might not get back to its pre-sedentary level, it still works more effectively when you keep moving. This is especially important when you’re at the maintenance phase of your weight loss program. If you were exercising regularly and stop, your metabolism will sabotage you by slowing down again.

Michael Jensen, MD, of the Mayo Clinic told Forbes that burning calories through physical activity also helps maintenance by giving you more freedom with that you eat. He explained, “One advantage to staying active is because in the extra calories burned from physical activity, you have a bit more flexibility in food intake, so you’re not so much relying on rigid changes in eating habits; it makes it more tolerable.”

Work hard and keep it up

The grim reality of losing weight is that once you’ve slowed down your metabolism, it probably won’t ever regain its pre-obesity peak. James Hill, PhD, of the University of Colorado told Forbes, “The sad thing is that once you’ve been obese or not moving for some time, it takes a little more exercise to maintain. It doesn’t come back to normal.” This means you’ll have to work harder to stay in shape than people who’ve never struggled with their weight, although you’ll burn calories more efficiently if you build up your muscle.

Don’t follow fad diets

Fad diet promoters would have you believe that eating like a caveman or cutting carbs, fats, or some other magical dietary strategy will melt your pounds off easily. Research has failed to pinpoint any special diet or combination foods as being more effective than other diets. The best food plan is one that works for you, because you like it and will follow it.

Use more calories than you eat, and consider all calories equal

With all the talk about “bad” calories and “good” fats, it seems like some foods should make you gain weight more quickly than others. In reality, calories are the same whether you get them from salad or junk food, at least in terms of the energy needed to burn them. Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State University proved this by losing 27 pounds eating nothing but junk food. He just made sure to eat less calories than he expended.

Food choices do make a difference in terms of helping you feel full and stay full. It’s also healthier in general to get your calories from nutritious foods like vegetables rather than candy and chips, even when the calorie count is the same.

Help your brain fix itself

We often overlook the brain’s role in weight loss. It’s more powerful than your body or metabolic rate, and it actually changes over time as you continually make poor eating decisions. Your behavior actually affects your hunger and what it takes to feel sated by rewiring your brain to desire more food.

Fortunately, Dr. Hill says that switching over to healthy behavior causes healthy changes in the brain, too. The difficult part is that the retraining takes time. “Anyone that tells you it’s going to happen in 12 weeks, that’s bogus,” he told Forbes. “We’re trying to rewire the brain. Neurobiology has told us so much about what’s going on in weight gain and and weight loss. It takes a long time to develop new habits, rituals, routines. This takes months and years. But it will happen.”

These six strategies are powerful, and you boost them if you combine them with a scientifically proven supplement like alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) or blonde psyllium. Studies shows that ALA has a moderate effect on weight loss and blonde psyllium has healthy effects like lowering cholesterol. Weight loss won’t happen overnight, and it’s most certainly not easy, but if you work on your body and behavior, you’ll slowly but surely shed pounds.