Facts and Fallacies on Weight Loss

January 4, 2016

Fats are good.  Fats are bad. Carbohydrates are good. Carbohydrates are the enemy. With the myriad of conflicting information bandied about, how can someone who wants to lose weight sort facts from fallacies? In the spirit of the New Year and the new “you,” Salonpas® interviewed leading nutrition experts to discuss how to best get to a healthy weight.

Dr. Frank Ditz, M.D., a primary care physician affiliated with SignatureMD

Dr. Frank Ditz, M.D., a primary care physician affiliated with SignatureMD

Look at the Source – Dr. Frank Ditz, M.D., a primary care physician affiliated with SignatureMD, treats patients full time in a very personal, private practice, said that “many people write about our obesity problem and the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and mislead people to make a splash and get their few minutes of fame or to make a fast buck while the general population suffers.”

“I’m not a researcher and have no special interest in making money off misleading people,” said Dr. Ditz.  “The food quality in the United States is not poor. With proper medical care and guidance our citizens are living longer now than ever and we have changed the population demographics and bankrupted social security. We do need to focus on lifestyle and not on diets.”

Neal Malik, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University.

Neal Malik, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University.

“One of the reasons there appear to be conflicting data is the fact that when people are enrolled in a diet study, they are usually highly motivated,” says Neal Malik, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University.   “Now, their diet is a priority for the next 6 months, 1 year, or however long the study lasts is to follow a prescribed diet. This in itself is a problem because it doesn’t reflect what happens in reality.”

“For those of us that are not participating in a weight management study, other priorities get in the way and prevent us from following a nutritious and balanced diet,” says Malik. “Over and over, we’re learning that it’s not necessarily the foods that are inherently bad (i.e. carbs, fat, etc.), it’s how much and how often we consume them that really matters. Ultimately, those who are most successful with managing their weight follow an eating pattern (not a diet) that is true to them, their lifestyle, and includes foods they actually enjoy. Of course portion control and frequency are important, but when this happens, folks are more likely to stick to their eating plan — they’ve begun a new lifestyle.”

Is a Calorie Still a Calorie? – “Total calories are important to weight loss and healthy weight maintenance but the quality of foods is just as important,” said Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, founder and owner of MNC Nutrition in New York City who holds a Masters Degree in Food and Nutrition Science, is a National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Board Certified Sports Dietitian, Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, two time published author, speaker, and experienced nutrition and fitness counselor.

Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, founder and owner of MNC Nutrition in New York City

Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, founder and owner of MNC Nutrition in New York City

Not all calories are equal, meaning a high quality, high fiber food will take more energy for the body to digest and absorb,” says Cohn. “For example; two calorically equal foods such as ½ cup of black beans and a chocolate chip cookie (both about 100 calories) will be digested much differently. The beans have more fiber, protein, vitamin and minerals therefor will take longer to digest and keep you full longer. “

Margaret Marshall

Margaret Marshall

“The calories you need to manage your weight and enjoy good health will depend on your age, gender, and muscle mass, along with activity level,” says Margaret Marshall, a food and eating coach, contributor to Huffington Post, and author of several books on healthy eating (her new book, Healthy Living Means Living Healthy will be published by Motivational Press in 2016).  “It is a balancing act and changes as you age. You always need a sound knowledge of calories, but if you eat calories with little or no nutrients, you are not fueling your body efficiently. Counting only calories and not understanding what each calorie offers, is not effective to manage body weight.”

“You may eat a small ounce of chocolate for approximately 150 calories, or you may choose to eat one large apple for about 120 calories,” says Marshall.   “The calories you ingest from the apple include nutrients that enhance your health and encourage weight management, yet the 150 calories from one small ounce of chocolate is mostly sugar leading to weight gain. Most people eat one apple at a time, but how often do you stop at one ounce of chocolate?”

bookcoverAre there Natural Appetite Suppressants?  “There are many appetite suppressants,” says Dr. Mark Sherwood, author of “The Quest for Wellness.”  “Let’s start with the benefits of fiber. Fiber can be obtained in green leafy vegetables and fruits. Further, it can be easily obtained with a handful of almonds or other raw nuts. Fats are also helpful. Let’s not forget the massive benefits of fat for brain and cell membrane health. They do provide a great sense of satiety.  Starting your day off with a good dose of quality protein, roughly 30 grams can prevent increased appetite spikes by controlling blood sugar early on in the day. As far as herbal remedies we will mention cinnamon, Garcinia Cambogia, bitter orange, Ginger, chromium, fucoxanthin, and 5-HTP.”

Create a Calorie Deficit – All the experts agree that to lose weight, you have to create an energy deficit.  Rene Ficek, a Registered Dietitian who is also the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle’s Sutton’s Healthy Eating, says that “contemporary recommendations encourage a gradual, slow weight loss of about 1-2 lbs. per week. People can generally reach this goal with a deficit of 500-1000 calories per day. Sustaining this calorie deficit should produce a 5% weight loss within a couple months for most people. A general calorie goal for weight loss should be around 1200 calories per day. 1200 calories a day produces a calorie deficit for most people, but provides enough to keep you full and your metabolism fueled.”

Rene FIcek

Rene FIcek

Some experts believe that 1,200 calories a day is too low. “For adult females trying to lose weight, we generally don’t recommend they consume few than 1,500 calories daily and no fewer than 1,800 calories a day for men,” says Malik. “This is because there’s a chance that electrolyte levels (sodium, potassium) will become affected which may lead to excess strain on the heart and other organs. If one decides to follow a really low-calorie diet, it’s best they are regularly monitored by a physician.”

“If someone who is trying to lose weight eats too little it sets that person up to overeat/binge due to hunger,” says Cohn.  “Eating too few calories also causes ones’ body to conserve/maintain calories and fat thus causing your body to do exactly the opposite of what you want.”

Don’t Skip Breakfast – “It’s true; breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” says Ficek.  “Including this meal in the daily routine is a common denominator for successful weight loss and maintenance. The explanations for this observation include the possibility that breakfast suppresses midmorning hunger, produces better blood glucose and elevates basal metabolic rate, yields fewer episodes of imbalanced, impulsive, or excessive eating later in the day, and increases fiber intake (e.g., from cereals, fruits, and whole grains).

Healthy Fats Keep Hunger Pangs Away – “Fat has gotten a terrible reputation in the last 40 years,” says Franci Cohen, a certified fitness trainer/nutritionist/exercise physiologist. “The low-fat diets that began to be popular in the 70’s are a big part of what has driven the epidemic of weight gain and chronic disease in this country. When the nation eliminated fat, it replaced it with refined carbs. This caused a host of problems. Fat increases satiety, it has no impact on insulin levels, and every cell in your body is made of it.

Franci Cohen

Franci Cohen

Low-fat diets cause you to be more hungry, they typically increase your level of refined carbohydrate and the concomitant insulin problems, and you deprive your cells of an essential nutrient. Most people don’t realize that if they eliminated all of the fat from their diets, they would die. Essential fatty acids are called “essential” for a reason: You must have them to survive.”

“Fat keeps you full, makes food taste better which increases satisfaction, which can reduce the urge to overeat,” says Cohn.  “Fats also fuel our endocrine system by helping to keep hormones in balance this in turn keeps our bodies running efficiently and keeps ones’ metabolism high. Healthy fats are the unsaturated fats from plant sources. American’s are lacking Omega3 fatty acids the most such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocado, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pure oils.”

“When you consume the correct amount of fat, you’ll notice your skin, hair, and nails are healthier, and you avoid constipation,” says Marshall.  “Saturated fat is the type to curb the most. It can raise bad or LDL cholesterol levels increasing the risk of heart disease. These fats are the white fat in meats, whole milk, cheese, butter, and lard. Monounsaturated Fat should be the fat most used. These fats can lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL cholesterol. These fats include olive oil, peanut oils, most nuts, olives, and avocados.”

Protein is a Plus – “When fat was demonized, protein went out of fashion as well,” says Cohen. Your body is made of the protein you eat. All protein is made of special building blocks called amino acids. The only job your DNA has is to take the amino acids you get from your diet and string them together into the chains of protein that created literally every cell in your body.

So imagine what happens when you don’t get enough amino acids or you get the wrong kinds. Your body doesn’t have the raw material it needs to form your cells. This is devastation from the ground up.

These days your choices about purchasing protein are especially important. Protein is usually packaged with fat, and the quality of protein and fat you get is determined by the source from whence it comes. Factory raised and processed cattle have VERY different fat profiles from those that are grass finished. The same is true of chicken and pork. Farmed fish may have been fed corn (unbelievably!) which alters its fat content. Small, wild river fish, on the other hand, are packed with health fat and are free of mercury. So you need to be careful when making protein choices.

My recommendation: Buy the best protein your budget allows. Look for pastured chicken and pork, grass-fed cattle, and wild, sustainable caught fish. Focus on lean chicken and fish with a little of the others mixed in for good measure. And never forget vegetarian sources of protein like beans, seeds, nuts, and tofu”

expertMake Exercise a Priority–   According to the National Weight Control Registry, an organization that studied over 10,000 individuals who lost weight and were able to maintain their weight loss, found that regular exercise is one of the most important factors in maintaining a lower weight.

“Exercise is critical,” says Dr. Sherwood. “The body is designed to move. However, exercise should not be used as a means or mechanism of weight control. Overall, exercise should be used as a way to maintain muscle, movement, vitality, and life. Exercise should be fun. We recommend 2 to 4 days a week with short intense bursts of high intensity training combined with 2 to 4 days of steady aerobic training. This keeps the body fresh, developing, and without stress. Exercise should NOT be about losing weight but about the joy of having the ability to move.”

“Exercise is important in maintaining health in many ways,” says Dr. Ditz.  “It promotes the production and maintenance of the lean skeletal muscle which not only keeps us healthy and safe but also drives our metabolism and uses the calories we need to use if we are to be able to eat to any significant extent.”

“Exercise is not usually enough by itself to be of optimal weight,” says Dr. Ditz.  “Since calories are a very potent source of energy and the body is relatively efficient at converting them to work, people can easily overwhelm the calories spent exercising very hard for hours by eating or drinking items in only a few seconds. Exercise helps the body in many ways to keep our systems running and to promote a healthy mind and body which lasts long after the exercise has been completed.”

“In order to lead a healthy life, exercise is required,” says Marshall. “Your exercise should be enjoyable, beneficial, and a good fit for your lifestyle. Those who accomplish sustained weight loss through the years are the people who exercise regularly.”

Avoid Top Dieting Mistakes – What are the top mistakes people make when trying to change their diet? “People look for the quick fix with the least amount of commitment to produce the weight loss for them,” says Marshall. “There isn’t one. There is no timeline on a successful weight loss. Those who have tried numerous diets in previous years, take the parts of each diet that they like and form their own. Each diet plan has a balance, and when the balance is altered, the diet plan is useless.”

“The top mistake people make is going on a diet in the first place,” says Dr. Sherwood. “Diets are by nature temporary. They are not lasting. All of us should target a permanent lifestyle change that includes balanced, quality nutrition as well as frequent movement. We would be remiss if we did not mention stress control and maximization of sleep.  Diets simply do not work. Lifestyle change and alteration always works.”

“Most people place too much emphasis on the scale,” says Marshall. “Concentrate on your actions and not on the scale. Focusing only on the scale is a short-lived weight loss.”

“The biggest mistake I see is people following a diet that doesn’t suit their lifestyle,” says Malik.  “If they choose to follow a diet that removed many foods they enjoy or incorporates foods they don’t like is a recipe for failure.”

Diet, by its very definition, usually makes one contemplate a drastic change in their food intake for a certain period of time to try and achieve a usually idealistic and often unrealistic goal. The change in food intake is often not enough by itself and the change in food intake usually is short lived and people usually return to their usual lifestyle and thus their usual bodies.

“People think weight-loss is a temporary situation and they don’t realize habits must be altered,” says Marshall. “This takes a lifetime. Consider weight loss the byproduct of a lifestyle that includes eating food that nourishes you and that you enjoy, and include daily activity. Stop listening to other people’s opinions or statements; they derail your efforts. A healthy lifestyle is never about perfection, it’s always about practice. Repeating healthy habits in all settings is the practice needed to be successful.”

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