Health

6 Lessons For Choosing A Weight Loss Program

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So You Want To Lose Weight? Congratulations!  You’ve made the decision. You are motivated.  Now you are doing the work of choosing a program that makes sense to you, and for you.

And right there you hit your first wall: who knew there were so many programs out there, and how can they be so different in their approach?  What science do you believe?  Whose endorsement should you seek?  Is there really anything NEW in weight loss out there? It can get so bad, some of you never get past this stage.

It’s not your fault.

In 2009, following sports injuries to my right calf (spring) and my left ankle (fall), I found myself gaining weight despite all my best efforts.  Mind you, I was an athlete all my life, and a medical doctor, so I was shocked and dismayed when all the knowledge I had about what should work, didn’t.  Like any self-respecting doctor, I researched the issue, and learned a few things.  Yes, there is new science behind weight loss.  Yes, there is confusing information out there.  Yes, there are a lot of programs, but they tend to follow certain philosophies.

 So, on to the 6 lessons learned.

  1. Calorie counting does not work.  The old concept was that if you burned more calories than you ate, you would lose weight.  There are many women who will look at you with a pained expression if you make the mistake of expressing this opinion.  You know them: they hardly eat anything, they watch every little bite, and still can’t shed the weight.  The new science is, the type of calorie matters just as much as the amount of calories.  Translation: eating 500 calories of sugar is not the same as 500 calories worth of broccoli or cabbage or… you get the idea.  Eating sugars, especially processed sugars found in FOOD PRODUCTS, triggers the release of excess insulin (hyperinsulinemia) which leads to fat production AND storage.
  2. Avoiding fat (eating low-fat and no-fat foods) ironically makes us fat.  Why you ask?  Well, fat gives us a sense of fullness, satiety, that stays with us longer.  Eat low fat or no fat, and you end up getting hungry more frequently, and eating more frequently.  And what do you eat?  The carbs that trigger hyperinsulinemia (see paragraph above).  This is not to say eat a lot of fat.  It is saying, go back to eating the healthy, natural fats our grandparents used to eat, like real butter (not margarine), olive oil and coconut oil (howls of outrage…).
  3. It’s important to find a program that teaches you how to eat.  Exactly what does that mean?  Don’t do a program that takes you out of the real world you live in, and has you eat nothing but shakes, or pre-packaged meals, or from an extremely limited set of food choices.  Also along these lines, stay away from programs that use ‘fad diets’ or even celebrity-endorsed diets.  First, diets don’t work, remember?  Additionally, unless the celebrity has education, experience or a passion for nutrition and fitness, the endorsement is essentially meaningless.  Back to the teaching you how to eat: The best long-term approach to wellness and weight management is to learn how your current eating habits got you into trouble in the first place, empower you with the knowledge to make better choices, and ultimately work with what you like eating in the real world, so you are less ‘doing’ a diet as much as living a lifestyle.  The program must have a strong educational and coaching component, otherwise it becomes yet another temporary fix.
  4. Accountability.  All my knowledge and experience with this subject will not amount to a hill of beans if you don’t hold you accountable to you and me and everyone else.  I can point the way to change, but I can’t really make you change.  You have to do that yourself.  If you’re not ready to make a change, no bad.  We all start and stop multiple times before we finally buckle down and get the work done.  Just don’t let the day you make the decision to start be the same day you had the stroke or the heart attack… you get the idea.
  5. Detoxification: find a program that emphasizes detoxification or detox.  Whether it’s eating ‘clean’ (organic foods, non-GMO foods) to prevent toxin exposure, or toxin removal to eliminate toxins already in your body, or both, this part is downright essential.  We live in an extremely toxic world, and most of these toxins have come into our environment over the last 100 years or less.  Stuff like pesticide residues on our produce, hydrocarbons from air pollution, heavy metals naturally found in water, and now pharmaceutical residues in the water supply.  This is sort of where the science geek comes in: many, if not all, of these toxins are fat-soluble.  Our bodies, exposed to and accumulating these toxins on a daily basis, have to make fat cells to trap the toxin and keep us alive and functional.  Over the course of a decade or two, we find ourselves gaining fat weight that exists to do mainly one thing: trap the toxins.  So here’s the key: if we try to lose weight without doing something about these toxins, we quickly stop the weight loss.  Our bodies hold on to the fat to keep the toxins out of circulation.  Worse, we rebound very quickly because of toxins that need to be taken out of circulation.  If you want a better than even chance of keeping the weight off long term, include an effective on-going detox program.
  6. Last (but probably most important), don’t diet.  Sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it?  Seems like every program out there starts and ends with a diet; so how can I say not to diet?  First off, review item one about counting calories.  But also consider new science: it has been shown that the more an individual diets (‘serial dieter’), the more weight they gain over the long term.  People that have gone on multiple weight loss programs know this as unspoken truth.  And the science behind this one thing is worthy of its own discussion (and hey, I just figured out what I’m writing about next!).  Serial dieters lose weight more slowly with each round of dieting, rebound more quickly with each round, and end up with more fat and less muscle than when they first started.  The irony is, most programs out there are diet-based.

So there you have it.  Basic guidelines on what to look for, and how newer science is overturning previous dogma.  Knowledge is power, but only if applied.

Go apply!

About Dr. Michael Dimayuga

M.D., Internal Medicine Specialist - Clinical Instructor at Yale University 1990-1991 Chief Resident; Griffin Hospital Yale University School of Medicine, and more than 25 years practicing internal medicine. NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) Premier Diploma 2006.

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