Weight loss has been a hot topic throughout my years in fitness. It's become more complicated in recent years due to the trendiness phenomenon and the barrage of information or misinformation so readily available online. I find it alarming that so many are embracing extreme dietary restrictions in pursuit of good health. We're losing sight of some biological basics.
Let's begin with one of those basics in its most elementary terms. The body is designed to operate at peak efficiency with three macronutrients, those being carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each has its own job. Our primary fuel source for energy is carbohydrates. Protein provides the building blocks for our muscles, organs and tissues. Fat acts as a secondary fuel source and provides insulation as well as a delivery system for fat-soluble vitamins. It also keeps us feeling satisfied longer due to its higher caloric content per gram than either carbs or protein.
The second basic is that a body in tune with itself has a good balance between energy in (food) and energy out (activity). When these things are in harmony, neither storing excess calories nor the methods in which we can manipulate our systems to store them is an issue. When our output exceeds our intake, we lose weight. The reverse is, of course, also true.
We've all heard about that guy who lost 30 pounds in short order on the Keto Diet. The protocol is that carbohydrates are all but eliminated while proteins are restricted and fats are consumed in abundance. Not just healthy fats, either. Go ahead and put butter on your bacon. Scientifically, the premise is that depriving the body of carbohydrates puts it into a state of ketosis in which fats become the primary source of fuel, thereby reducing insulin production and fat storage. The Paleo Diet is similar although proteins act as the secondary fuel source. For the record, these two diets are repeatedly scored as the absolute worst by the World Health Organization.
Yes, they work in the short term. It is uncertain what the long-term effects of such an eating regimen might be since both diets are relatively new. Experts in the field are becoming more vocal online, warning that carb deprivation combined with high intake of saturated fat may increase the risk of the very horrific conditions we want to avoid: high blood pressure, heart issues, stroke, cancer, digestive issues, fatty liver, kidney disease, premature death.
Why then are these radical diets so effective? If our guy who lost 30 pounds (let's call him Joe), ate a fairly typical North American diet pre-Keto, he likely consumed a lot of processed, refined carbs. Think white bread, french fries, pasta, sweets, chips. Joe may have washed this down with a sugar-laden soda. Our friend would have lost weight by eliminating these foods regardless of what his diet plan was called. The consumption of healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, brown rice, oats, fruit and root vegetables may have kept his body out of a ketogenic state, but he would have successfully dropped pounds regardless. Not quite as drastically, perhaps, but definitely more healthfully.
Modern life throws up many roadblocks on the path to weight loss. Portion distortion is a big one. We have super-sized our servings and, in some cases, ourselves along with it. Restaurant servings are exponentially larger than those enjoyed by our parents and grandparents. Those same parents and grandparents may have taught us to clean our plates regardless of whether or not we were satisfied halfway through.
Emotional eating is a chronic problem in today's busy world. Control can easily lapse into a binge of instant gratification when we're stressed, depressed, bored, insecure, overwhelmed, worried or lonely. Dieters will be familiar with this downward spiral. Once the last bite is gone, the issues remain with the added pressure of having blown the diet, which often spikes another round of recriminatory indulgence.
Last but not least, people sometimes forget or ignore the fact that weight loss methodology is a billion-dollar industry. All these books and media gurus and organizations are selling something that they want you to buy or buy into.
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