Weight loss is a tricky thing, we've been told. But, it may not be so tricksy after all.
You say that you've tried every weight loss trick that you've ever been told and you're still not losing weight? You've tried cutting calories, cutting carbs, you've tried exercising until you just can't do anymore, you've tried all the wraps and the crazy diet pills that people are hocking in local Facebook groups (hint: they're MLMs), and you still haven't been able to lose an ounce and keep it off?
It's okay, because you're not alone. No one else is succeeding with those methods, either. At the very least, if they lose the weight, they're not able to keep it off. They go right back to their original weight as soon as they stop doing whatever they're doing! And I know, I too have heard people say that for a diet to work, you have to make it part of your lifestyle to keep the weight off or to keep this or that other health issue under control.
But, the truth is that there are lots of diets out there that just aren't good for you to make a part of your lifestyle. In this article, we're going to go over how people used to eat, how we eat now, what people weighed then, what they weigh now, and why it all changed.
The Old Way
The solid truth about weight loss is that people just don't eat like they used to. When I say that, what I mean is that prior to the 1960s, people simply knew that fattening carbohydrates led to obesity.
Wait, wait, now... this isn't an article hating on carbs and telling you to just quit eating them. In fact, cutting carbs isn't even the solution we're going to talk about later on, because lots of carbohydrates are in fact good for you.
Older generations, the parents of the baby boomers and further back, didn't eat nearly as many sweets and heavy carbohydrates as we do today. Many grew up with their own family gardens and were an active part of the harvest in their family each year, so they were used to being able to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Sometime around the 1950's, though, the low fat diet started to become a thing. Physicians were concerned about coronary disease and attempted to link it directly to low carbohydrate, high fat diets. The reason they did this was due to the assumption at the time that fat, because it was dense in calories, caused obesity. This is still a misconception even today with as much as we know about the human body: people still believe far and wide that fat causes you to become fat... but that's simply not how it works.
The New Way
Ever since then, the mantra has been primarily to eat a low fat diet if you don't want to have a heart attack and die.
But, to eat a low fat diet, you basically have to eat a high carbohydrate diet, simply because fat and protein tend to go hand in hand with each other. This lead to the push for everyone to eat as much bread, pasta, oatmeal, potatoes, flour, rice, and other starchy items as possible.
And the United States, as a nation... did exactly that.
The Food Pyramid Is A Monument To Outdated Science
The food pyramid as it currently exists and is promoted by the US government is a travesty of modern health. It relies on the idea that meat is somehow the one of the worst things you can eat, while heavy carbohydrates such as those listed above are the holy grail of nutrition and should make up the bulk of your diet.
We Didn't Start Getting Really Fat... Until Government Told Us What To Eat
The first Dietary Guidelines for Americans was promoted by the US Government back in 1977. Until 1977, there had been a very gradual increase in the incidence of obesity in the United States. After that point, obesity started going up at a rapid pace. This is when it became standard diet doctrine to eat the majority of your calories in a day in the form of carbohydrates such as bread, oatmeal, pasta, and other grain products.
The funny thing is that while the USDA has acknowledged that people replaced the fats that they used to get in their diet with heavy starches, the USDA hasn't bothered to mention the fact that they're the ones who recommended that people do exactly that. No acceptance of culpability in that has been or likely ever will be admitted, so we're kind of just left to wing this on our own.
In 1975, less than 15% of the US population was considered to be obese. Today in 2017, that number is about 37% of people over 20 years old. 70% of people over 20 are simply overweight.
It's Not An Issue of Willpower
If you think that you can't lose weight because you're not strong enough mentally to deal with the dietary restrictions, you're wrong. But, it's not your fault that you think that way; it's deeply ingrained into American culture. The "American way" is a way of trailblazing and doing things by sheer force of will, but that doesn't exactly apply to how the human body works. Trying to control weight loss efforts by sheer will and caloric restrictions alone is like getting into a fist fight with the ocean. It just doesn't get you anywhere.
Why? Whatever efforts that you use to lose weight through calorie restriction doesn't work because your body will attempt to compensate for it, because that is what it's "programmed" by nature to do.
Why Eating Less Calories Doesn't Work
Eating less calories doesn't work to help lose weight long term because once you've stopped your calorie restriction diet, your body will return itself to its starting weight. Even before you've stopped your diet, however, your body will plateau and just stop losing weight at all for a while.
Because restricting the calories that your body takes in tells it that it's time to start conserving energy, so it lowers your metabolism to match what you're eating every day. Your body burns less energy (you stay colder because of this; more on that later) and you stop losing weight because your body has entered survival mode. It doesn't want to die and as far as your body knows, weight loss is considered a bad thing that ultimately leads to death.
Your body doesn't WANT to lose weight, even if you do. It goes against its natural instincts.
Not only that, but when you attempt to lose weight through calorie restrictive diets, your hunger increases as a function of survival.
So, as soon as your diet is over, you overeat and gain the weight back because the body is hungry.
Why Eating More Calories Alone Doesn't Make You Fat
Even if you eat a ton of food constantly, it may make you gain weight, but eventually your weight gain will stabilize because your body attempts to burn more energy to compensate for the additional calories being consumed. As soon as you stop overeating, you'll return back to your initial weight fairly quickly. You can eat as much as you want, but eventually you will stop gaining weight, therefore increased calorie intake will eventually cause a plateau, just like restriction does with weight loss.
No matter what you try to do with calories, your body will quickly return back to its original state as soon as you stop the diet. It's almost like your body's weight is a pendulum and the angle it's at is the diet; as soon as you stop holding the pendulum by force at one high end or the other, it will go back to where it was.
Calorie restrictive diets do not cause long term weight loss because they fight against the mechanisms that your body has developed over thousands of years for the specific purpose of surviving when there is a low amount of food available. You're fist fighting the ocean.
Why Eating Less Carbs & More Protein & Fats Doesn't Work
Drastically decreasing your total carbohydrate intake doesn't work, either, because you'll end up eating those same calories in meat and fats. When your body takes in too much protein and fat, it turns the extra into carbohydrates. This is why people who are on keto diets advocate for moderate protein intake; they know that eating too much proteins and fats turn to carbs, which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Why Eating Less Fat Doesn't Work
To put it simply: eating less fat doesn't work because the calories that you're missing from the fat you were eating have to come from somewhere. In this case, it's carbohydrates, because fat and proteins like meat tend to go hand in hand.
In fact, low fat diets can actually cause you to gain weight because you will eat more carbohydrates to compensate... and carbohydrates spike your insulin more than any of the 3 macronutrients we have available to eat: carbs, fats, and proteins. When you eat less of one, you automatically end up eating more of one of the others.
Why Exercising Doesn't Work
People are exercising more than ever the past 50 years, but it doesn't work for weight loss. It's good for other things, just not weight loss. But, why?
It's because you simply can't exercise enough in a day to put a dent in the amount of calories that you take in daily. To lose any significant amount of weight at exercise, it would have to be your full time job and then some... and then you're just tearing your body down more, because exercising without taking adequate nutrition back in so the body can heal itself is pretty bad for you. You won't do it for long.
Most calories are spent on the basal metabolic rate, which is mostly used in maintaining body temperature. Remember when I said earlier that the body will
You'll Naturally Compensate For Exercise Whether You Mean To Or Not
When you start incorporating a lot of exercise into your daily life on purpose, you'll start slacking in areas where you normally would be doing physical activity. If you go to the gym, for example, you'll probably be too tired to play with the kids or your dog in the backyard when you get home. It's much the same for children who have PE at school; when they get home, they're less likely to do physical activities because their bodies have already done enough for the day.
You'll Naturally Compensate For Eating Less Whether You Mean To Or Not
As you intake less calories than what you're burning, your body will eventually lower the amount of energy that it expends to match the amount of food that you're taking in. Again, it doesn't want to lose weight
Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes
The difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be summed up in a picture, even though the picture is a picture of a type 1 diabetic before and after receiving insulin medication.
Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the body's inability to produce enough insulin to be able to use the food that is eaten. With a type 1 diabetic, it doesn't matter how much food you feed them or what you feed them. Their bodies simply cannot use it, therefore it cannot be turned into energy and it cannot be stored as fat. As a consequence, type 1 diabetics tend to be extremely thin and will drop weight rapidly if they don't get their insulin medication. In fact, some diabetics have been known to purposefully underdose their insulin because it will make them lose weight; this is called diabulimia and it is an eating disorder.
Type 2 diabetics are characterized by the body's overproduction of insulin. The body produces so much insulin that the body becomes resistant to its ability to take the food that we eat and push it into our cells to be used as energy. When this happens, the excess food (in the form of glucose) has nowhere to go but the blood stream, which is where blood sugar problems come from.
For the type 1 diabetic, the solution is to give them insulin, because their body doesn't produce enough for them to gain weight
For the type 2 diabetic, the solution is to reduce their insulin production, because their body is producing so much, it's become ineffective at its job. As with any chemical substance, once the body has had more than it needs for a long time, its tolerance to its effects is raised. This is the case with anything from caffeine to pain killers to methadone. The dose has to be higher and higher for any effect to take place.
But, the modern medical solution for diabetics is to give them more insulin, not less.
Think of Insulin As A Resource Manager
Think of insulin as a manager that directs resources either to storage or to body's furnace to be burned off to power and heat the body. When you have a steady supply of fuel coming in in excess of what you need, insulin directs as much of it as possible to storage... which means you gain weight. It simply can't pack as much of the food that you're consuming into the furnace as you want it to and that food has to go somewhere
And that somewhere is to your waistline.
Insulin is a fattening hormone. Without it, it's not possible to gain weight, which is why type 1 diabetics who don't supplement with it lose weight and eventually die without it. An excess of insulin, however, will make a person fat regardless of anything else that they're doing in their life to try to lose weight.
You'll Ruin Your Dinner
But, what causes insulin to behave in a resistant way? Constant intake of food... particularly carbohydrates.
Remember your grandma telling you not to eat between meals, that "you'll ruin your dinner"? She didn't say that just because she didn't want you to miss out on her good cookin'. In years gone by, people just didn't snack between meals. It was almost unheard of, but as sugar and cheap carbohydrates became readily available, snacking became much more of a thing.
Think about what's available at the cash register of your average grocery store or convenience store. Cookies, chips, candy, soda, all heavy carbohydrates, easily accessible, easy to impulse purchase. We don't even think about it anymore, we just do it.
In fact, snacking is so much of a thing today that schools often require parents to send a mid-morning and afternoon snack with their kids to school... and if you don't send one, expect them to question you about it.
So today, beginning at an early age, children are eating breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, a snack after they get home from school, then dinner, and sometimes even a bedtime snack! It's no small wonder so many kids have such bad eating habits.
It might be better if fresh fruits and vegetables were cheaper to obtain, so kids could be sent to school with healthy food instead of junk
But, The US Government Doesn't Subsidize Real Food (Much)
Food companies in the United States receive subsidies in order to make the food items that they produce cheap enough to by and to ensure that there is enough supply to meet demand. But, if you go and look at just what the US government subsidizes, it's really not what it should be.
In 2011, food additives such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and soy oils received as much as $1.69 billion dollars in subsidies from the US government. The whole fruit or vegetable that received the most subsidies out of any of its similars was apples... which only received $262 million dollars in subsidies.
Is it any wonder that fruits and vegetables are more expensive in the US than processed foods that contain a ton of additives?
It's Not The Carbs, Though It Kind Of Is
The big misunderstanding about carbs is that all carbs are supposedly bad for you now, but that's not the case. All fruits and vegetables are known as carbohydrates. They turn to sugar when digested so the body can use them as fuel, mostly to keep us warm, as we covered before.
Beets, carrots, oranges, apples, lettuce, all of these things have nutritional value that makes them good for us. But, what you see in natural, whole carbohydrates that you don't see in cookies, cakes, pretzels, etc is one thing that makes a huge difference: fiber.
Whole carbohydrates have their energy bound up in fiber and the body has to work at digesting that fiber to get to the good stuff that it's binding. That's not how cakes, cookies, and pretzels digest, though. Because of the processing that's already been done to get them where they are as a foodstuff, the body doesn't have to work nearly as hard at breaking them down. The body can break down a teaspoon of flour much easier than it can break down the same amount of cooked whole wheat grains.
It's the refining that's killing us because 1) it makes up so much of our diets, 2) it's a lot easier to eat 20g of refined carbs than it is to eat 20g of unrefined carbs and 3) we're in a culture where eating from the time we get up until the time we go to sleep (and sometimes midnight snacks!) is totally acceptable.
If you're trying to avoid sugar in what you eat and drink, though, you're been woefully mislead. Artificial sweeteners trigger an insulin response, as well.
It's Not So Much What You're Eating, Though, It's When
But, if what we're doing is looking at insulin as a cause of obesity much moreso than the types of foods that we're eating, what's the solution? If insulin is the fattening hormone and we're producing too much of it, what do we do about it? Do you have to take medication to reduce insulin production? Absolutely not!
The average person who isn't type 1 diabetic is in direct control of how much insulin their body produces, because the body only produces insulin when they eat.
Your insulin level is at its absolute lowest when you're sleeping. Or, in other words, your insulin level is at its lowest when you're fasting.
But, fasting is that weird religious thing where people go days without food, right..?
Fasting is any structured amount of time that you go without intaking any food that causes your body to produce insulin. During fasting, insulin goes down because there is nothing for the insulin to manage.
When your body stops producing insulin, it switches from burning energy from glucose to burning energy from your body's fat stores. This causes you to lose weight naturally, because the energy that your body needs has to come from somewhere and if it isn't coming from food that you intake, it has to come from the fat storage... and the first fat that your body burns off is the fat on the liver.
But, to be clear, what we're talking about here is called intermittent fasting. Fasting where you go days or weeks without food is actually not nearly as effective as going without food for a certain amount of time intermittently. Your body's insulin production may go down some when you stop eating for days at a time, but it doesn't drop substantially unless you're doing it every other day.
There are a few intermittent fasting patterns, but the pattern that we use is generally the 16/8 pattern. This is when you go 16 hours a few days a week without eating anything (including sleep time!) and you intake all of your calories during a specific 8 hour period. It doesn't have to be done every day, just a few days a week, in order to experience weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting Doesn't Deplete Lean Muscle
What happens very often with fad diets and weight loss programs is that a person will lose weight, but a lot of the weight that ends up being lost is muscle mass. When the diet stops, the body gains back the weight that it lost, but it gains back all of that weight as fat, it doesn't replace the muscle that was lost. So, in the end, you're actually worse off than before!
But, intermittent fasting doesn't use lean muscle for weight loss; it uses what the body is designed to use, which is the fat stores.
We've Been Taught About Weight Loss All Wrong
Going back through all of the information we've covered here, it's hard to keep to the old advice of "eat less, exercise more" in order to lose weight. The methods that we've been taught the past 60 years simply don't work and they don't work because no one understands what insulin resistance is and what causes it, much less how to reverse it once they have it.
The modern American diet of eating all day, every day, from the time we get up until the time we go to bed is what's killing us... and it's the reason the average person cannot lose weight.
But, Why Is No One Talking About This?
The answer to that question is simple: follow the money.
There is no good reason for any industry or government to say any of this out loud.
Consider the subsidies that we talked about earlier alone. What is subsidized? Junk food.
The dairy industry says milk is best for you, the meat industry pushes meat, the wheat industry pushes wheat, etc. It's not in their best interests to say "hey... maybe you should stop eating so much a few days a week".
Neither is it in the best interest of the pharmaceutical companies that sell the drugs to manage the diseases that are caused by obesity and insulin resistance.
The fitness industry can't sell its super diet pills or its body wraps if the truth about weight loss becomes mainstream knowledge.
The truth about weight loss is this:
It's not so much what you're eating, it's when. As long as you keep your body producing excessive amounts of insulin by consuming food, ANY food, all day every day, weight loss isn't possible.