There are many solutions for weight loss, and most of them work — temporarily. We’re talking about fad or starvation dieting that asks you to reduce calorie intake severely.
Let’s face it. If diets worked, everyone would be thin, and we wouldn’t have a worldwide obesity epidemic.
Typical Solutions for Weight Loss Don’t Work: Alarming Obesity and Dieting Statistics
It’s clear that typical solutions for weight loss don’t work.
Just look at these statistics:
- More than 42% of the adult population in the U.S. is obese, a medical condition in which the level of body fat significantly increases health issues. (You’re considered obese if your body mass index is 30 and above.) (1, 2)
- 30.7% of all U.S. adults are overweight, having more body fat than is healthy. (3)
- Roughly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. (3a)
- Obesity is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and certain cancers. (4)
- According to the Cleveland Clinic, “If you have obesity, you’re about six times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those at a healthy weight.” (5)
- An estimated 45 million Americans go on a weight loss diet each year and shell out around $33 billion on products to help them lose weight. (6)
- Researchers believe that 80% to 95% of dieters regain the weight lost within one to five years. (7)
Why Solutions for Weight Loss Don’t Include Typical Diets
Typical weight-loss strategies don’t work because they attempt to override the setpoint, and we generally do not win battles against our basic biology. The setpoint is a weight range controlled by biological signals. It’s designed to keep you at a healthy weight, so it will use every weapon at its disposal to keep you from starving or exercising excess pounds off.
And the body has many weapons to prevent weight loss. For example, it can slow your metabolism, prevent fat burning, make you ravenously hungry, and much more. It’s a scientific fact that the body burns more calories when you eat more and burns fewer calories when you eat less, which is part of the body’s attempt to regulate your weight around your set point.
In addition, if you do manage to lose weight, you will likely regain most or all of it within a short time once you go back to your regular diet. Even worse, when you go on your next diet, you will lose weight even slower than you did before.
To protect you from starvation, your body will store fat more efficiently just in case the famine happens again! That’s its job, after all. Thus begins the well-known pattern of weight cycling, also called yoyo dieting.
What Causes an Elevated Setpoint Weight
At this point, you’re probably wondering why you’re overweight or obese if your setpoint is designed to prevent it.
The body does regulate your weight around a healthy range — unless the regulatory system is broken by a poor-quality diet and other lifestyle factors. When that happens, your hormones can’t send the correct signals to your brain, and your brain can’t receive the signals properly due to neurological inflammation.
Does that mean you’re destined to live with excess body fat and poundage the rest of your life?
NO, thank goodness. There are ways to lower your setpoint weight, resulting in sustainable weight loss.
How to Lose Weight Naturally
Natural weight loss means lowering your setpoint weight, not counting calories. Yes, calories are important, but it’s not your job to count them. Instead, your body adjusts calorie intake and metabolism to naturally keep you within your setpoint weight.
There are four main ways to lower your setpoint weight: healthy foods, regular physical activity, reduced stress, and quality sleep. Let’s take them one by one.
Setpoint Lowering Foods
Setpoint lowering foods unclog your hormonal system so that they can send correct messages to your brain. Hormones are regulatory substances transported to various bodily regions to trigger a response. They play a role in every physical function, including weight control.
Though many habits can impact hormones, routinely eating a poor-quality diet — i.e., ultra-processed foods, starchy carbs, and sugars — contributes to an elevated setpoint weight.
Here are three main categories of food that lower your setpoint, helping you quickly and naturally lose weight.
Step one of a setpoint lowering/weight control diet is to cover at least half your plate with nonstarchy vegetables. They should make up the majority of your diet. Generally, these are the veggies you could eat raw. (Think salad vegetables.) For example, corn, potatoes, and many root vegetables cannot be eaten raw. They are starches. Indeed, if it’s a plant and cannot be eating raw — i.e., starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes — you are likely to be healthier and slimmer swapping it for a plant you could eat raw, i.e., nonstarchy veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Here’s a list of some great nonstarchy vegetables:
- Romaine lettuce
Both fresh and frozen nonstarchy veggies are excellent choices. To heal your hormones and experience sustainable weight loss, you must give your body the optimal amount of essential nutrients and fiber that nonstarchy veggies provide.
Try to consume at least ten servings of nonstarchy vegetables per day. So, if you eat three meals, that would be a little more than three servings with each meal. That may seem like a lot, but don’t worry. Portion sizes are tiny. Except for spinach, kale, and other leafy greens, a serving size is about the size of your fist or what fits in an eight-ounce measuring cup. A serving of leafy greens is two or three cups raw.
If cooking makes the nonstarchy vegetables shrink (spinach, mushrooms, etc.), then a serving is about half the size of your fist or half a cup.
The second step of a setpoint lowering/weight control diet is to fill a third of your plate with nutrient-dense protein. Eating moderate amounts of protein like this ensures you get 30 to 55 grams of protein at each meal (about 100 or 200 grams per day, depending upon your size and activity level). In general, a serving size will be nearly as large as two of your palms.
It’s essential to aim for a minimum serving of about 30 grams because if you consume less than that in a sitting, you will not enjoy muscle protein synthesis, a process in which your body rebuilds itself. Without activating this mechanism at least three times a day, you’re missing out on all sorts of metabolic benefits and risk losing about five percent of muscle tissue per decade. (A loss of muscle mass slows your metabolism.)
Protein helps build muscle and burns more calories to digest than other macronutrients. It is also the most satiating macronutrient (8) as it triggers short- and long-term satiety hormones. So, just like nonstarchy veggies, protein fills you up fast and keeps you full for hours. This keeps you from overeating.
Great nutrient-dense protein sources include:
- Egg Whites
- Cottage cheese
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Grass-fed beef
- Pea protein powder
- Whey protein powder
The final step of a setpoint lowering/weight control diet is to fill the rest of your plate with whole-food fats and low-fructose fruits.
Contrary to popular belief and questionable studies, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Instead, dietary fat helps you slim down. When we eat whole-food fats in places of starches and sweets, our bodies start to prefer burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. Plus, fats are highly satiating, which decreases the tendency to overeat or snack between meals.
As we begin to burn more calories than we’re taking in, we’re not hungry, and our body isn’t slowing down. Why? Because it’s full of nutrients and still has plenty of its preferred fuel, which it takes from the fat stores on your stomach, hips, thighs, etc.
Just the opposite happens when we excessively eat starches and sweets. If we burn more calories than we’re eating, our body looks around for its preferred fuel source (sugar) but doesn’t find any. This deficit makes it demand more sugar and starch, triggering crazy carb cravings. If we resist these cravings, we’ll become ravenously hungry, causing our bodies to burn fewer calories. Then, if there’s still a sugar shortage, it starts burning sugar-hungry muscle tissue. In other words, it doesn’t come close to burning body fat! Eventually, it will burn fat, but that comes at a price — an elevated setpoint that makes you regain any of the weight you so miserably tried to lose!
Studies also show that eating fat does not increase the risk of heart disease, either!
If we want to be maximally healthy, we must eat three to six servings per day of fats contained in whole foods, i.e., foods that are not processed. All oils are processed derivatives of whole foods and are therefore not healthy. Of course, you need to use some oil when cooking or for salad dressings, but otherwise, please steer clear of them.
Common healthy sources of whole-food fats include:
- Fatty fish, like seafood and tuna
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Unprocessed fatty cuts of meat, such as organic grass-fed beef
Fruits are great as an occasional snack or after-dinner treat. But please keep in mind that though they provide fiber, they also contain a lot of sugar. (Even natural sugar can raise your set point, causing you to gain weight.)
And though “fruits and vegetables” are often mentioned together, they are not one food group. While eating at least ten servings of nonstarchy vegetables per day will do nothing but lower your setpoint and make you healthier, the same thing is not valid for fruits, owing to their dramatically higher sugar content.
So, try to stick with zero to three servings of low-sugar fruits, primarily berries and citrus fruits, per day.
Some great low-sugar fruit options include:
- Acai berries
- Goji berries
Other Things to Lower Setpoint Weight
Your eating habits are not the only cause of an elevated setpoint weight. Here are a few things you can do to lower the setpoint further.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is essential for weight management, but not for the reason you’ve been told. Yes, it burns calories and increases your metabolic rate, but you’d have to do a LOT of aerobic exercises to burn off that bout of binge eating.
So, why is exercise so important? One of the main reasons is that aerobic activity significantly increases insulin sensitivity, helping regulate glucose levels. (9) Combined with a healthy setpoint-lowering diet, regular exercise can help you meet your weight loss goals.
Regular exercise is also crucial for disease prevention. Various studies show an association between regular exercise and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, depression, obesity, and some types of cancer. Research suggests it can even reduce your risk of premature death. (10)
The research is clear that you should make exercise part of your daily routine if you’re looking for significant weight loss and disease prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week. You should also incorporate strength training into your exercise program. (11)
Numerous clinical research studies show that chronic stress can lead to weight gain. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, stress triggers a release of adrenalin and cortisol, and as a result, glucose is released into your bloodstream to give you the energy to fight or flee the perceived threat. This glucose spike promotes weight gain. Second, cortisol causes sugar cravings and emotional eating, and if you indulge, the calories are often stored as abdominal fat. So, losing excess body fat must include reducing stress.
So, try to de-stress each day. Take leisurely walks around the block. Listen to soothing music. Meditate. Do yoga. Anything that relaxes your mind and body is fair game and will help you lose and maintain weight.
Get Quality Sleep
Sleep is more important than you might think. Research suggests that sleep deprivation can negatively affect weight control for many reasons.
The first is that not getting enough sleep can increase hunger and appetite, particularly for starchy carbs and sugars. The reason? It appears sleep deprivation messes with hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. In addition, inadequate sleep elevates cortisol levels, leading to increased blood glucose and weight gain. (12) And finally, fatigue resulting from sleep deprivation can make you less likely to get much physical activity, further leading to glucose and weight control issues.
The science suggests that you make sleep a top priority if you want better control over your weight. Try to get at least eight hours of quality sleep every night. You’ll be surprised how this, alone, can positively affect your eating behavior, food intake, and weight control.
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