There is no such thing as a perfect diet
Like most people, Kevin Hall thought the reason why people get fat was simple.
“Why don’t they eat less and exercise more?” he remembers thinking. Trained as a physicist, the calorie-to-calorie ratio for weight loss always made sense to him. But later, his research and contestants on the hit reality show proved him wrong.
Hall, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), started watching The Biggest Loser several years ago on the recommendation of a friend. “I’ve seen these people step on the scale and lose 20 pounds in a week,” he said. On the one hand, it followed a widespread belief about weight loss: the men and women on the show would lose weight because of punishing workouts and restrictive diets. Still, 20 pounds a week was a lot. To understand how they do it, he decided to study 14 participants in a scientific paper.
It didn’t matter, though, as Hall quickly realized that weeks didn’t exactly turn into weeks: the weight was real, fast, and overwhelming. Over the course of the season, participants lost an average of 127 pounds and about 64 percent body fat. If his research could reveal what’s going on in their bodies at a physiological level, he believes it could help the 71% of American adults who are overweight.
What she didn’t expect to learn was that even with the perfect weight-loss conditions on TV—the grueling but motivating trainers, the telegenic therapists, the strict diets, and the killer workouts—her body would take it for a long time. hell to get that fat back. Over time, 13 of the 14 contestants studied by Hall regained an average of 66% of the weight they lost during the show, and four were heavier than before the competition.
It’s depressing enough to put off even dieters. “There’s a sense of why even try,” Hall said. But finding the answer to the weight loss puzzle has never been more important. A majority of American adults are overweight; almost 40% are clinically obese. Doctors now know that excess body fat dramatically increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, respiratory disease, major cancers, and even serious fertility problems. A 2017 study found that obesity causes more preventable deaths in the United States than smoking. It’s a $66.3 billion weight loss industry that sells everything from diet pills to diets and gym memberships.
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It has also spurred increased research. Last year, the NIH awarded roughly $931 million in obesity research, and the research is giving scientists new insights into why dieting is so difficult and why losing weight over time is so difficult. Losing weight only works sometimes – for some people.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists should bring new hope to the 155 million Americans who are overweight. For example, leading researchers agree that while exercise is important for health, it is not a reliable way to maintain body fat long-term. Oversimplified arithmetic calculations of calories and calories lead to a more accurate understanding of the composition of a person’s diet than contribute to weight loss.
They also know that the best diet for you may not be your neighbor’s diet. From low-fat and vegan to low-carb and paleo, individual responses vary greatly. “Some dieters lose 60 pounds in two years, while others follow the same program religiously and gain 5 pounds,” says Frank Sachs, a leading weight-loss researcher and professor of cardiology. Disease Prevention by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If we can find the cause, the potential to help people is huge.”
Hall, Sachs and others show that the key to weight loss is the individual rather than a fad diet. Losing weight can be easy for anyone, but there is growing evidence that anyone can achieve a healthy weight – people just need to find the best way to get there.
Before the obesity epidemic of the 1980s ho
With the advice of a famous nutritionist named Horace Fletcher. Around the same time, President William Howard Taft approved a fairly modern plan with a low-fat, low-calorie, daily food diary after being stuck in a White House bathtub.
The concept of the calorie as a unit of energy had been studied and shared scientifically throughout Europe for some time, but it wasn’t until World War I that calorie counting became a detail in the United States. Encourage reduction in food intake. hence the first “scientific diet” to count calories for Americans.
In the following decades, when weight loss became more popular, almost all diet advice emphasized low-calorie foods. There was the Grape Diet of the 1930s (where people ate half a grapefruit with every meal; the fruit was believed to contain fat-burning enzymes) and the Cabbage Soup Diet of the 1950s (a flatulence plan). along with a low-calorie diet, I ate cabbage soup every day for a week).
The 1960s saw the beginning of the mass commercialization of dieting in the United States, when New York housewife Jean Nidetch began hosting friends at her home and discussing weight and dieting. Nidetch was a self-proclaimed cookie lover who struggled to lose weight for years. The weekly meetings helped her tremendously—she lost 72 pounds in about a year, and she eventually turned the living room meetings into a company called Weight Watchers. When he went public in 1968, he and his co-founders became overnight millionaires. Nearly half a century later, Weight Watchers remains one of the world’s most successful diet companies, with 3.6 million active users and $1.2 billion in revenue in 2016.
What most of these diets have in common is an idea that remains popular today: eat fewer calories and lose weight. Even the low-fat craze that began in the late 1970s depended on the calorie-counting model of weight loss, even if it was based on the intuitive but flawed notion that eating fat would make you fat. (Fats are higher in calories than vegetables, so the logic is that if you eat less, you will lose more calories and lose weight.)
This did not happen when people were low fat. The diet coincided with weight gain. In 1990, obese adults made up less than 15 percent of the US population. By 2010, most states reported that 25 percent or more of the population was obese. Today, this has risen to 40% of the adult population. For children and adolescents, it is 17%.
Research like Hall’s is beginning to explain why. His initial findings were disappointing but not surprising: more than 80 percent of obese people lose weight. That’s because your resting metabolism (how much energy your body uses when you’re resting) slows down when you lose weight, possibly an evolutionary change from when food shortages were common.
However, what Hall found, and frankly surprised him, was that even though the participants who had lost the most weight regained their weight, their resting metabolic rates did not go up along with it. Instead, I was burning about 700 more calories a day than before I started losing weight. “When people see their metabolism slow down, their eyes go wide and they think, ‘How can this happen?'” says Hall.
Participants lose significant amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time – Although most doctors don’t recommend weight loss, studies show that the metabolism slows down just like the average Joe. Most people who lose weight lose 2-4 kg per year.
For the world’s 2.2 billion overweight people, Hall’s conclusion may sound like a formula for failure, but it’s scientifically sound. The fact that they have such a hard time losing weight shows that it’s not a lack of willpower, but biology. Studies show that the body inhibits any long-term weight loss efforts.
But the slow metabolism is not everything. There are many people who are able to lose weight and keep it off despite their biological challenges. Hall had seen it more times than he could count. The thing is, some people have success with almost any diet, and it varies from person to person.
“You take a bunch of people and randomly assign them to a low-carb or low-fat diet,” says Hall. “You follow them for two years, and what you see is that the average weight loss is almost no different between the two groups. But every group is very successful and successful.”