Collectively, Americans spend almost a quarter trillion dollars annually on weight-loss or related products, plans, medical procedures, and pharmaceuticals.
You can’t walk 100 feet in a grocery store without seeing a “diet”, “sugar free”, “low-fat”, or “light” product, or a magazine article about losing weight, tightening abs, or being fit.
For all the money we spend, and all the products and “information” in the pipeline, consumers know woefully little about fundamentals of healthy weight loss and management.
The number of us that are overweight or obese is growing. Currently it’s about 2/3 of people in the US, and 1/3 on the planet. Given the highly publicized negative correlation between weight and health, there’s no doubt people would take the healthy option of being thin and fit, if they knew how.
Not to worry! Here are five things that were valuable news to others on their diet and weight loss journeys. These may help you too.
1. It doesn’t have to be so hard, and you don’t have to suffer any more!
Weight loss and management is about learning and applying simple techniques. Unfortunately, modern culture works against us:
A. Our medical/pharmaceutical sector and packaged goods companies have complicated the information environment.
The minimum dietary requirements of 1. balanced macro-nutrients, 2. water, and 3. simple, natural ingredients have been twisted and complicated in mass media and advertising.
As a result, we’re confused and resigned about the “rules” of “healthy” eating.
I recently spoke to a friend who was concerned about eating grapes because she’d heard they had too much sugar. Since she became convinced no carbs were healthy, she gave up and resigned herself to a life of overweight.
You don’t have to give up!
B. “3 meals a day” may have worked well for highly active shift workers in fields, factories, and job sites. This was the bulk of our domestic work force in the first half of the 20th century.
However, today’s sedentary office worker has access to high calorie food all day long.
In addition, busy schedules leave limited opportunities to burn those calories.
For many, a more frequent and smaller-meals eating plan may work better.
2. Eating less can cause bad behavior, negativity, and mood swings: are you ever “hangry”?
Apparently because it was adaptive when we had to hunt to eat, some humans get nasty when we’re hungry: “hangry”. We’re not all aware we have it!
It took me becoming an endurance athlete to become aware of this phenomenon. By that time, I’d already lost over 100 pounds. Knowing this earlier could have saved me many arguments and a few relationships. Learn more about how to manage “hangry” here.
3. Eating less can cause you to weigh more: eating too little can lead to uncontrollable cravings.
Many people who believe they’re managing their weight responsibly by “eating like a bird” are actually shooting themselves in the foot when they later experience “uncontrollable” cravings and eat like a starved animal later in the day.
You must eat enough calories every day (within a range), or you’ll uncontrollably overeat and gain weight. Read more about how to manage evening cravings here.
4. Coffee and tea may be causing your cravings and overeating.
- Are you “never hungry in the morning”?
- Do you start the day with a cup o’ Joe or tea?
- Have you ever wondered why companies serve free coffee all day long?
This was hard for me see and accept… You may find it unbelievable too…
Caffeine is a well-known performance enhancer and appetite suppressant. It works by reducing our sensations of pain, discomfort, and fatigue.
When I start the day with a cup of coffee, then get busy at work, the morning flies by. I don’t think at all about food because my caffeine-wired nervous-system is overriding my metabolism’s hunger and low-blood sugar messages.
With a late-morning top-off of coffee, I can easily work into the mid-afternoon without eating my first meal of the day.
Now read #2 above, and you’ll see how coffee and tea may be affecting your weight: eating too little early in the day can lead to overwhelming cravings and overeating later in the day…
It’s worse… Have you noticed the mid-afternoon energy lag? I’ve developed a reliable habit of mid-afternoon coffee, since I was in college. However, very recently I learned that a small afternoon snack including carbohydrates also knocks out the mid-afternoon energy drop. A cup of coffee instead of a snack just delays sufficient eating until even later in the day, which reinforces the problem of insufficient daytime eating and evening bingeing.
5. You CAN lose weight entirely through diet: weight loss through exercise alone is more difficult.
While many people begin an exercise program for weight loss, most people do not succeed this way.
It’s often easy to overeat our calorie burn unless we’re exercising a good, hard couple hours every day.
Worse: one problem of the standard American diet is its high carbohydrate and fat content, which may leave us feeling tired. When our body is busy metabolizing fats and carbohydrates from our most recent meal, we don’t want to exercise!
Finally, a typical beginner exercise program usually lacks significant intensity (difficulty) and duration (time) per workout. It can’t reduce appetite long enough, as well as burn enough calories, to enable us to out-exercise our overeating.
When we eat like most Americans, it’s hard to burn all the empty calories from:
- sodas and other sugary drinks,
- potato chips and other high-fat foods, and
- carbohydrates from just about every pre-packaged processed food product sold in a bag, box, can, or bottle.
Please don’t interpret this as an argument not to exercise. Exercise is valuable for improved cardiovascular health and stress management. It also has the effect of increasing metabolism.
However, don’t get fooled into thinking exercise will be enough to kick off your own weight loss program. At least, don’t give up if it doesn’t. If you try it and it doesn’t work, just know you’re not the first, and you’re not alone.
Plan to manage your eating plan more closely if exercise alone doesn’t dent your weight the way you’d like.
Do you have anything to add?
Write something in the comments below.
For more information
- Costs of weight loss products and programs (USA): $66 billion
- Costs of overweight (USA): $15 billion
- Costs of obesity (USA): $150 billion
- The vast majority of American adults are overweight or obese, and weight is a growing problem among US children
- Obesity is a National Security Issue: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling at TedXMidAtlantic 2012
- The mathematics of weight loss | Ruben Meerman | TEDxQUT
- The secret to self control | Jonathan Bricker | TEDxRainier
- Is Caffeine an Appetite Suppressant?
- Meal timing and weight loss: Does it matter when you eat?
Also published on Medium.