According to a 2012 report by ABC news, 20 billion dollars is the annual revenue of the weight loss industry. With weight loss books, plans, pills, and even surgeries, people find every and any way to shed that unwanted weight.
Here is a question though, why are we still fat? According to the World Health Organization, in 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and over, were overweight. Of these, over 200 million men and 300 million women were obese. And the numbers are on the rise. With the billions that the weight loss industry is raking in, why aren’t we getting healthier as an international community?
Well, there might be a few facts about weight loss that most weight loss companies probably wouldn’t want you to know.
1 – It’s not just about the calories
There are so many processed diet foods on the market today that pride themselves in being low in fat and calories. Besides being sugar-laden, these foods may contain other hidden health dangers that do alter metabolism and therefore hinder weight loss. Let’s take a look at only a few common additives to get an idea:
This is used in food products as an emulsifier. Unfortunately, unfermented soy is linked to MANY disease states which can contribute to a decreased metabolism. These include thyroid issues, digestive distress, and hormonal imbalance. When included in food in this very processed state, soy can increase estrogen levels (which causes a whole array of health issues) and can cause gastrointestinal issues as it is not well tolerated by the gut. (1) Here is another question, do hormonal imbalance and a malfunctioning digestive tract sound like things that will help you to lose weight no matter how few calories you consume? The answer to this question is a definite, NO! Soy lecithin is one of the top 10 most used food additives. Food for thought.
MSG – Monosodium Glutamate
This common additive is connected with fatigue, weight gain, and interferes with neurological pathways that allow you to receive the “full” signal. (2) If you are naturally inclined to eat a meal containing 400 calories, for example, MSG is involved in making you want more (even if you are already full).So, with additives like the above, it is feasible to expect that even if you eat 1,200 calories a day from a more processed diet, long term weight loss is not necessarily inevitable.
2 – More exercise isn’t necessarily a good thing
As with calories, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. If you are on a very calorie-restricted diet and you rigorously exercise on a daily basis, you do not have sufficient nutrition to accommodate the increased needs your body has in order to exercise. This, as a result, will have the OPPOSITE effect on weight loss, making it more difficult for your body to metabolize and burn fat. Research has shown that long distance cardiovascular training can decrease testosterone and raise cortisol (a stress hormone). (3) Burst training, on the other hand, is shown to be much more effective for fat loss than long strenuous runs on the treadmill. (4) “Burst training (aka interval training) combines short, high intensity bursts of exercise, with slow, recovery phases, repeated during one exercise session. Burst training is done at 85-100% maximum heart rate rather than 50-70% in moderate endurance activity.” (5) Don’t run yourself into the ground. Instead, choose an interval training program that will get you results!
3 – It’s not your fault that you are overweight
In today’s society, we experience an almost schizophrenic mentality. TV ads, the internet, magazines, and billboards drive us to seek perfection with our bodies. At the same time, the same marketing venues sell us thousands of ways to indulge ourselves in fast and processed foods. Add to this the fact that most food companies strive to find ways to keep you coming back for more. From junk food to health food, food companies research addictive ingredients to put in their products. “According to David Kessler, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, over-eating might be due to the combination of fats, sugars and salt used by food manufactures to trigger a ‘bliss’ point in the human brain.” (6) He goes on to describe how real ingredients in foods are replaced by chemicals which make you want to eat more.
How does ANYONE stand a chance of losing weight and keeping it off in this environment? Fortunately, with knowledge comes empowerment. Knowing that marketing plays with our emotions (and pallets in this case) to get us to buy, is the first source of ammunition for anyone trying to get healthy. Also, avoiding most processed foods and choosing locally produced whole foods automatically excludes you from the marketing loop. Being an informed consumer about where your food comes from is key to staying healthy and losing weight.
At the end of the day, losing weight is about completely revamping your entire lifestyle. It’s not about going on the latest fad diet or popping some pills. Rather it’s about exploring what you are doing to hinder your health, making small, attainable changes in your diet and lifestyle that will replace bad habits, and avoiding traps put forth by people that want to make money off of your health issues. Take charge of your health by reading, asking questions to appropriate health professionals, and being present in the decisions you choose to make for yourself. It is not easy to change, but once you do, there is no going back!