I was asked to do an interview through an e-mail exchange a few months back for an individual that would be submitting it to their university’s website and newspaper. There’s some good information in here and since I get a lot of these same questions in e-mail I thought I’d post it up to let you read through it. Enjoy.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do, and what made you decide to start thespartanwarrior.com
My name is Daniel Brown and I am a student, powerlifter, coach, nutrition consultant, and am still in the process of seeking further education in nutrition and exercise science.
I started my website, TheSpartanWarrior.com, first as a blog to track my own personal experiences with fitness but soon found that I had a platform to enable me to reach a broader audience and assist others in their desire to better themselves. This has led me to transition from a personal blog to more of a research based database and website to give people factual information to check out.
Where do you derive most of your information from on your website?
There really is no one place where most of the information on my website comes from. It’s varied with anything from my own written articles to peer reviewed scientific research from nutrition and science journals to interviews and quotes from some of the most respected minds in nutrition and fitness. Oh, the occasional funny meme as well.
How many followers do you have?
Just under 90,000 currently.
What are some interesting things people may/may not know about you and what you do?
I have come to find that many people think that I have always been in good shape or that I was just born into the education I have now on these topics, but that is very far from the truth. I have spent 11 years (on and off) looking for answers and techniques to achieve a healthier life for myself and for others through nutrition and fitness. More than half of my life was actually spent overweight and thoroughly unhappy struggling to find the right answers. Through those years I learned a great deal from mistakes, misinformation, and practice though so I would not have it any other way.
Something else that most people would not guess, I suppose, is that I’m also a pretty big geek. I’m a huge cinephile and I play video games quite often. I even worked in the video game industry for nearly 6 years before transitioning to a full-on focus of nutrition and exercise sciences.
You offer a page with “Nutrition for Newbies” what are some important tips you can suggest to men and women who are looking to lose significant amounts of weight?
The first step is easily the hardest. You have to make the decision that you want to change and that this decision is important enough to fully dedicate yourself to day in and day out.
Secondly, it’s all about baby steps. Too many people try to dive in head first and become so overwhelmed by a massive amount of change in diet and activity that they don’t stick to a plan. My initial recommendation is to seek out something that gets you more active on a regular basis that you can find some sort of enjoyment in doing. This could literally be anything from lifting weights to playing Dance Dance Revolution. No amount of “more” activity is bad in the beginning.
Then comes what is truly most importantly in my eyes. Get a better understanding of the basics of nutrition. Ever read a nutrition label and it was like looking at a foreign language? That’s a big problem. I have a few pages in my nutrition articles that are great primers for all your basic nutrition information needs.
What are the common misconceptions you find people have about weight loss?
Nutrition in general is just full of one misconception after another. The amount of misinformation and inaccuracies that people blindly follow is astounding. One of the biggest ones I see daily is that people follow diets that completely cut out entire food groups or macronutrients. Going from a diet where you eat anything and everything to an extremely restrictive diet is simply setting yourself up for disaster and failure. Psychologically that will play havoc with discipline in being able to follow the diet and having the ability to stay satisfied with your new lifestyle.
For a person who is trying to make a drastic lifestyle change, do you feel it is more effective to take a monitored approach as opposed to a self-started regime?
Everyone is going to be different in this regard. Some will find it extremely beneficial to have someone coach them through the beginning, but the problem here is finding a coach with adequate knowledge to guide a beginner down a path that will lead them to a lifetime of success. Sadly, there aren’t many coaches out there that live up to that type of expectation.
Many people hire a coach or personal trainer to provide them with sparks of motivation. No person or one thing is going to provide someone with the motivation and discipline they need day in and day out to make a change like this. There really has to be an internal driving force of passion to make the changes necessary. Motivation comes from within and if you can’t push yourself to take the necessary steps in staying driven, persistent, and disciplined to what you’re doing then no one else will be able to help you. This applies to all avenues of your life.
Do you believe that the BMI is an accurate representation of the average weight a person should fall into based on their age, gender and height? What are some flaws that need to be adjusted and how so?
I’m in the boat here of doing away with the BMI scale overall… However, it can be useful for some of the population, but there are going to be many instances where it becomes completely flawed. For example, a person with lower body fat levels and a good amount of lean muscle mass is going to have a higher BMI reading giving the indication they are overweight. Lots of athletes and bodybuilders will fall victim to that problem. The BMI scale uses height, weight and age. You would think waist circumference would be of greater importance for a system to determine if someone is overweight.
How would you suggest one determine their weight loss goal?
Most people fixate on a random number they want to see on a scale or a number of pounds they would like to lose. Whereas this can be a great initial motivator I believe that relying on a number to determine how you feel, which most do, is absurd. You’re going to become obsessed with that scale and that can be quite destructive. All of my trainees focus on a day to day understanding of how they’re feeling and how they look from seeing themselves in a mirror and comparing their progress pictures over time.
Setting a weight loss goal is quite individual. I usually attempt to steer people more towards how clothes fit and measurements as those are going to be more reliable for fat loss. This also takes a lot of the pressure away from seeing a certain number on the scale. I truly believe that doing away with the scale is healthier in the long run.
Don’t make your worth about a number displayed under your feet. Make your worth about your ability to strive towards goals in the weight room, the track, or in something that you can make progress in linearly.
What are some key foods and ingredients you recommend for weight loss and why?
Most people that are overweight are so because their diet (nutritional intake) is wrecked. Primarily this is due to an over consumption of food and not necessarily because their diet is lacking specific foods. However, I will say that anyone wanting to be healthier overall should include more whole foods into their diet. Everyone should be getting a better balance of foods coming from a variety of places such as: lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits, and fibrous carbohydrates.
What are some foods and ingredients to avoid?
I am rather largely known as someone that champions the idea that everything is okay to consume as long as it’s done in moderation. I think there’s a lot of psychological relief that comes with that mentality for people striving for fat loss. This most definitely aides in winning the psychological battle, which I believe is the most important part of the game.
Now, I don’t want to leave someone without an easy answer here so to make things simple I would generally tell someone that asked this question to try and cut out a majority of processed foods that they eat, to stay away from empty calories coming in the form of liquids like non diet sodas and most condiments, and try to manage the way their food is prepared by going for healthier options like grilled over fried. Small amounts of these “not as good for you” options are still okay as long it’s done infrequently.
Do you feel that a lot of people lack proper nutrition education and would you say this is a problem with public health in general? What are some of the growing concerns about health and active living you find cripples North Americans?
Absolutely. The lack of education among the general population is what I consider to be the largest problem. Frankly, I believe this is a major attributing factor to the rising rates of obesity in children and adults. The majority of people simply just don’t know any better. Also, as a nation we just aren’t active like we should be. We’re damning ourselves to be overweight by over consumption of food coupled with the lack of activity. This sedentary lifestyle can be linked to how lazy we have become. Video games, smart phones, computers, TV, etc. People don’t have to leave their couch to order a pizza and get hours of entertainment. Hell, people will drive two blocks to go to a Starbucks instead of walking. These same people don’t seem to have a reason to move until their faced with things like heart disease, diabetes, and death.
There are a lot of weight loss programs out there like Weight Watchers that offers people ideas on how to eat better while constraining the amounts of food you consume and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Would you say this is an effective way to lose weight? Are there better alternatives?
Well, eating less overall and becoming more active are the winning factors to weight loss, so they (Weight Watchers) are definitely on the right track. I think it’s a great starting point for a lot of people. Weight Watchers is actually one of the programs I like best because of their philosophy of not really restricting the types of food, but the amount of food. Unfortunately, like all dieting programs, it lacks in educating the people that use the program more. Nothing is ever going to oust proper education as the most effective way to get healthier. Another program that I would recommend is the DASH diet, which again is just a diet that wants you to restrict calories and eat more whole foods.
What should people be skeptical of when they join weight loss programs?
Everything. Be skeptical of everything in this industry. More specifically, if a program seems overly complicated, gimmicky, or restricts entire types of foods or macronutrients then those should be major red flags. Getting healthy shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg either so stay away from programs that are high in price.
What are some of the best tips to keep people motivated and on track when they are trying to lose weight?
Something important to remember is that it’s not going to happen overnight. Dedication and discipline are the two most important things to keep in mind. Something I’ve always reminded my trainees when they don’t feel like working out is that you really never regret going to the gym, but you’ll always regret it not going.
Nothing worth having is handed to you. Put in hard work, stay patient, and the results will come.
How does one determine how much physical activity they need to do?
The general population should just focus on doing more than what they are currently doing. As a beginner I would start by aiming for three to four days a week of thirty minutes to an hour of some form of extracurricular activity or exercise to increase the heart rate.
A lot of people look at numbers and sometimes don’t realize that what they are losing is water weight and not fat. How does one work at losing fat and what is some basic information one needs to know?
The people that I come across most that obsess over weight loss numbers are going to be those that are addicted to cardio. They also are typically the people that seem to find themselves watching their weight on the scale bounce up and down due to water fluctuations. This is a simple fix. I would reserve doing cardio for improving cardiovascular health and not as the primary means to weight loss. Sounds crazy, right? There is a time and a place for cardio and sadly the majority of people use it in the wrong way. I’m not saying that it’s not an effective way to lose weight, because it most certainly can be. The problem is that most use it as their only means for weight loss or to make up for a poor diet and there are better ways to go about it.
In terms of determining fat loss when water weight fluctuation can be an issue a measuring tape is going to be much more accurate than a scale.
Do you believe in using supplements? How does a person know which supplements to take? What are some you suggest?
Supplements can be beneficial for some, but are not necessary for all. Unfortunately, most supplements are practically worthless in the grand scheme of things. I see the supplement industry as a big joke full of scams and lies. The benefit of supplements is more found in their convenience, but they are not and should be used as a direct replacement for whole foods and a properly balanced diet only as a means to make sure you’re getting everything you need.
Determining what supplements to take as a beginner can be quite overwhelming. The reason being is that a lot of people want results from a bottle or a magic pill. They want a shortcut. Well, news flash everyone there is no shortcut. Putting in hard work and following a good diet are what will get you the results you seek over time.
Typically, I don’t suggest a lot for people outside of whey protein, creatine monohydrate, a good multi-vitamin, and then whatever else the person may be individually deficient in determined by their average dietary intake or locale.
What are some emotional things you feel people struggle with that prevent them from being successful and altering their health choices?
There is way too much of people comparing themselves to others. It is human nature for us to do this, but people put entirely too much focus into trying to look like someone else that is at their peak condition as opposed to just wanting to feel better and get healthier themselves. Those people that are often getting compared to like models, actors/actresses, bodybuilders, and athletes have worked for years and years on their physiques and aren’t always built using the same methods that the general population have access to. It’s okay to be inspired by other people, but keep your focus on yourself. Try not to compare your weaknesses with the strengths of others.
What’s the hardest part about losing weight?
Weight isn’t that hard to lose. You can chop off your legs and.. voila!.. weight loss. A shift in energy balance is all it takes for weight loss. However, finding the balance of fat loss and retaining lean muscle (fat free) mass can be tricky and that is what should be the goal.
In the long run the hardest part is going to be having the dedication day in and day out to be proactive in achieving your goals. No one can give this to you. You have to wake up every single day with the passion to make a difference in your own life.
Dear American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),
Last week, reinvigorated by some fresh young blood, season 14 of the prime-time weight loss extravaganza known as The Biggest Loser enjoyed its most watched premiere in its nine-year history. And when I say young blood I mean it, as this season marks the first time that The Biggest Loser has included children in the mix — two 13-year-olds and one 16-year-old round out the cast.
While I personally find the show to be an emotionally and physically abusive, misinformative, horror show, it’s clearly beloved and trusted by many — that record premiere was reported to have been viewed by over 7-million people. And while my personal opinions shouldn’t concern you, the peer-reviewed medical literature stemming from The Biggest Loser, as well as the AAP’s implicit endorsement of the show, should.
Perhaps not surprisingly given what appears to be the overarching theme of the show — that obesity is the individually controlled consequence of gluttony and laziness — a study published in the journal Obesity this past May demonstrated that watching even a single episode of The Biggest Loser dramatically increased hateful weight bias among viewers — an effect that was heightened among non-overweight viewers.
Given this season’s causal billing as a “big, bold mission: to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic head-on,” no doubt viewers are going to be looking to the teachings of The Biggest Loser to help with their children’s struggles. Therefore along with being taught that obesity is treatable by means of incredible amounts of vomit-inducing exercise, severe dietary restriction, and never-ending servings of guilt and shame, the medical literature suggests viewers will also be taught that failure is an obese child’s personal choice — something that their bullies have been saying forever. Indeed increasing hateful weight bias is the last thing America’s already over-bullied overweight children need as a recent study on bullying published in the journal Pediatrics found that the odds for being bullied for an overweight child were 63 per cent higher than their lighter peers.
The metabolic impact of The Biggest Loser’s weight loss formula of exercising a minimum of 4 hours a day while enduring a highly restrictive diet has also been studied. Using indirect calorimetry and doubly labelled water researchers determined that by week 30 participants’ metabolisms were decimated — they had slowed by 504 more calories per day than would have been expected simply as a consequence of their losses. This led the study’s authors to conclude (emphasis mine):
“Unfortunately, fat free mass preservation did not prevent the slowing of metabolic rate during active weight loss, which may predispose to weight regain unless the participants maintain high levels of physical activity or significant caloric restriction.”
This finding may help to explain why according to the three Biggest Loser alumni I recently interviewed, 85-90 per cent of participants regain their weight, and where more often than not those who do sustain their losses have translated those losses into careers as personal trainers or motivational speakers. The fact that The Biggest Loser trainers have gone on record this year and formally reported that they won’t yell at the show’s children is a testament to the ugliness of the show as a whole. And regardless of how the children are treated, it doesn’t change what seems to be the show’s ultimate message: that happiness, self worth, success, and pride are wholly determined by the numbers on a scale and that people, now including children, who remain obese are lazy gluttons who just don’t want it badly enough. As horrifying as that message is, more horrifying that it’s being promoted under the AAP’s own banner as the show has recruited Dr. Joanna Dolgoff as their pediatrician and new on-screen character. Reading her biography on NBC’s The Biggest Loser page reveals just six words in that she’s also an, “official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
The biggest losers each and every season aren’t in fact the contestants, they’re the viewers. By watching The Biggest Loser and basing their devoted adoration only on the proverbial “after” pictures, but not the “after-after” pictures, viewers are being taught non-sustainable approaches to weight management that in turn the medical literature suggests promote hatred of those who struggle with their weight, and potentially of themselves.
That children are involved in the show this year will likely increase the number of children watching and in so doing increase already rampant school-based weight-related child bullying. It may well also lead young overweight or obese viewers to feel even more guilt, shame and self-loathing than they already feel which in turn might heighten their risks of developing body image and eating disorders. Truly, if guilt, shame or self-loathing were sufficient for weight loss the world would be skinny as those who struggle with their weight, especially children, have no shortage of those particularly painful emotions.
Please do the right thing. Speak up about The Biggest Loser. I would argue that it’s poisoning an already sick nation and right now it would appear that you’re in fact fully and officially on board.
Yoni Freedhoff, MD
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
Faculty of Medicine
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute
Using the Minimum Effective Dose for Fat Loss
The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is defined as “The smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.”
That only makes sense, right? To do the least amount possible that gets you what you want. However, for some oddball reason, when it comes to fat loss, people do the exact opposite. They pull out all of the stops. They slash calories and start strength training 5-6 days per week, along with a few HIIT sessions. In addition to that, they eliminate all carbohydrates except for 30g post-workout, begin taking fat burners, swear off dairy, gluten, grains, sugar, soy, and alcohol, and are doing fasted cardio every morning.
Whoa buddy. I admire the gumption, however there are two problems with the above scenario:
- You will likely start off great and then, because willpower is finite and you are attempting to stretch it in multiple directions like it’s Silly Putty, it will (to put it technically) peter out, and
- You won’t have any tricks to pull from your hat when your fat loss plateaus, and trust me, you will eventually plateau.
One of the most common mistakes that I see when it comes time to shed some fat is that people go totally overboard. They bust out of the gate going a million miles per hour, only to immediately crash and burn. Why do more than you have to when it comes to nutrition and training? This is akin a t-shirt costing $10, yet you insist on paying $20. Silly.
Keep it simple.
Cut out the mindless snacking, adjust your diet by cutting out the majority of foods that aren’t dense in nutrients (typically this is processed foods — which can still be eaten, but in moderation and small amounts), and don’t overdo it at the gym.
Whereas I am more of the position to tell people that understanding calories and macronutrients fundamentally will be most beneficial in the long run there are many people out there that are overwhelmed by these finer details of a dietary intake. Understandably so I might add. These people, that don’t want to understand calculating macronutrients, should consider to simply cut out the majority of processed foods in their diet. Not all, but most. I wrote more about this in 2012 with my article Easy Mode Dieting (EMD): Better Body Composition Using Moderation.
This is a great piece by Jen Keck over on Juggernaut Training Systems. It’s a great reminder for many people starting out on a fat loss journey to keep it simple and make sure that you aren’t overdoing it — which can place you in a position to fail down the line. Remember to do what needs to be done to get going in the right direction and to stay the course. Persistence and dedication is everything.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, are overweight. It is no wonder why people are becoming more and more obsessed with dieting when the numbers point to growing increases in weight and health risks. This is not to mention that the pressure to look leaner is constantly placed in front of us through advertisements in magazines, movies, and television. Many of these overweight individuals suffer with an inability to diet successfully due to a glaring misunderstanding of what you eat being more important than how much you eat. In order to remedy this people must thoughtfully consume fewer calories than their body requires to maintain its current weight and this should be done through the reduction of calories from food and getting regular exercise, not through the new fad diet.
The problem is that people who are attempting to diet are often following plans that cut out entire food groups or macronutrients which is leading them to an inability to stick to the given program due to their restrictive nature giving them a poor relationship with food. Instead of seeking education on the fundamentals of nutrition they blindly follow the shiny new advertising of the latest fad diet. Will some of these fad diets work? Yes, but they are not beneficial to the long term success of the dieter nor do these programs typically educate the person participating on how to be healthier and more active.
The 1980’s are widely regarded as the start of the fitness revolution where dietary fat was seen as the sole enemy to those looking to get into better shape. Whereas now we know dietary fat as one of the leading nutrients our body needs to stay hormonally balanced and to aide in recovery from exercise. Along came further scare of fats in the 1990’s and now eggs were public enemy number one. This brought upon an irrational fear of the cholesterol in egg yolks being bad for us, which from a study done by K. Mayurasakorn in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand it was shown that eating eggs every day actually raises the good cholesterol levels of our body and even provides us with necessary fats that we need for day to day living. Presently we are seeing many different things being touted as the new number one enemy of those that want to diet, but none bigger than that of the carbohydrate. Diets such as Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and Keto are the biggest names featuring this growing fear of carbohydrates. It is honestly put best as an irrational fear as studies have shown that lower carbohydrate diets are not superior than diets balanced in macronutrients as long as a caloric deficit below a person’s caloric maintenance intake is sustained.
“A closing point I want to make has been demonstrated in Hu et al’s recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of low-carb and low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors. Despite subtle differences, in a total of 23 trials (2788 subjects) a rather anticlimactic lack of significant therapeutic advantage was seen in any particular type of diet. Notably, the low-carb treatments ranged from 4 to 45% carbohydrate. This reinforces the principle that we humans are extremely versatile when it comes to diet. We can achieve excellent health on a very wide range of macronutrient compositions. The supremacy of a single type of diet (e.g., low-carb or low-fat) simply lacks evidence.” -Alan Aragon, M.S.
Restriction of entire food groups and macronutrients often leads to an over obsessive mentality that food is working against us and not for us. Many times people will take an extremist mentality, going all or nothing with their new eating habits once dieting, labeling foods as good and bad or as clean and dirty, instead of seeing food as fuel for the body and seeing the impactful benefits it provides. Steven Bratman, MD coined this extremist mentality orthorexia nervosa by detailing that it “indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” More often than not this unhealthy restriction of certain foods and nutrients from obsessive behavior leads to only short term success for dieters and does not bring them closer to an understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition and being able to carry over long term success of a healthy body weight and a healthy mind for the rest of their lives.
The most important element in creating a successful diet while maintaining a positive relationship with food is to simplify the education. However, a problem with gaining a more solid foundation featuring the principles of nutrition is that there is so much misinformation already out there and readily available. You can easily get lost in too much detail or pointed in the wrong direction by a bad source and spend too much time focusing on something inaccurate. You should always take a science based approach when it comes to the fundamentals of nutrition. Taking this approach will provide you with proven research and results as opposed to just what sounds right or what someone with a nice physique has told you about. The basics that are necessary to understand is that the calories (energy that we take into our body from foods) versus the energy expenditure (calories that are burned through resting metabolic rate and daily activity) is what creates the basic caloric deficit or surplus in the overall energy balance making us either lose or gain weight. More important than what we eat it is how much we eat, as this was shown in a study by Richard Surwit in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where “results showed that a high sucrose content in a hypoenergetic … diet did not adversely affect weight loss.”
Eating smaller portions is a guaranteed method to reduce the calories being consumed on a daily basis in order to jump start a mindset for weight loss. Unfortunately, some bring themselves to an extremist mentality eating much too little which can be detrimental to the metabolism and lead to even more harmful situations such as developing an eating disorder like anorexia. In order to combat this it is best only to slightly reduce the portions by opting for smaller sizes of overall meals or sticking to one serving instead of two. A person should plan to consciously decrease their portions in minimal amounts through focusing on eating a portion that is only slightly less than what it has been previously as to avoid any negative repercussions of major calorie restriction. Perhaps you find that you eat bigger portions due to an increased appetite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that “if you feel hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit or small salad, to avoid overeating during your next meal.”
It is quickly learned for anyone that has made the decision to lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle that there needs to be a relationship built between nutrition and exercise. Whereas you can lose weight through dieting alone with a caloric deficit it will increase the rate of weight loss plus improve your overall health to implement an exercise routine. Exercise alone, however, is often not going to be enough to fix a poor diet. This has been shown time and time again through individuals that lead an active lifestyle that still are unable to achieve a loss in weight from not following a proper diet with the purpose of weight reduction. However, in a study by Christina J. Paez done at the University of New Mexico it was shown that subjects who performed exercise along with a diet consisting of an energy deficit achieved greater amounts of weight loss and were able to maintain the results well after the study concluded.
The ever growing problem of the inability to diet in order to lose weight is not only based on the misconception that what you eat matters more than how much you eat, but it is that we already know enough. If we already know enough then why isn’t the tide shifting? According to studies done and published in the Los Angeles Times 42% of the world’s population will be obese by 2030. There is no greater gift that we have received than that of life and to ensure that we are able to live these lives in whichever way we desire we must fight to maintain healthy body weights. “Public health experts have concluded that the best way to attack the obesity crisis is to prevent people from becoming obese in the first place” (Los Angeles Times). That sounds fairly obvious, but it’s not being placed into practice. There are too many people attempting to educate themselves once already overweight or in an unhealthy state instead of arming themselves to keep the problem from occurring. In order to combat this growing epidemic of unhealthy body weights with a proper ability to lose weight and diet successfully an understanding must be reached that the scientific fundamentals of weight loss through an energy deficit combined with regular exercise are needed by overweight individuals. The choice is simply to learn more about the subject and put the subject into practice or to shorten our life spans through our own blatant ignorance.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Healthy Eating for Healthy Weight: Portion Size.” 2012.
- Hu, T et al. “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets Versus Low-Fat Diets on Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.” 2012.
- Mayurasakorn, K et al. “High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Changes After Continuous Egg Consumption in Healthy Adults.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 91.3 (2008): 400-407.
- Los Angeles Times. “42% of American Adults Will Be Obese.“ Melissa Healy. 2012.
- Steven Bratman. “Orthorexia Nervosa.” Steven Bratman, M.D., 2010.
- Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and Behavioral Effects of a High-Sucrose Diet During Weight Loss.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65.4 (2012): 908-915. Print.
- University of New Mexico. “Exercise vs. Diet in Weight Loss.” Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Christina J. Paez et al. 2000.
- World Health Organization. “WHO | Obesity and Overweight.”
Summer is always closer than you think and so this means that the idea of being out in public wearing nothing but a bathing suit in front of everyone crosses many of our minds on a regular basis. For some it is an opportunity to show off what hard work and discipline will get you while others are panicking to find a perfect diet that will let them shed the last few pounds. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention up to 68% of all adults are overweight. Saying that the majority of people will be disappointed in their dieting efforts isn’t a hunch, it’s a fact. We are a society that loves to diet to lose weight, but can’t do it successfully.
Dieting hasn’t always been a concern for people. In fact, before the first recorded diet comprised of consuming only liquid calories from alcohol in 1087 by King William I overweight people were seen to be of greater wealth and of more importance. A bigger belt size meant a bigger wallet in those times, but my how things have changed. Now it seems that the thinner the individual the more successful they are perceived.
In the beginning of the 20th century dieting began to take shape featuring ideas such as, the Inuit diet where participators would eat only meat or fat, and George Harrop’s diet in which a person only consumed bananas and fat free milk. Later into the 1960s a popular dieting system was developed by Jean Nidetch that was pillared by ideas of group support, encouragement and following a style of smarter eating and healthier living. With this program members would meet weekly to share experiences and gain information from one another on how to achieve better results in their efforts. The program proved to be so successful that it is still widely used today under the same name as it started with, Weight Watchers.
Unfortunately for society there isn’t just one diet though. There are literally hundreds of fad diets and styles of eating that are available. How are you supposed to know which one is right? How are you supposed to tell one that is focused on getting you to better health instead of just taking your hard earned money? The weight loss industry was worth a staggering $60.9 billion in 2010 alone according to a report done by Marketdata Enterprises, so to think that all diets are in it for the good of your health would be quite naïve. Every time you open a magazine there is a new perfect diet to follow. Watch an interview for the new blockbuster movie out this weekend and you’ll hear about how the lead actor got in shape for their role following some new diet gimmick. Dieting is everywhere in our society and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Temptation can wreck a diet in a matter of minutes. You have been successful in losing a substantial amount of weight to the point where friends and family are taking notice. You’ve stuck to your guns on this diet fad and it’s paid off. You feel better, but you’re not happy. You want to lose more weight and you are constantly being reminded of the fact that you can’t eat anything that you want. As you grocery shop the candy aisle taunts you with bright colors and tasty choices. The ice cream cartons call out to you as you’re trying to find frozen vegetables to complete your healthy dinners for the week. Then you get a phone call from your best friend asking you to come out to a restaurant for some company. You know the place well. It has delicious food, cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. You go and you’ll break your diet and be miserable. You don’t go and you’ll stick to your diet, but you’re still miserable because you missed out on a good time and your social life has become non-existent. You just can’t win in that scenario unless you change your outlook. Temptation is hard to beat, but if you give in every now and again then temptation subsides. In a study put out by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where participants ate a diet abnormally high in sugar content author Richard Surwit said, “We therefore conclude that the use of sucrose in a weight-loss regimen is unlikely to cause problems for the average patient, as long as total energy intake is restricted.”
Being burdened with an overwhelming amount of choices and kinds of diets, all which bring different information to the table claiming to be the right way to go, we are left with a society that flip-flops between diet programs and constantly yo-yos between overweight and attempting to diet. Due to this abundance of diet programs using contradictory information to achieve goals dieters are being guided down a very unsuccessful path. Typically these programs want to put focus on eating a certain way that consists of focusing on the intake of a particular nutrient and the exclusion of another nutrient in a person’s diet. These styles can range from not eating carbohydrates, lowering the amount of dietary fat eaten, the removal of all sugar or just not eating any food that has been processed. However, in a study done by The New England Journal of Medicine author Frank Sacks found that participants in four different dieting groups all featuring different nutrient intakes were able to successfully lose weight over three years as long as each person adhered to eating a lower total amount of calories each day. It would seem that the finer details of the diet programs are not necessarily the most important part as long as someone successfully follows a lower caloric intake on a day to day basis.
However, is our ability to successfully follow a diet necessarily our fault when something as common as stress is causing us to gain more weight? A study conducted at Yale University and published in Science Daily showed that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can’t control all the situations you’re placed in and inevitably this is going to lead to stress, which in turn can lead to weight gain. Nonetheless, we absolutely can control the way that we react to a given situation which can lead to a decrease in stress and subsequently keep us from the unwanted gain in weight and give us the ability to follow a diet successfully.
The trend of dieting isn’t going to go away anytime soon. The desire to look better and feel better is always going to be important to our culture. We can, however, learn to lose weight successfully and to become healthier if we make an effort to change things. First, we need a do over with our education on the subject. Society needs to be grounded in factual scientific evidence of how weight loss is achieved successfully and not enamored with the next big diet craze or just what seems to be the popular route. Once we understand how it works fundamentally we can start to relax a bit and not sweat the small details. Restricting ourselves from foods we enjoy or avoiding events involving food like birthdays or weddings will lead to a self-destructive path featuring a feeling that weight loss is a burden on our social lives. Giving in a little when you’re putting in a lot of self-discipline to lose weight will only make the ends of dieting justify the means of eating less more understood.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.”
- Marketdata Enterprises. “U.S. Weight Loss Market Worth.” John LaRosa. [http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8393658.htm].
- Surwit, Richard S. et al. “Metabolic and behavioral effects of a high-sucrose diet during weight loss.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65.4 (2012): 908-915.
- The New England Journal of Medicine. “Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates.” Sacks, FM et al.
- Yale University. “Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal.” ScienceDaily.
A closing point I want to make has been demonstrated in Hu et al’s recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of low-carb and low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors. Despite subtle differences, in a total of 23 trials (2788 subjects) a rather anticlimactic lack of significant therapeutic advantage was seen in any particular type of diet. Notably, the low-carb treatments ranged from 4 to 45% carbohydrate. This reinforces the principle that we humans are extremely versatile when it comes to diet. We can achieve excellent health on a very wide range of macronutrient compositions. The supremacy of a single type of diet (e.g., low-carb or low-fat) simply lacks evidence.- Alan Aragon
I received this question a few days ago and thought I would answer it publicly here seeing as I would guess more than one person might have this exact same question.
Well, there is no magic trick or best tip. I would assume you already realized this, but it’s worth reiterating. The be all end all of losing weight will be that you find something that you can stick to (dedication) and that you incorporate these three main philosophies.
- eat less
- repeat often
You may also want to transition your mentality from “weight” loss to “fat” loss. You can chop off an arm to lose weight, but who in the hell wants to do that? Furthermore, no one wants to lose their sexy lean body mass (muscle) they’ve worked hard for as weight either and then come out looking just like skin and bones sans fat. We typically hear the word “tone” when someone is referring to losing fat and retaining that sexy lean body mass.
The best recommendation I can give you is to adjust your caloric intake to lower than what it is (not much, but slightly below what you believe to be your maintenance caloric intake — this could just be decreasing your portions), increase your activity (you can do cardio if you wish, but it is not the most optimal — resistance/weight training is king), and eat enough food (this is where the whole “don’t eat too little” comes in to play) to fuel your workouts, recover properly, and stay satiated while not wrecking your metabolism from too low of a caloric deficit. The food you eat a majority of should be good sources of lean protein, fruits, veggies, and other fibrous carbohydrates. Throw in some of your favorite treats every now and again in moderation to keep yourself sane. I’m serious. Eat that “bad” food every now and again. It’s not going to hurt you as long as it’s done to a minimal degree.
I’ll be putting out a post soon of important things to know and baseline recommendations for optimal fat loss and general health.
The nutrition page has been completed and can be accessed in it’s entirety here. This section will continue to be updated with new articles and research as time goes on. Previous articles have been updated to reflect current research and information.
Below you will find the articles located on the nutrition page. Please feel free to look over these if you haven’t already and even if you have seen them before it is always a great idea to get a refresher on these topics.
- Calculating Calories and Macronutrients
- Calculating Calories and Macronutrients Simplified
- Tracking Calories and Macronutrients
- Nutrient Timing: Does When You Eat Matter?
- Creatine: Details and Recommendation
- Whole Eggs vs. Egg Whites
- The Diet Soda Myths
- Intermittent Fasting
- The Truth About Alcohol
- Organic Foods
If you have any questions or feedback please use the contact page.
Alan, what is your general philosophy on food sources regardless if the individuals is in a caloric surplus or deficit, the phrase “Clean Eating” is thrown around a lot. Could you shed some light on research or any information regarding utilizing different sources that may be considered bad and the impact it may/may not have on body composition?
You know that the cleanest food in the world is? Hydrogenated vegetable oil. It was originally developed for the purpose of making soap. Pretty damn clean, I’d say. On a more serious note, the “clean” label is very misleading when applied to individual foods. There’s no way a food can be judged in isolation from the rest of the diet. To give an example, most people would call celery a “clean” or healthy food, and ice cream a “dirty” or unhealthy food. In the far-fetched/hypothetical scenario of being forced to choose only one of those foods to survive on, guess which one would sustain your health (and ultimately your life) longer? Hopefully you chose ice cream over celery, unless you’re anxious to knock on Heaven’s door. The point is, labeling foods as clean or dirty ignores context, and ignoring context is just plain dumb. I think that’s it’s intuitively obvious that the diet should consist mostly of whole & minimally refined foods. But still, it’s not all that simple, since certain foods are significantly altered from their original state (i.e., whey protein powder), but still have positive impacts on health. I wrote an in-depth article on the “clean eating” topic here. It’s a long article but worth the read for anyone interested. I think it’s been very amusing to see the definition of “clean” vary widely according to highly subjective criteria.
Read more of the interview at Machine Muscle.
Nothing! Everything’s Fine in Moderation
Health gurus may gasp in horror, but Alan Aragon, a southern California-based nutritionist who works with professional athletes, welcomes pretty much anything into his diet. “There are no foods I can think of that I would completely avoid,” he says. “I like to say, ‘avoid food avoidance.’ This helps reinforce the principle that everything — and I mean everything — is fine in moderation.”
French fries? Cheese curds? Taco Bell’s Dorito-shell tacos? It’s all acceptable. “Junk food can be eaten as often as you want — even daily — as long as it only comprises a minor proportion of your overall calories for the day. This allows people to not feel boxed into a diet that has no leeway for letting your hair down,” says Aragon. “I’ve always said that life is far too long to spend on a strict diet.”
Aragon cites studies looking at ‘orthorexia nervosa’ — an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. ”It reminds me of the counterproductive dietary perfectionism I’ve seen among many athletes, trainers and coaches. One of the fundamental pitfalls of dichotomizing foods as good or bad, or clean or dirty, is that it can form a destructive relationship with food,” he says.
In a 1999 study, researchers found that flexible dieting was associated with less overeating, lower body weight and better psychological health. Extremely strict dieting was linked to the opposite. Aragon believes those who restrict themselves too much can end up overeating later. “Anyone who spends enough time among fitness buffs knows that these findings are not off the mark,” says Aragon.
Aragon is by no means encouraging junk food binges, but for him, everything in moderation is just fine.
This excerpt comes from the very last page of this article. Unfortunately, the entire article is comprised almost entirely of the same old poor information until you hit this page featuring Alan Aragon.
If you’d like to read more on Alan Aragon’s insights to nutrition and fitness I would recommend checking out his article The Dirt On Clean Eating.
Also, if you’d like to know more about moderate dieting for a healthier lifestyle check out a few previous posts that have been featured here such as:
It took every ounce of my self-control to not just type, “duh!” as my only comment for this article today.
Normally I would not have posted up an article that I feel is so blatantly obvious, but I truly feel that there are so many people out there that still search for the secret to their weight loss in a pill bottle or through a specific, special diet.
Weight loss is achieved through the creation of an energy deficit. Repeat it. Weight loss is achieved through the creation of an energy deficit. If your body is outputting more energy then it is taking in then you will attain loss of body weight. In the simplest terms this means if you consume less calories then your body uses to produce energy then ta-freaking-da — weight loss!
Alright, we’ve gotten the absolute most important point out of the way, but before I let you jump into the article I want to point out a few other things of importance when it comes to losing weight.
1. Eat a diet that is comprised of a majority of whole/nutrient-dense foods.
2. Consume a caloric amount under what your body uses for energy.
3. Get active. Lift weights. Run. Dance. Do gymnastics. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as what you’re doing is something that you enjoy, can make a habit and gets your heart rate up. — Now, I could go on to mention that some things can be a bit more beneficial and effective than others to maximize weight loss, but that’s breaking into something a little bit more in depth than I’d like to go into for my comment on this article.
That’s it, seriously. Move more and eat less.
The research reviewer, Melinda Manore, does provide some basic tips for beginners at the bottom of the article that I do happen to agree with which is why I’ve left them included. — Oh, but of course I am against ever completely eliminating or scapegoating any specific foods and/or macronutrients from a person’s diet if they provide benefits to the person physically, mentally or emotionally. This seems to be the case with carobhydrates and processed foods for many, myself included.
Just remember, it’s all about moderation with your diet people!
ScienceDaily (Mar. 6, 2012) — An Oregon State University researcher has reviewed the body of evidence around weight loss supplements and has bad news for those trying to find a magic pill to lose weight and keep it off — it doesn’t exist.
Melinda Manore reviewed the evidence surrounding hundreds of weight loss supplements, a $2.4 billion industry in the United States, and said no research evidence exists that any single product results in significant weight loss — and many have detrimental health benefits.
The study is online in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
A few products, including green tea, fiber and low-fat dairy supplements, can have a modest weight loss benefit of 3-4 pounds (2 kilos), but it is important to know that most of these supplements were tested as part of a reduced calorie diet.
“For most people, unless you alter your diet and get daily exercise, no supplement is going to have a big impact,” Manore said.
Manore looked at supplements that fell into four categories: products such as chitosan that block absorption of fat or carbohydrates, stimulants such as caffeine or ephedra that increase metabolism, products such as conjugated linoleic acid that claim to change the body composition by decreasing fat, and appetite suppressants such as soluble fibers.
She found that many products had no randomized clinical trials examining their effectiveness, and most of the research studies did not include exercise. Most of the products showed less than a two-pound weight loss benefit compared to the placebo groups.
“I don’t know how you eliminate exercise from the equation,” Manore said. “The data is very strong that exercise is crucial to not only losing weight and preserving muscle mass, but keeping the weight off.”
Manore, professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at OSU, is on the Science Board for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Her research is focused on the interaction of nutrition and exercise on health and performance.
“What people want is to lose weight and maintain or increase lean tissue mass,” Manore said. “There is no evidence that any one supplement does this. And some have side effects ranging from the unpleasant, such as bloating and gas, to very serious issues such as strokes and heart problems.”
As a dietician and researcher, Manore said the key to weight loss is to eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats, reduce calorie intake of high-fat foods, and to keep moving. Depending on the individual, increasing protein may be beneficial (especially for those trying to not lose lean tissue), but the only way to lose weight is to make a lifestyle change.
“Adding fiber, calcium, protein and drinking green tea can help,” Manore said. “But none of these will have much effect unless you exercise and eat fruits and vegetables.”
Manore’s general guidelines for a healthy lifestyle include:
- Do not leave the house in the morning without having a plan for dinner. Spontaneous eating often results in poorer food choices.
- If you do eat out, start your meal with a large salad with low-calorie dressing or a broth-based soup. You will feel much fuller and are less likely to eat your entire entrée. Better yet: split your entrée with a dining companion or just order an appetizer in addition to your soup or salad.
- Find ways to keep moving, especially if you have a sedentary job. Manore said she tries to put calls on speaker phone so she can walk around while talking. During long meetings, ask if you can stand or pace for periods so you don’t remain seated the entire time
- Put vegetables into every meal possible. Shred vegetables into your pasta sauce, add them into meat or just buy lots of bags of fruits/vegetables for on-the-go eating.
- Increase your fiber. Most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber. When possible, eat “wet” sources of fiber rather than dry — cooked oatmeal makes you feel fuller than a fiber cracker.
- Make sure to eat whole fruits and vegetables instead of drinking your calories. Eat an apple rather than drink apple juice. Look at items that seem similar and eat the one that physically takes up more space. For example, eating 100 calories of grapes rather than 100 calories of raisins will make you feel fuller.
- Eliminate processed foods. Manore said research increasingly shows that foods that are harder to digest (such as high fiber foods) have a greater “thermic effect” — or the way to boost your metabolism.
- Melinda M. Manore. Dietary Supplements for Improving Body Composition and Reducing Body Weight: Where is the evidence?International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2012 [link]