Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

What if everything you ever learned about weight loss was wrong? What if losing weight has nothing to do with calories—counting them or cutting them out by sheer willpower? What if, in fact, most health professionals (including doctors and dietitians), our own government and especially the food industry are giving us weight loss advice guaranteed to make us fat?

Here’s their mantra: “Eat less and exercise more. The secret to weight loss is energy balance. There are no good or bad calories. It’s all about moderation.”

If you doubt that this advice could be wrong, just look around. We have tripled our obesity rates since 1960, and in the last decade, cases of type 2 diabetes in children have increase by over 30 percent. In 1980, there were no children with type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult onset diabetes), and now, there are over 50,000. Seven out of ten people are overweight. The advice is not working. Could it be the wrong advice?

Nobody wakes up in the morning saying, “Hey, I want to gain weight today. I am going to overeat. I want to be fat.”

Rather, we have a $60 billion weight loss industry. It specializes in helping people count calories, eat less and exercise more. When are we going to realize that that our approach—as a scientific community and as policy makers—is failing miserably at stemming the tsunami of obesity and related health, social and economic costs?

Could it be we have it all wrong?

The answer is yes. Our focus on calories has missed the mark entirely. Even if you held the Guinness world record for calorie counting, you could easily be off by 100 calories a day. Do that for 30 years, and you will be 20 to 30 pounds overweight.

The End of Counting Calories

It’s not that Isaac Newton and his first law of thermodynamics was wrong. It’s right—energy is conserved in a system. This is the whole foundation of our calories in/calories out, energy balance concept of weight loss. Just eat less and exercise more, and all the pounds will melt off.

But there is one fatal flaw in that thinking. The law states that energy is conserved in a “system.” It is true that, in a vacuum, all calories are the same. A thousand calories of Sprite and a thousand calories of spinach burned in a laboratory will release the same amount of energy.

But all bets are off when you eat the Sprite or the spinach. These foods have to be processed by your metabolism (not a closed system). Sprite and spinach trigger very different biochemical responses in the body—different hormones, neurotransmitters and immune messengers.

The Sprite will spike blood sugar and insulin and disrupt neurotransmitters, leading to increased hunger and fat storage, while the thousand calories of spinach will balance blood sugar and make you feel full, cut your appetite and increase fat burning.

Same calories—profoundly different effects on your body.

There are many studies showing just how different sugar and fat calories are. Most scientists still hold on to the dogma that fat makes you fat, that fat causes high cholesterol and that low fat is the way to go to live a long healthy life. Plenty of evidence proves otherwise. What if the fact that this conventional wisdom is completely wrong is what has actually caused our obesity epidemic?

5 Take Home Lessons: Forget the Calories, Focus on the Quality of Your Diet

Here are the take home lessons from Dr. Ludwig’s paper:

  • Overeating doesn’t make you fat. Your fat cells make you overeat.
  • Restricting your calories will slow your metabolism, make you hungry and guarantee that your weight loss attempts will fail.
  • Eating a higher fat, higher protein, lower sugar and refined carb diet will speed up your metabolism and cut your hunger.
  • Controlling what you eat is much easier than controlling how much you eat.
  • Forget calorie counting. It’s not about the calories but about diet quality and dietary composition. Just try eating 1,000 calories of spinach.

To learn more about weight loss and how to make it personal to you, contact me!