It’s that time of the week, month, year, and your life. It’s the time when you decide that you’re finally going to buckle down and embark on your weight loss journey. But which road will you travel down? This week HCBL.com is going to try and help you by offering up the various options for you to consider. Everything from cheap, to expensive, and even outrageous. We’ll give you the skinny, on which weight loss methods work best, and what you can expect in terms of dieting programs to help you reach your weight loss goals.
When it comes to dieting, it’s as wide open a marketplace as buying a new car. There are so many different factors to think about. Caloric intake, fat intake, carb intake, good carbs vs. bad carbs, dieting for diabetes, dieting for high blood pressure, effective diet supplements, effective dieting programs, pre-packaged dieting meals, and even dieting for your body type! I’m sure many readers are working up a sweat already just getting through that list. Thankfully, as always, we’re here to give you all the information you’ll need about the above methods. We’ll break them down for you, give you the pros and cons, and offer a method for determining what works and what doesn’t.
The first thing to take into account is what most every weight loss product or technique likely won’t go over, which is what proper weight loss is all about. For many people, weight loss is simply a numbers game. Many people do not realize that ultimately your body is comprised of energy, and when you eat food, you’re simply taking in a source of energy that will get broken down into it’s particular energy types that your body may or may not need. This factor also applies to weight loss. The simple equation being that you need to expend almost as much energy as you take in on a daily basis in order to close the gap, thus resulting in weight loss.
What most people won’t be able to answer is, “What is a calorie?” They’re all over our food labels, even our drink labels. We’re counting them constantly in terms of dieting, but we don’t even know what they are. Quite simply put, a calorie is nothing more than a unit of measure for energy. Some of you may remember an article we published back in March having to deal with supplement labels, this week we’re going to look at the basics of a nutrition label because it will help you to understand what to look for and what to avoid when you shop for your particular dieting option of choice.
Here we have a generic food label. What’s surprising is that it’s not very different from a supplement label. You have your serving size, servings per container, nutritional values, daily values, and ingredients used in the product. So some of this may be repeat; however, there are very specific ways in which this label greatly differs. The first being the servings. In a supplement you typically only have one serving per the ingredients listed, in food you may have several servings “per container” and yet the numbers you’re looking at are simply for the “serving size.” So while initially the caloric count for this product looks to be low at 155, when you multiply that by the 4 servings in the container, you end up with 620.
Now if this were a label for a package of 4 muffins, the likelihood that you would exceed one serving is fairly slim, as most people tend not to buy a package of muffins and consume them all in the same day. However, if this were the label for a bag of chips, that is where the line begins to get fuzzy. It gets fuzzy because chips are a snack food which most people tend not to measure out carefully. They simply open the bag and pour them into a bowl, or eat them right out of the bag. In doing so, the line which divides the serving size almost disappears, and you wind up eating far more than you initially intended. So what started out as a handful of chips that likely had 100 calories, ends up as 1/2 a bag which has over 300.
Progressing down the label we see a few things, most of which are basic components to any food which are: Calories, Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Sugar, and Protein. These are some of the most common nutritional facts, so lets break them down in terms of what they mean in relation to calories. Since calories are a measure of energy, and your body is based on that energy system, it’s good to know as a rule of thumb that one calorie is equal to 14kj (kilojoules) of energy.
Why would knowing that be important? Well first and foremost, I’m sure there are a number of people who have wondered why it is that several types of cardiovascular machines show the amount of energy being produced while you exercise, and how each machine can determine your approximate caloric output. Using energy as a unit of measure, and given your body weight as well as the amount of resistance over the duration of your workout, yields the overall energy which you will produce in your workout. That number is displayed as calories burned.
Getting back to our label we can apply similar energy formulas to determine the caloric count of this product. In other words, the overall calories listed on a product, are a result of the energy that is produced from it’s sources. Without fat, carbs, fibers, etc… food would not have much, if any, energy value and would not be useful to your body. For a clearer example we look at 2Wegmans website which has a comparison chart for caloric counts between types of foods.
From looking at the chart, what you are being shown here is the difference in calories based on their sources. i.e. our first example is a cup of grape tomatoes vs. two french fries. So as we stated above, it’s possible that you can eat only one grape tomato, however you won’t get much from it. Your body will still crave (rumble) more energy in order to fuel your organs and functions. You have to keep in mind that your body is not very different from a car. Much like a car still needs gasoline in order to stay idle at a stop light, your body needs energy to function even if you don’t exercise and lay down most of the day.
So now when we refer to the energy your body needs you’ll have a more complete picture of what we mean. So how do we use all this information towards weight loss. Well, 3“One pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories, so to lose one pound a week, a person should consume approximately 3,500 fewer calories per week. This can be done by reducing the daily intake by 500 calories per day (500 x 7 days will provide a deficit of 3,500 calories per week).”
Given this calculation, along with what we already know, we can begin to formulate how weight loss happens and where it stems from. After all, losing weight is simply a matter of balancing out the intake and output scale of energy that your body has to deal with on a daily basis. So let’s take a look at some of the methods that you can use to go about doing that.
First up is the weight loss supplement train, ALL ABOARD! For years now different companies around the world have marketed weight loss supplements to people promising everything from 5 to 15 pound losses, “in as little as one week!” So the first thing we’re going to look at is the initial claim. We’ll then get into what many of these pills have in common, what does work and what doesn’t work, and what you should watch out for with taking weight loss supplements.
Because we’re not doing product testing with regard to this article, we’ll refrain from mentioning any names, however we will be using a major brand weight loss supplement as an example for this article. In our weight loss supplement we have the following ingredient list:
|Amount Per Serving||%Daily Value|
|Wild Olive extract||n/a|
|Wild Mint extract||n/a|
So looking at this ingredient list we notice a couple things worth mentioning. One is that while the vitamins listed at the very top do, in fact, assist with weight loss, they are in such a small amount that taking a daily vitamin would triple the amount you would get rather than taking this supplement. The second and most notable part of this list is the placement of Caffeine. The reason that Caffeine is listed so high up on the list is because it is a very key ingredient in the “proprietary blend” of this product. Proprietary blend is often another term which is used to mask the actual amounts used in a product so that it cannot be duplicated. However, what is well known is the order that the first listed ingredient is of the most abundance, and the last ingredient being the least used.
Essentially what we are looking at here with the generic weight loss supplement is a caffeine pill. While it holds some properties which may help your body’s metabolism work a bit harder, ultimately, you’re simply increasing the caffeine in your system which gives you the energy to exercise and not feel tired while doing so. The negative effect of this of course is the crash that you will feel afterward, or even the jittery feeling that you may get while on the pill. Doctor Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., writes, 4“Caffeine may slightly boost weight loss or prevent weight gain, but there is no sound evidence that increased caffeine consumption results in significant or permanent weight loss.” These types of weight loss supplements are known to be very ineffective simply because they don’t offer much actual evidence towards weight loss, and because they are listed as a supplement they are not as heavily regulated by the FDA in that regard.
So now lets take a look at some of the all natural vitamins and minerals which have been proven to work. Calcium has been said to have weight loss properties to it, however it’s not quite as effective as one might think. 5“In one analysis, researchers found that dieting women who received 1,000mg of calcium supplements each day lost, on average, more weight and more body fat than women taking a placebo. Although the differences in the amount of weight and fat lost by the two groups were not significant, the trend suggests there could be a relationship between calcium supplements and weight loss.”
Have you ever considered using fat to fight fat? Seems like a silly argument to make, but since there are very different types of fatty acid chains in the foods you eat as well as your body chemistry, it stands to reason that creating an imbalance in the levels of good vs bad fats, can help you lose weight as well. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is a fatty acid chain that occurs naturally in various dairy products as well as in red meat. In several studies that were done among different groups, overweight patients were told to take 3.2grams of CLA each day for six months. After the time period and against their placebo counterparts, the group had not only lost weight but also increased their lean body mass. Sounds like a miracle cure! Yes, that’s right, nothing is without it’s counterpart, side effects. The drawback to using fat as a means of losing weight is that fat naturally creates the component cholesterol. Though at the moment studies are inconclusive as to the ratio, it has been shown that a CLA diet will in fact increase your cholesterol levels which can put you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
On to our next candidate, Fiber. Fiber is a way for your body to excrete the material that doesn’t get fully digested along the way. So a diet which is supplemented with higher fiber would be a way to expel waste in a faster manner. Sasha Stiles, MD, an obesity expert at Tufts Medical Center says that 6“There is enough fairly good research to show that an appropriate amount of fiber, such as bran or psyllium, can do this. Don’t take too much though, because it can stop you up.” As a rule of thumb, men under 50 should consume up to 38 grams of fiber per day, and up to 30 grams per day after age 50. Women under the age of 50 can consume up to 25 grams of fiber per day, and up to 21 grams per day after 50. It’s well known given todays eating habits that most people don’t even get one half of these amounts in their daily diets. So a higher fiber diet may be a good place to start helping your weight loss.
Green Tea, and Green Tea Extract have both been touted as a natural way to lose weight for many years. So what is the secret behind green tea that makes it so effective? The real problem with this weight loss solution is that there have been so many studies done for and against it. The studies which have been done for it have shown that green tea can aid in weight loss and specifically that it helps those who use it manage their body’s energy better. A similar study found that the reason this may be the case is due to the caffeine that is in most green teas. It is suggested that green tea which doesn’t contain caffeine, would not have a similar effect. The only real effects have been seen with green tea extract. A study done by the University of Maryland shows that 7“the combination of green tea and caffeine improved weight loss and maintenance in overweight and moderately obese individuals. Some researchers speculate that the substances in green tea known as polyphenols, specifically the catechins, are responsible for the herb’s fat-burning effect.”
Meal Replacements are another option. Now these aren’t necessarily supplements that you take via pills. This would be something like a shake, or drink, even bars or pre-determined meals. These meal replacements have been shown to work well with those who get used to the schedule which accompanies eating them. The reason for their success is simply due to the fact that the meal replacements fill a majority of your daily caloric need as well as the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you normally would miss out on. In general the only meal left open is dinner, in which you’re given the option to eat whatever you’d like. Because you spend the rest of the day snacking healthy and using meal replacements rather than risking fattening high calorie meals, you’re diet is much more controlled.
Last, but certainly not least, Orlistat or as it’s more commonly known in stores as Alli. Alli is a drug which was specifically created to force the body to block fats from food that you ingest. It is the only FDA approved prescription weight loss medication. That’s right, it’s actually a medication. When the drug was first created it was marketed as Orlistat which required a prescription from your doctor in order to obtain. Now, however, after years of trials and countless success rates, it has been rebranded and sold over the counter as Alli. There has been no change in it’s formula, and it is still the only effective weight loss drug that you can take.
So if this drug actually helps you lose weight, and all you have to do is take a pill, why bother writing an article about any and everything else? Because as we all know, something that sounds too good to be true, tends to have a reason it sounds that way. While Alli has been proven for years to work as a weight loss drug, what most people don’t discuss about it, are the side effects. These side effects can be, irritating at best. The way in which Alli works is that it’s chemical compound encapsulates the fat cells and fatty acids that come from the food that you eat, and once captured, it passes them through your system. It has a 25% effectiveness, which means that you’re always cutting out 25% of the fat from the food that you regularly eat. Quite simply put, the drawback to this drug is that the higher in fat content your food is while taking it, the more you will begin to notice how often you need to use a restroom.
So we’ve discussed all the pill options that are most commonly used. From what we’ve looked into, our best answer to you is that a daily vitamin likely carries enough of the vitamins and minerals that can help you in your weight loss goals. Safe products such as Calcium, Fiber and Green Tea are great ways to further assist your weight loss. Over the counter weight loss pills are often nothing more than caffeine pills which will give you the shakes or hot flashes rather than show any actual results. Meal replacements are a good way to control your eating habits; however, that control has to be maintained in order to see results quickly. Medications are effective, but also not without their side effects. As always, consult your physician before deciding on any of these options, as they may interfere with medications you may currently be taking.
So we’ve looked over all the “miracle,” options that may help you lose weight, now what about the other end of the spectrum? That’s right, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and take a look at some weight loss plans that don’t involve drugs or medications. We know that for many people it is very hard to not only get into the habit of being more active, but also to stay that way. As we get older our joints tend to complain to us more, which then makes us be a bit more sedentary in our lifestyle and simply refer to the fact that we aren’t active as part of, “old age.” That doesn’t have to be the case, in fact, chances are that you don’t have to make many changes to your current lifestyle in order to help you simply have more energy or feel more energetic which will then help inspire you to want to get out even if it’s just to do some gardening, yard work, or going for a walk.
One of the first things to consider is whether the foods you’re eating are the right ones, and if they’re not what you can do about it. At this point most of your are bracing for impact as you don’t want to have to read another line about cutting back on certain foods or taking on some type of crazy diet. Well, hopefully to your surprise, it’s quite the opposite. In fact, it’s often healthier and easier to ADD food to your diet than it is to take food away. 8“Adding in really works, taking away never does.” – David Grotto RD, LDN, registered dietitian. Instead of taking away the foods that you’re currently eating, instead simply add more healthy foods to those current meals. If you tend to eat soups or stew that is hearty and filled with meat. Try adding some veggies to it, the type that you like, even just a handful can help give your body more of the vitamins and minerals that it needs to keep your healthy and energized. In this way you aren’t having to sacrifice anything, and over the long term you may simply make the natural move from an unhealthy eating lifestyle to a healthier one. However, you will have done it at your own pace and in your own way rather than restricting yourself and working hard to stick with it.
So what do you do with all this added energy? Well, where some of you might use the term exercise, we would simply like to remind you that exercise doesn’t always involve strapping on your tennis shoes and going to a gym. Or walking in circles in a park and keeping track of your pace. Exercise comes in many different forms, we just don’t look at it the same way. A great example is washing your car. This takes a great amount of energy, and uses your whole body to rub and wash and kneel down and stand up. You’re almost constantly in motion, and you’re also doing a little bit of muscle work. But this isn’t traditional exercise, nor does exercising have to be.
What about walking, is it still too intimidating for you? Well what most people don’t consider is how often you can or do walk, and simply chalk it up to another reason that doesn’t involve the word exercise. There are many ways to increase the distance you walk in a day without having to go anywhere to do it. If you tend to do a lot of shopping, rather than park at the front as close as you can, try parking in the back and walking in. Anytime that you have an opportunity to take the stairs, go for it. Much like adding food to your diet, this method of adding cardiovascular training to your body is far easier than attempting to crash diet and exercise.
As restrictive and ineffective a simple walk may seem, remember that earlier we ran the numbers for how much energy you would need to burn off in a day in order to lose a healthy amount of weight per week. With a daily goal of 500 calories, you can choose for that to come from your diet in terms of cutting 500 calories worth of food or it can come in the form of walking, to burn 500 calories from the food that you’ve eaten that day. The Mayo Clinic says that, “One of the best ways to lose body fat is through steady aerobic exercise – such as brisk walking – for at least 30 minutes.” So 30 minutes a couple times a week, and you’ll burn off enough calories to not only curb your appetite and jump start your weightloss but also to help tone up your body.
As always, and even with regard to dieting, we here at HCBL.com recommend that you speak with your physician about your weight loss worries or goals before simply trying something different. Remember that doctors can also help you decide which weight loss method is best for you based on your blood work, age and even medical history. So if you have serious weight loss goals and feel that what you’re currently doing isn’t helping, then try seeking a dietician or schedule an appointment with your physician, and start working out a plan for your goals and how you’d like to achieve them.