Diets that involve temporary, significant calorie restrictions are doomed to fail, because the body’s regulatory systems adjust metabolism and activity rates in order to regain whatever weight has been lost. Nowhere was this more tragically demonstrated than in the follow-up studies of contestants on the reality TV show, The Biggest Loser. These folks dieted and exercised diligently and succeeded in dramatic weight loss. But during the following few years, their bodies’ biological systems reset so that maintaining the weight loss was almost impossible. Nearly all of the contestants regained each pound and sometimes more. News stories like this can leave us feeling helpless when we are also bombarded with studies about the health risks of obesity and belly fat.
With age, metabolism slows and the midsection tends to expand. Furthermore, recent nutritional research suggests that the dietary recommendations of the past decades, promoting low-fat, highly-processed foods, may have contributed to the current obesity epidemic and metabolic dysregulation.
My attention to this subject became less academic and more personal a year ago as I noticed the waistband on my pants tightening, even though I was exercising regularly and eating healthily. I first discovered Harvard endocrinologist, Dr. David Ludwig, while listening his radio interview on NPR’s Science Friday. I was fascinated by his explanation of the inner workings of fat cells, and how to use this knowledge to eliminate food cravings and comfortably maintain a healthy weight, without counting calories or restricting food categories.
Paradoxical as it may seem, our bodies need to consume healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, whole milk and yogurt, etc.) in order to lose excess weight. Increasing fat consumption while decreasing intake of sugar and highly-refined carbohydrates (e.g., white bread, white rice, white pasta, white potatoes) signals the fat cells to release their storage. This is not a diet; it’s an appetizing approach to food that includes dessert, carbs and fat. Dr. Ludwig’s book, Always Hungry?, explains the science underlying this approach, outlines the details of his protocol (including a 2-week cellular reset), and provides cooking guidance and delicious recipes.
While I ate dark chocolate, sweet potato fries, wild rice, creamy sauces and countless other delicious and satiating foods, 2 inches of squishiness on my waist and hips melted off and stayed away. So don’t diet. Learn how to work with your body’s regulatory systems, rather than trying in vain to fight against them, so that you can maintain a healthy weight and be at your best with age.