Eat Less, Exercise More: Does it Work for Weight Loss?
A recent TEDxUCL presentation by Alisa Anokhina, entitled “Why We Must Stop Ignoring the Psychology of Weight Loss“, brought some interesting points to light about the science of weight loss. From time to time, there are articles indicating that weight loss is “as simple as burning more calories than you take in”. While this seems logical — and might even work for lab rats — it does not stand to scrutiny in humans.
According to a study cited in the TEDx talk, test participants who stayed committed to weight loss for twelve months simply by eating less and exercising more lost and average of just 13 pounds, despite the average weight loss goal being about 55 pounds. Furthermore, once the intensive weight loss regimen ends, test participants tend to gain back at least some of the weight they lost over time. In other words, simply eating less and exercising more is not enough to consistently and reliably lose a significant amount of weight.
The problem with most weight loss programs begins with the fact that deprivation is a fundamental element. Deprivation is essentially a punishment on one’s self and cannot be sustained indefinitely. Deprivation means that your weight loss program will require an almost-endless supply of willpower and self-control. This underscores why most weight loss programs based on deprivation are unsustainable, since self-control is, in fact, a finite resource. Finally, typical weight loss programs require you to not think about foods that you want to eat. The problem with this is the “White Bear Effect”, which essentially states that trying to not think about something will inevitably make you think about (and like crave) that very thing.
There are several steps mentioned in the TEDx talk that work better than the typical steps described above. Instead of depriving yourself, simply change eating preferences. You’ll still be eating food that you like, but it will be a refined list of healthier foods you’ve discovered that you like. With regard to self-control, again the key is to find things you like to do. If you hate going to the gym, you shouldn’t go. Instead, find a physical activity, sport, etc. that you like and do that instead. Finally, instead of trying not to think about the unhealthy foods you want, reframe it in a positive way. Instead of exerting constant willpower to resist your cravings, you can instead think about making that food yourself at a future date (tomorrow, next week, etc.). This turns the negative thought into a positive one, all while eliminating deprivation.
So, what does a successful diet look like? First and foremost, it should not be thought of as a diet. Instead of thinking of depriving yourself of foods or activities you like, the key is to change your mindset and treat both your mind and body with positivity and kindness. It’s also important to find a personalized approach that makes sense for your life.
To learn more about how you can lose weight safely, effectively, and for good, contact Pound Melters. Our weight loss clinics are located throughout Northern California in Concord, Rohnert Park, San Rafael and Vacaville.