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Jeff Halevy

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Bye-Bye Fat: What Actually Works?

Posted: 04/19/2012 2:47 pm

You know what they say opinions are like (yes, the body part), and it's no different when it comes to opinions on weight loss: Everyone has one. But what actually works?

According to a hot-off-the-presses American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, the answer is pretty predictable. Of the study's participants -- obese individuals -- the most successful changes in body composition were brought about by:

  1. Eating less overall
  2. Exercising
  3. Eating less dietary fat

And guess which strategies were least effective:

  1. Drinking large amounts of water
  2. Eating diet foods
  3. Taking over-the-counter diet pills

What works? Eat less, move more, and limit fat (the most calorically dense macronutrient). Shocker, huh?

What may be more surprising to some are the strategies that failed the study's participants. I have my theories however:

Drinking large amounts of water. Yes, drinking water is important for metabolism, and in fact, dehydration effectively shuts down normal, proper metabolic function; however, water as a food substitute is a terrible strategy. I would suspect that the study's participants who used this strategy drank large amounts of water to feel full; and drinking water can do just that. But because water has no nutritional value (calories and nutrients), as soon as the feeling of fullness wanes, immense hunger settles in. I suspect that this sudden and intense hunger then led to binge-like behavior. The take-away: water (and liquid) doesn't replace actual food.

Eating diet foods. While eating less food and limiting fat were effective strategies in the study, eating diet foods was not -- why? The short answer: Diet foods are not food. Diet foods are chemical-laden, nutrient-lacking laboratory concoctions that provide the body nothing of what it needs, and leaving you craving more. This one isn't at all surprising to me, and is probably worthy of an article in its own right.

Diet pills. You mean all of those herbal remedies you see at deli counters, convenience stores, and vitamin/supplement stores don't work? Umm, no. There are very few legal substances -- and even fewer safe ones -- that will truly accelerate fat loss. Just about everything you see on the shelf is worthy of a faulty advertising label at the least. (And the only over-the-counter substance I would ever suggest is coffee.) The reason I suspect these pills really failed the participants though is because it mislead them to believe they could consume more food and/or exercise less, and the pill would do the heavy lifting, pardon the pun, for them.

As I've explained in other articles, real, sustainable changes in body composition come from making real, sustainable healthy lifestyle choices. The common sense effective, and ineffective, strategies highlighted in this latest study may make many say "duh!" -- but common sense is often not common.

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