Combatting the Major Causes of Weight Gain

*The featured photo above is from a shoot a few years back. The photographer gave me a long sword to distract attention away from my small package 🙂

With the release of The Truth About Weight Loss right around the corner, I wanted to post up a sample chapter from the book to give you a free inside look.  Just now as I wrote that, I’m wondering why the hell I even decided to do this, because remember, you can grab the whole damn book for free on Friday 5/22.  You can sign up for that deal of the year here: Free Book

Regardless, this task was on my list, and my OCD mind won’t allow me to move on until it is done. And what if I die before Friday (Meditate on Death to Appreciate Life in Every Breath), and my publishers decide to pull the plug on the whole project? I will not be able to cross The River Styx without knowing at least a few of my weight loss tips are already in your hands.

So without further ado, Ladies & Gents, I hope Chapter 10 makes some kind of sense.

Chapter 10: Combatting the Major Causes of Weight Gain

What are the major causes of the modern rise in obesity and diabetes rates? It boils down to this pound-packing recipe–we just eat too much refined crap and sit on our asses too much.

We can keep sweeping the issue under the rug, diverting attention, making excuses, allowing it to become the new norm, or covering the symptoms and side effects up with drugs. Or we can get straight to the bottom line, face the tough love truth, and start making a difference.   The choice is yours. If you decide to be proactive…

We’ll talk about how to counteract the “sit on our asses too much” part of that equation in the exercise section. But since your dietary habits have the biggest impact on your weight loss goals, let’s start with those first.

How do you combat the problem of eating too much refined crap? You can attack that problem in two ways.

  1. You can focus on eating less of the foods you are already eating.
  2. You can focus on cutting out some of the crap and making better food choices.

Eating Less with Calorie Counting Diets

Despite what you hear about the benefits of kale or other “super” foods, targeted diet numbers will always have the biggest impact on weight loss, muscle gain, or total body composition transformation.

Of those numbers, total calories are the most important number to get right. It’s not just about going low fat, cutting out carbs, going gluten-free, or whatever the hot topic the fitness world is currently focusing on. The only way to force your body to burn off stored fat is to take in fewer calories than you expend, on average, over some time frame.

Never let the little pieces of the puzzle cause you to lose sight of the big picture.

This is the physiological premise behind calorie counting diets, points systems, pre-portioned and packaged food delivery services, food tracking apps, serving size strategies, or any other portion control system. The main goal is to somehow, in some way, get you into the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss.

I’ll tell you the truth. If applied consistently, they work. Weight Watchers, Nutri-System, Jarrod and his 6-incher with meatballs, etc. can all produce initial weight loss results. Consistency is the catch here though. We’ll discuss why in a second. But first, we need to talk about the evolution of calorie counting diets.

The Next Generation of Calorie Counting Diets

Calories are the most important number to get right in your weight loss quest, but they are not the only number as some of the pure calorie counting systems mistakenly proclaim. The amounts and ratios of your macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) matter as well.

For example, increasing protein can help you preserve lean muscle mass and reduce hunger. Improving your protein-to-carb ratio can better control blood sugar and increase fat burning hormones and enzymes.

It is like with your money management. Saving more than you spend is the most important step. But once you do that, what you invest in can make a major difference in reaching your financial goals.

There is a new generation of food quantity focused diets that go beyond just calories and factor in the importance of your macronutrient amounts and ratios as well. The simple name says it all–If It Fits Your Macronutrients (IIFYM).

The theory is that as long as you hit the right amounts and ratios of your protein, carb, and dietary fat levels, you can eat whatever foods you want and reach your weight loss goals. There is definitely some truth to this approach as well. Many bodybuilders, bikini divas, fitness models, and twenty-somethings follow this approach with great success. And it may just work for you too.

You see for some, making a wholesale change in their typical meals and food choices (cutting the crap) is too big of a leap. It’s like trying to take candy away from a baby, which definitely is not as easy as that old expression implies.

If you feel like you fall in this group, the easiest place to get started with your weight loss goals is to try to consistently hit your targeted diet numbers with the foods and meals you are already eating. This will mean tracking your food intake and numbers, and most likely adjusting the portion sizes downward.

You have two tracking and slashing options:

Pen & Paper Tracking

Go old school and just write things down in a notebook. Use this food database to find the calorie & macronutrient information of any food:

Digital Tracking

Keep track on your computer or smart phone. I suggest the following:

Problems with a Pure Numbers Focus

Calorie counting, macro tracking, and portion precision can work, especially in the short-term. But there are some serious limitations to this pure numbers focused approach that you should be aware of.

First off, having a balance sheet and daily report for your diet requires that you take some extra steps like measuring, weighing, and tracking your food intake. These are extra steps that people might be willing to take in the beginning, but rarely maintain on a consistent basis indefinitely.

Most people don’t want their life to have to revolve around their diet. They just want to eat like a normal person and lose some weight.

Second, the accuracy of self-reported food intake sucks (sorry, buddy, that Costco size bag of peanut M&M’s wasn’t just “a handful”). So even with this approach, results are sometimes unpredictable and inconsistent.

Of course, you could go with the pre-packaged and portion food delivery services. But are you going to spend the rest of your life eating your meals out of a mailbox? Remember what we said in the beginning of this book about focusing on lifestyle plans and sustainability?

The Health Impacts of Food Quality

Most importantly, focusing solely on the numbers completely ignores the health impacts of food quality. If you care about the long-term metabolic, hormonal, digestive, mental, and overall health aspects of a diet, I believe good food choices leapfrog to #1A in terms of importance.

Serge Nubret once said, “Every sickness comes from food.” Another dude (Hippocrates) said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

A lot of our most debilitating diseases–including cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, certain cancers, and advanced Man Boob & Muffin Top Syndrome–are a direct result of poor food choices and the consistent and chronic overconsumption of refined and processed foods.

And that doesn’t even factor in other things like energy levels, mood, skin health, joint health, Ron Burgundy-like hair gloriousness, and below the belt bodaciousness. So eventually you’ll want to focus not just on food quantity, but also food quality.

Improving Food Quality Automatically Improves the Numbers

Improving food numbers doesn’t necessarily improve food quality. But improving food quality almost always reduces food quantity, thus making weight loss automatic. So even if you don’t care about such insignificant things like your overall health, food quality still matters for your weight loss goals.

Good food choices improve the calorie-to-nutrient density ratio of the diet and also improve satiety, which will make weight loss dieting a whole hell of a lot easier and, thus, more sustainable.

Any plan can work for the short-term when motivation is high–say for an upcoming event, for bikini or board short season, or just to join “The Selfie Craze.”

However, it is virtually impossible to stay in the relative calorie deficit necessary for weight loss, at least for any meaningful length of time, if you are making poor food choices. You can’t cut calories while eating crap and expect to stay the course.

This is where point systems, calorie counting, and pure if-it-fits-your-macronutrients diets fail. You’re not going to be able to stay on a reduced calorie diet plan for long eating pop tarts and TV dinners as your dietary staples.

Refined foods like this have a lot of empty calories with not a lot of functional nutrients. They have no effects on satiety or the hormones that regulate appetite and energy intake. You will feel constantly hungry, deprived, and miserable dieting on these foods, especially with the tiny portions you’ll need to limit yourself to in order to lose weight.

In other words, you will constantly feel like you are DIEting. That’s why people yo-yo on and off these plans. They are not sustainable. And it’s not because YOU went off the diet. It’s because THE DIET was not sustainable in the first place. And remember, we want consistent and sustainable weight loss, not a yo-yo, roller coaster ride.

It’s much easier to stay faithful to your fat loss plan when it emphasizes real, whole, natural, juicy melons (or tiny little nuts)…I mean, food. As an experiment, I’ve had female clients struggle to net 1200 calories a day and male clients 1800 calories a day when they cut out all refined foods and ate only real foods.

You don’t have to go to that extreme, but the takeaway lesson is that it is much easier to stay in the calorie deficit necessary for fat loss, while still giving your body all of the essential nutrients and micronutrients it needs, indefinitely, if you are at least emphasizing real, whole, natural foods.

The 2-Pronged Attack

The truth is that for effective, efficient, and sustainable weight loss, eventually you’ll want to focus on both food quantity and food quality. But don’t worry. I’ll give you some seamless strategies to make this happen.

Making better food choices will automatically improve your diet numbers. But knowing your appropriate ballpark diet numbers will also give you a little leeway with your food choices.

If you are eating high quality food 85-90% of the time, you can include some crap while still losing weight. And that’s a lot more doable than trying to cut out the foods you love indefinitely. Or, a little bit of flexibility right from the beginning yields a lot more long-term sustainability.

But the key is the ratio of quality-to-crap. It doesn’t have to be 100-0 as some militant diet cults and dogmatic creeds proclaim. But the truth is it can’t be 30-70 like it is for most of us these days in Y2K. We need to toughen up and improve upon that ratio.

With that in mind, the highest-level weight loss step we can take today is to start cutting back on the percentage of crap within our daily diets.

End of Chapter

Extra Stuff I Should Have Included in This Chapter

In hindsight, there were a couple of studies I wish I would have included in this chapter as glaring examples of food quality’s effect on diet numbers, particularly total calories. But since this is a book geared towards beginners, I didn’t want to boggle it down with too much geeky shit.

Don’t worry, these will be in the next book (I’m working on a follow-up book for intermediate and advanced physique peeps, the sequel to this book for beginners = yes, I am on a writing roll lately, baby).

Anyways, so as to not leave you hanging now…

A couple of studies looked at the ad-libitum food intake with a couple of different diet templates. Ad-libitum food intake means food consumed without any quantity guidelines. Basically, people are told to just eat as much of the foods provided as they like based on hunger, and without any restrictions.

Of course most of us probably know this intuitively, but seeing the actual difference in total calorie intake on the different diet plans in pure, cold, hard, unbiased, numbers was pretty shocking, even for me.

The Study: Larson, et al. Spontaneous overfeeding with a ‘cafeteria diet’ in men: effects on 24-hour energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1995 May;19(5):331-7.

Jonsson, et al. A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Nov 30;7:85.

Cafeteria-style Diet (can you say Y2K): based on English muffins, French toast, pancakes with syrup, scrambled eggs, chicken pie, cheeseburgers, margarine, white sugar, various cakes and puddings, apples, jelly beans, Doritos, M and M’s, apple juice, 2% milk, sodas and several other foods.

The average ad-libitum calorie intake over 5 days was 4550 calories per day.

Mediterranean-style Diet: based on whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruit, fish, and oils and margarines

The average ad-libitum calorie intake over 12 weeks was 1823 calories a day.

Paleo-style Diet:  based on lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs, and nuts.

The average ad-libitum calorie intake on the Paleolithic-style diet was 1388 calories.

As you can see, emphasizing mostly real, whole, natural foods, and cutting back on highly refined and processed foods can help you dramatically cut back on your total calorie intake without even specifically focusing on that.

Alright, I’m out for now. If you’re down to read the rest of the book for free, I’ll catch up with you on Friday. Sign up here for that fat-slashing show: Sign Up To Grab The Truth About Weight Loss For Free