With the holidays, and possibly some not-so-smart sugar/carb choices behind us (holiday cookies are just so charming!), it’s easy to let the mainstream “New Year, New You” media blitz lead us astray. According to what you have been hearing, you now have two options to undo holiday weight gain: eat less and exercise more. Sadly, according to researchers who study weight regulation, if we accept this 1960’s theory, we have a 95.4% chance of trying harder and doing worse, as only 4.6% of people who attempt to lose weight via starvation and stair steppers are successful. To put this 95% failure rate into perspective, quitting smoking cold turkey has a 94.5% failure rate. In other words, more people are able to give up the third most addictive substance in the world (trailing only heroin and cocaine) than are able to keep body fat off using the traditional approach.
Why Eating Less and Exercising More Fails
People often wonder how much of the weight loss equation is exercising and how much is eating. Not only are we told to worry about balancing calories in with calories out, but we have to go even further and find the precise ratio of effort to apply to diet and exercise.
Both eating less and exercising more have consistently been proven ineffective, so no balance is needed. Throw them both out. They both fail for more than 95% of us because they are both basically the same. They are rooted in calorie myths that tell us that if we can force ourselves into a state of “caloric deficit” (aka we burn off more calories than we take in), we will burn fat. If that were true, why is any individual with excess fat on their body ever hungry? According to these calorie myths, even if they ate no calories, they are not in a state of caloric deficit as they are still surrounded (literally) by calories. Sure the calories are stored on their hips versus passing through their lips, but the fact is, calories are available, so why would an overweight person ever be hungry? It’s because weight regulation is about so much more than the quantity of calories we take in or exercise off!
For example, in each of the following studies, all the study participants ate precisely the same number of calories (these are called isocaloric studies), but one group was much more “Carb Smart” in where they got their calories than the other:
A review completed at the University of Florida analyzed eighty-seven studies and found that those people who ate smarter carbohydrate calories lost an average of twelve more pounds of body fat compared to those who ate an equal quantity of less smart calories.
Researchers at Cornell University split people into three groups, each eating 1,800 calories per day, but at different levels of carbohydrates. The smartest group (least carbs) lost 86.5 percent more body fat than the least smart group (most carbs).
In the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at the Clinical Investigation Center, US Naval Hospital, compared a reduced-calorie high carb diet to a reduced-calorie low carb diet. After ten days the low carb diet burned twice as much body fat.
A review published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism covered nine additional trials demonstrating that people who eat low carb lose more weight than those who ate the exact same quantity of high carb calories.
After the holidays, you and I continue to be as hungry as we’ve ever been despite having more calories available to us 24/7/365 in the form of a few more pounds of body fat, because the quality of calories we consumed (starchy, sugary, processed holiday “treats) made our brain, gut, and hormones “believe” we need to store more fat on our body than we really need to. This is called an elevated “set-point weight” or hormonal dysregulation. Why else would our body continue to tell us to eat more–aka “you don’t have enough fuel”–when we in fact already have too much!
The modern metabolic science of long term fat loss and robust health has nothing to do with eating less, nothing to do with exercising more, because these approaches only matter if conscious control of calories is key, and it is not. Every single scientific study that has ever tracked calories and weight gain has proven conventional calorie math wrong. And so does common sense. Nobody outside of the scientific community knew what a calorie was, let alone counted them prior to the obesity and diabetes epidemics, so how could counting calories be required for long term fitness and health?
Fortunately, the last forty years of metabolic research has given us an infinitely more effective and empowering approach: eat more, exercise less–but smarter. By eating more–but higher-quality lower carbohydrate foods, and doing less–but smarter/more intense exercise, you can make your brain, gut, and hormones, believe that you should have less fat on your body, and they will work to keep you slim just as reliably as they are now working to keep you struggling.
For much more supporting science, and specific how to’s, consider signing up for my free 28 day program plus daily tips, and free your mind while transforming your life forever with my new book The Calorie Myth (HarperCollins).