For a long time my wife and I were frustrated by our lack of weightloss results. We were both going to the gym 3-5 times a week. We are lifting weights. We were doing cardio. We felt we were eating a sensible diet. But we weren’t seeing results. Now several years later we’ve found out that we weren’t alone in our frustrations. In fact it is likely that diet and exercise alone won’t be enough to help you lose weight either.
While everyone has different weightloss goals, most experts agree that there need to be some standards when defining what constitutes as “significant” weightloss. The National Weight Control Registry for instance is composed of people over the age of 18 who have lost more than 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Personally, I look at significant weightloss as intentionally losing at least 10% of one’s bodyweight. My justification is that a 10% reduction in body weight can be connected to improved health by lowering the risks for diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.
When the above mentioned National Weight Control Registry collected the data from over 4000 adults with significant weightloss, their results were very definite. Less than 1% of those individuals experienced significant weightloss by exercise alone. This validates the cliché, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” It also gives some insight on why I wasn’t able to lose weight, even though I was working out faithfully multiple times a week. If more people knew this statistic, I wonder if they would make adjustments to the endless hours invested in group fitness classes or on cardio machines.
Of the same sample group, only 10% of those with significant weightloss were able to be successful with diet alone. When we see people lose weight by eating less, generally they slow down their metabolism because their bodies cannibalize their muscle tissue and use it to make energy to make up for the caloric deficit they are experiencing. A pound of muscle burns 19X as many calories as a pound of fat, and so with less muscle a person’s resting metabolic rate decreases. To compound issues, when a person stops eating a diet with a calorie deficit their now slower metabolism causes the weight to return and then some. Many people lose 15-30 pounds on to gain it back and more less than a year later.
The other 89% percent of people who lost the weight and kept it off used what I call the “weightloss trifecta” for sustained results. Studies show that they incorporate a consistent nutrition plan, daily exercise, and some type of accountability and support to help them stay on track. So let’s take a look into just what these people did to be successful.
- They incorporate a consistent nutrition plan
In Tom Venuto’s book, “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle” he lays out the formula that allows elite athletes and fitness competitors to maintain relatively low body fat percentages year round. Tom explains that most of these individuals stick to a consistent weekly diet that consists of around 15 different meals. The diet may vary from day to day to prevent boredom, but these individuals do not stray from what they know works. Then when they come across a new meal they enjoy they add it into their weekly diet and make sure it still meets their goal of maintaining their ideal body composition.
The National Weight Control Registry found almost the same thing. In their key factors that separated the “maintainers from “regainers” that point to keeping dietary restraint under control and keeping down the level of daily fat calories. This means that those individuals who are able to keep the weight have a greater level of consistency with what they eat. They follow the same diet 7 days a week. They don’t splurge on the weekends. And they are less likely to indulge in several high fat meals during the holidays. To summarize, consistent dieting 7 days a week lead to people who are 1.5x more likely to maintain their weight within 5lbs than people who were less strict with their diet on the weekends.
- They exercise daily
While exercise alone won’t give you the significant weightloss results that you are looking for, it is a part of the larger equation. This is because to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. And by “burning” more calories through exercise you are able to create a larger deficit. In fact the CDC posts on their website that “the only way to maintain weight loss is to be engaged in regular physical activity.”
So how does exercise help? First it’s important to remember that your cells use calories to make energy that is needed to survive. And then when cells are asked to perform a task, it takes added energy for this to happen. Muscle cells in particular use a lot of energy to perform their work, meaning a lot of calories are used during physical activity. In addition, you are able to build more muscle tissue through exercise which will raise your RMR (resting metabolic rate), the number of calories your body consumes while it is at rest. This is why every exercise program should have a component of resistance training incorporated into it, as opposed to just doing cardio. Resistance training will also give you the benefits of EPOC (excess post oxygen) or the “afterburn affect.” This is an elevated level of calories consumed post exercise for recovery purposes that can last from 12-36 hours after the work was completed. Sorry, but when you finish doing only cardio your body quickly goes back to its RMR without using up extra calories.
Exercise can also make up for any increased calorie intakes that may happen from time to time. A special event or holiday can lead to a meal that increases your calories by well over 1000 for the day. So by keeping up a high level of physical activity, the maintainers can burn those extra calories without fear they may be converted to fat and stored in the body.
- They have an accountability system in place
The goal isn’t to just lose weight, but to become a maintainer and keep it off for good. But most of us go through peaks and valleys and staying consistent to our goals can become difficult. Maybe we are stressed with work or at home. Maybe it’s the holidays and we are surrounded by more temptations with sweets and high fat foods that will sabotage the hard work we’ve been putting in at home and at the gym (If you are struggling with food temptations, you can learn more about them here). The bottom line is that sometimes we can’t do it all alone and an accountability or support group will help pull us through those tough times.
According to the American Physiological Association, “It’s easier to stick with a weight loss plan when you have support, can share tips on diet and exercise and have an exercise buddy,” And we’ve found this to be true in our home and through our online support groups. At home Danielle and I work together to create our meal plans for the week, help each other with the cooking so we don’t feel overwhelmed and opt for fast food or takeout, and push each other through our workouts. And online we’ve done the same. In fact we created The Fit Teacher Network and started our monthly newsletter to build a community where we can share nutrition and workout tips long with giving participants the sense that they are not alone. And we go one step further by also running free 7 day clean eating groups and larger 30 or 60 day online bootcamps.
Weightloss shouldn’t be a mystery, but unfortunately there is so much misinformation out there that most people just decide not to make the change. But hopefully after reading this you’ll have more information on what those that have succeeded in becoming a weightloss success have done to get there. And if you or anyone you know is looking for a change and we would love to help. We can simply the above 3 steps and put them into an easy to follow program that guarantees results.
To your health,