Americans are exercising more, but they are not losing weight.
They have access to more and better food but they are not healthier.
They have greater access to vast quantities of health, dietary, and exercise information, but as a group, they are not putting it to good use.
What is going on here?
Misinformation on how people gain body fat and how they can lose it is everywhere. There’s controversy about the safety and efficacy of low-carb diets, lies about the best exercise for fat loss, and confusion about what optimal body composition even means.
For instance, many scientists are still relying on the body mass index to assess body composition, which is utterly useless for monitoring fat loss. Just as inept:
- The static model of energy balance based on the idea that 3,500 calories equals a pound and that weight loss will follow accordingly—it won’t.
- Similarly, a calorie approach to weight loss is ineffective over the long term because it doesn’t account for macronutrient ratios, insulin response, or how the body alters hormone levels that dictate hunger and the use of fat for fuel.
- Ignoring the negative effect of chemical exposure, from food additives, pesticides, hormones, and endocrine disruptors, all of which negatively influence body fat levels and health.
- A reliance on a low-fat, high-carb diet for weight loss because it can be harmful to health and largely disappointing for fat loss.
This article will clear away the lies and misconceptions. A fundamental truth that everyone needs to come to terms with is that fat loss is not easy. You’re not going to lose fat by taking a pill, going for a walk, lifting light weights for 15 minutes, or doing steady cardio on an elliptical. Eating low-fat processed foods and cutting calories is very unlikely to lead to sustainable fat loss either.
To get it done, you need a lifestyle approach that improves your quality of life. Here’s how.
Lie #1: Aerobic Exercise Will Help You Lose Fat
The Truth: Aerobic Exercise is A Fat Trap
The effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible. High-intensity intermittent exercise, which is anaerobic rather than aerobic in nature, tends to be more effective.
Let it be said that if you are new to exercise, aerobic training can help you lose a small amount of fat in the short term, but research shows the benefits are rarely sustainable. In the long run, aerobic exercise appears to be utterly useless.
We’ve got data from a number of different studies and surveys to illustrate this:
A 2013 large-scale survey of physical activity and obesity rates in the U.S. found that Americans have dramatically increased the amount of exercise they do…but they are not losing weight. The research authors write that the success of improving levels of physical activity “stand out in marked contrast to the failure to observe any statistically significant reductions in obesity in any county.”
A 2012 study that compared the effect of aerobic exercise for 30 or 60 minutes a day, 6 days a week for 13 weeks and found that both groups lost the same amount of body fat (the 30-minute group actually lost slightly more at 4 kg compared to 3.8 kg in the 60-mintue group). Researchers conclude that aerobic exercise is “a poor weight management” strategy.
A 2006 study found that of 12,568 regular runners, only those who significantly increased their weekly distance or running speed over the course of the 9-year study did not gain body fat. Runners who maintained or slightly increased mileage and intensity had larger waistlines at the end of the study.
Aerobic exercise is a fat trap because the purpose of doing it is to train the body to be as efficient as possible. The body adapts quickly to repetitive aerobic exercise with the goal of using the least amount of oxygen and energy to perform the greatest amount of work. Nothing about aerobic exercise supports long-term fat loss.
Do This Instead: Prioritize anaerobic training in the form of regular weight training and intervals. Resistance training done properly is an effective fat loss tool because it increases muscle for a greater metabolic rate (you burn more calories at rest with more muscle). It leads to the release of hormones that burn fat and improve metabolism.
Additional light exercise is not a problem. Yoga, walking, biking, playing are all good for you. Likewise, there are health benefits to sustained aerobic exercise. It’s just not good for fat loss or fighting obesity!
Lie #2: Low-Fat Diets Are Best For Fat Loss
The Truth: Low-Fat Diets As Used By The Mainstream Will Harm Your Health
The best diet is the one you can stick to. Most people have better success with higher protein, higher fat dietary models because they favor protein and fat, both of which are very filling and help you avoid hunger.
They also prevent the severe reduction in metabolic rate that comes from low-fat, calorie-restricted eating because you won’t lose as muscle with adequate protein. In addition, low-fat diets require a high intake of carbohydrates, which can negatively affect insulin health.
High-carb diets make your body rely only on glucose (or sugar) for its energy source. Therefore, your body can’t access its fat stores for burning because it prefers to use glucose for energy, making it very difficult to lose body fat.
There are a variety of studies and reviews showing that low-carb models are consistently more effective for fat loss than low-fat diets.
For example, a 6-month study that compared a low-carb, high-protein diet that did not restrict calories with a low-fat, low-calorie (1245 calories daily) diet, found that the low-carb group lost significantly more fat in the absence of hunger (4 kg by 3 months and 4.5 kg at 6 months, compared to 2.5 kg loss at 3 months, with regain of half a kilo for final fat loss of 2 kg in the low-fat group).
From a health perspective, most people are sedentary and very few are getting the physical activity necessary to prevent insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, and a pre-diabetic state on a high-carb, low-fat diet.
Another effect is elevated triglycerides in the blood that lead to heart disease and greater inflammation. You also miss out on nutrients from some of the healthiest whole foods available such as eggs, coconut oil, and grass-fed animal products that contain the cancer-fighting fat, CLA.
Research supports low-carb, higher protein and fat diets for cardiovascular health too: A 2009 study by Swedish researchers compared a Paleo-style diet with a low-fat “diabetes” prevention diet that included dairy and grains. The Paleo dieters improved glucose tolerance, and lost more weight (3 kg more), shrunk their waist size to a greater degree (4 cm smaller), and had lower blood pressure than the folks in the diabetes diet.
This was followed by a 2011 study that found a high-fat diet (20 percent low-glycemic carbs, 50 percent fat with 20 percent of the total calories coming from saturated fat) produced significantly better insulin, blood sugar tolerance, cholesterol, and blood pressure than a low-fat diet. Both diets produced the same amount of weight loss.
Low-fat diets are a health trap that rarely lead to the body you desire. They cause insulin and blood sugar havoc and keep the body in glucose-burning mode, rarely leading to sustained fat loss. They make you hungry, tired, and at greater risk of disease.
Do This Instead: Reduce carbohydrates, particularly those coming from calorie dense grains, to support fat loss and insulin health, Enjoy a high-protein, high-fat diet from whole foods for a sustainable lifestyle. You’ll be more metabolically flexible, have better health, and eating will be a pleasure rather than a struggle.
Lie #3: Chemicals Don’t Make You Fat & Detoxification Isn’t Necessary
The Truth: BPA & Other Chemicals Dramatically Increase Body Fat & Diabetes Risk
Contact with chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, and parabens will make you fat. Scientists believe the reason is that these chemicals alter hormone function when they are ingested in the large quantities present in modern society.
A 2011 study found that as the American people got fatter, so did marmosets, vervet monkeys, chimpanzees, horses, domestic pets, and feral rats. Based on anecdotal reports that animals were getting fatter, scientists analyzed data from over 20,000 animals from 24 populations and found that since the post-war era, average mid-life body weights have risen among all the mentioned animal populations.
Reasons for the animal obesity epidemic are unclear, but scientists think endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a probable factor. Indeed, in a new study of normal-weight women with an average age of 20, urinary BPA levels were significantly related to body fat—more BPA meant more body fat. According to the research group, BPA’s ability to increase body fat was “as expected.”
Apparently, BPA now has a well known reputation for making people fat in the scientific community. It’s time the rest of us limit our exposure by any means necessary.
More evidence of BPA making people fat and harming health is evident with the following results:
- In a survey of nearly 5,000 Americans, greater urinary BPA levels were associated with a much higher body fat percentage and greater risk of obesity. People who had more than 4.20 ng/ml BPA in their urine had at least a 34 percent chance of being obese compared to those with less than 1.10 ng/ml BPA who only had a 23 percent chance of being obese.
- Among 2,838 children, the same trend was evident, with a 10.3 percent risk of being obese in those with less than 1.10 ng/ml BPA in their urine compared to a 22.3 percent chance in those who had more than 4.20 ng/ml urinary BPA. This is noteworthy because confounders like caloric and macronutrient intake, television watching, and physical activity were all controlled for. In children, these factors have a large influence on body composition in youth.
- A new study found a direct association between urinary BPA and prediabetes, as measured as impaired glucose tolerance. A previous study found the same link between diabetes and BPA. Researchers think BPA may increase body fat because it alters metabolism, while increasing diabetes risk.
BPA may be the chemical best known for increasing body fat, but unfortunately it is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many others we must protect ourselves from if we want to live a long, lean, healthy life.
What To Do About It: First, limit your BPA exposure. Avoid aluminum cans unless you know they are BPA free. Eden Beans, tuna from Wild Planet, Eco Fish, and Oregon’s Choice, Bionaturae tomatoes, Natural Value tomatoes and tuna, and some Trader Joe’s brand products use BPA-free cans.
Use glass containers for food instead of plastic. BPA lines liquid drink cans—soda, fruit juice, energy drink, sparkling water, and beer cans. Don’t take paper receipts unless necessary because they contain BPA.
Second, you need to help your body detoxify every single day. Look, detoxification is not a one-time thing that you do with a special diet. It’s something your body does all the time. However, there are ways you can help or hinder it, which will affect your body composition and health.
For example, when you are sick, highly stressed, or deficient in certain nutrients, detoxification will not work as well or may shut down entirely. Some strategies to support detoxification include the following:
- Get adequate B vitamins, which play a primary role in eliminating toxins.
- Drink a lot of water—more than 3 liters a day—and get adequate fiber from vegetables, fruits, seeds (sesame and flax are particularly good). Also, take extra electrolytes.
- Whey protein will increase levels of glutathione, which is the internally produced antioxidant whose purpose is to eliminate toxins.
- Eat a high-protein diet because the amino acids in protein must bind to toxins to eliminate them from the body.
- Train hard. Studies shows athletes excrete more toxins in urine than sedentary people.
- Take a probiotic to improve gut health and make sure you get adequate prebiotics, which are the nutrients that the microflora live on in the gut. They are abundant in wheat and other grains, but if you don’t eat wheat or grains, get prebiotics from onion, garlic, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, asparagus, and bananas.
- amino acids
- blood pressure
- body composition
- body fat
- fat loss
- muscle mass
- weight loss
- whey protein
- whole foods