Diet is more effective for weight loss than exercise. Exercise helps maintain lean mass, the major driver of metabolism, but what we eat has the biggest impact on our weight / obesity status overall. Currently, I am unable to go to the gym, since gyms are all closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, I am reminded of the role of diet in weight loss and weight maintenance. Exercise increases metabolism and helps maintain or build lean mass, which further maintains metabolism. Yet for many people, including children, exercise is not enough to turn the tide of the obesity epidemic mostly due to the intake of high-calorie processed food.
Exercise in the treatment of childhood obesity Diet Vs Exercise: Which Matters More? More exercise does nothing to stop obesity in youngsters
- Increase intake of dietary fiber to ≥30 grams/day. More than 90% of Americans are not eating the minimal recommendation of 25 grams fiber/day. A recent study found that diets that increased fiber to recommended levels were comparable for weight loss to the established American Heart Association's diet. Fiber helps us feel full, is low-calorie and promotes a healthy microbiome. It's also found in less expensive foods like beans and oatmeal.
Annals of Internal Medicine The Impact of Dietary Fiber on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease
- Limit alcohol and soda intake. They just provide 'empty calories'. Try exercise such as doing yoga to reduce stress or take a break from work rather than drinking alcohol for stress reduction. Try drinking iced tea (unsweetened) or coffee (unsweetened) for caffeine instead of soda.
- Cook and bake at home. Since the 1970's, American adults consume about 500 more calories/day and children at least 350 calories/day more. Fast food is everywhere and provides convenience. The media is constantly promoting and advertising high-calorie fast food with few counter messages to give us a realistic perspective on what fast food is doing to public health. However, one fast food meal often contains the entire amount of calories that are recommended for someone like you or me for an entire day. For example, as an active adult, I might have the goal of consuming about 2,000 calories /day. A single meal at a fast food restaurant or even a single fast food milkshake often = 2,000 calories
What 2,000 Calories Looks Like
Whereas if my food intake is from foods I prepare at home, a person may not reach 2,000 calories in an entire day. The reason behind this is that restaurants add 'hidden' calories where they cook with more oil, heavy cream and sugar and are more likely to deep fry food than we would be at home. If you or I eat a dietary pattern consisting of fast food three times a week or more, we are averaging thousands more calories a month than we need. Considering that 3,500 calories = 1 pound of body weight, it makes sense that over time in a person eating a fast food dietary pattern there would be weight gain. If you or I eat 500 extra calories per day, typically within seven days we would gain one pound (7 days x 500 kcal/day = 3,500 kcalories). This heavily explains the obesity epidemic, where people are unconsciously greatly increasing their caloric intake from fast food and restaurant food.
What 2,000 Calories Looks Like BURGER KING USA Nutritionals: Core, Regional and Limited Time Offerings
- Consume complex carbohydrates. At this time, low-carbohydrate diets are popular and some of them do promote weight loss. However, there is nothing wrong with eating nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grain cereal, oatmeal or white potatoes with the peels still on. Recent studies suggest that very low-carbohydrate diets such as the keto-diet actually lead to loss of lean mass over times, including in athletic populations Sports NLM NCBI. This may be due to muscle being broken down for glucose production as well as a decrease in muscle glycogen stores (gluconeogenesis) as glucose is an essential nutrient from carbohydrates Nutrients NLM NCBI. Loss of muscle will slow down metabolism overtime. This is controversial since many people believe the benefits of weight loss for obese individuals trying to normalize blood glucose and other metabolic factors outweighs the risk of losing some muscle. However, considering that lean mass or muscle is the greatest driver of metabolism, most of us do not want to lose muscle, especially as we age. Throughout most of human history, humans consumed carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed foods. Considering this, and the tremendous benefit to the microbiome and overall health from consuming dietary fiber, a healthy diet probably should include high-fiber carbohydrate sources.
- Consume adequate lean protein sources. Studies show that protein makes us feel full so we eat less, however be aware that protein that is high in fat and calories such as steak or fried chicken contributes to obesity and serious diseases over time. Aim for lean protein sources. If you eat meat and poultry try for lean cuts of meat and skinless chicken... wild game such as deer meat and freshly caught seafood... nuts, beans, soy and whole grains.
Protein sources that are best for your heart WHOLE GRAIN PROTEIN POWER
Remember that even foods like soymilk, hemp milk, low-fat dairy and whole grains such as whole wheat bread and quinoa contain protein - it's not just hamburgers!
During this current COVID-19 crisis, we potentially have a new opportunity. Rather than participate in drive-thru fast food, why not take this opportunity to cook at home. Bake bread. Try new healthy recipes not tried before. Maybe this current pandemic will be an opportunity for Americans to improve their health by shunning the drive-thru and learning or re-learning cooking and baking skills. We need to find a way to return to producing and serving food that is not so commercialized... much like the 1970's when food was still prepared and eaten in the home, and there was much less of it.