Let me make it clear. Trendy statements to patients such as “optimizing your body’s internal homeostasis matters most for losing weight” and “reducing caloric intake does not matter” are:
A: Fluffy language that leaves the patient more confused + frustrated.
B: Not supported by good science when referring to weight loss.
MYTH BUSTED: A professor of nutrition at Kansas State University went to the extreme to debunk this myth a few years back when he consumed copious amounts of TWINKIES and still lost 27lbs in two months…how? A SUSTAINED CALORIC DEFICIT! Professor Haub counted his calories to consume on average 1800 calories daily, which for a grown man resulted in a considerable energy deficit. It is not surprising that he was able to prove that consuming less energy (even if all calories are from junk food) results in weight loss. (I should admit: for variety he also consumed cookies and other sugary foods!)
You can also read this excellent article “why calories count” written by James Fell, a fellow Canadian passionate about evidence-based practice.
IS A CALORIC DEFICIT BAD FOR YOU?
Far from it. In fact, more research is finding that in addition to preventing common diseases like heart disease and diabetes II, reducing caloric intake may even protect against cancer (1). This is an often overlooked association with obesity – increased risk of various cancers. According to a recent meta-analysis, in men, obesity appears to have an association with increased risk of colon cancer, where in women, esophageal and endometrial cancer top the list (2).
WHAT ABOUT MUSCLE?
Yes, you will lose MUSCLE on a TWINKIE diet….this point was to highlight that fundamentally to shed weight you must consume LESS CALORIES. Period. End of story. This debate ended in the literature years ago yet some “nutrition experts” claim otherwise.
Preserving muscle is where the ART and SCIENCE of medicine come into play. A high protein diet that also sustains a daily caloric deficit will significantly increase your chances of preserving lean mass. This is what I take the most pride in when working with clients, not the total amount of “weight” lost, but the fat lost while preserving hard earned muscle.
TIP TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH:
The next time you hear nutrition advice that sounds sensationalist, too easy, or simply does not sit well in your gut…do not hesitate to ask hard questions! “What is the evidence behind this?” “Are you recommending this because it appears to work on your clients, or do studies support this?”
FAD DIETS VS LIFESTYLE CHANGE:
It is easy to lose weight (water + muscle) starving yourself drinking nothing but cucumber flavoured water for days (3). It is difficult to teach patients to form new HABITS that promote regular feeding, celebrate food, and last a lifetime. I am a food addict and cannot wait to help future patients learn to LOVE WHAT THEY EAT.
Aric Sudicky co-founded Ontario’s first medically integrated exercise and nutrition program. He is a former Canadian Fitness Professional of the Year, a medical student, and advisory board member for STRONG Fitness Magazine. You can follow Aric via his facebook or twitter pages.
1: King, B. Jiang, Y. Et al. Weight control, endocrine hormones and cancer prevention. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2013 May; 238(5):502-8.
2: Dobbins M, Decorby K, Choi BC. The Association between Obesity and Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies from 1985 to 2011. ISRN Preventive Med. 2013 Apr 4 (eCollection 2013).
3: Zamora Navarro S, Perez-Llamas F. Errors and myths in feeding and nutrition: impact on the problems of obesity. Nutr Hosp. 2013 Sep;28 Suppl 5:81-8.