‘I can lose the weight off later’
Either from vacation or the holidays, you know you’ve put on a few pounds, but no problem. You’ll just cut back when things slow down and get back to normal in a few weeks, right? Not so fast says Kevin Hall, senior investigator in the Laboratory of Biological Modeling at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- You’ve lost muscle. About 25 percent of the weight that dieters lose is lean muscle tissue.
- Your organs are smaller. As you lose weight, your liver, kidneys and other organs shrink, so the number of calories that are required to keep those organs operating goes down. Even small changes in those major organs can make substantial changes in metabolic rate.
- Exercise does not burn as many calories. As your body becomes smaller, moving around becomes easier and doing the same activities will burn fewer calories than it used to.
- Your metabolism has slowed down. Whenever calories are cut, your metabolism goes down. Only after losing at least 10 percent of your body weight and it is stable, you will need to eat 15-20% fewer calories to keep the weight off because your body will burn fewer calories at rest and when you move.
Bottom line: A slower metabolism and less lean muscle mass make it hard to lose all the extra pounds you gain. (Go to bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov or download the free Body Weight Simulator app for the iPhone.)
‘You can eat out and NOT overeat.’
Food is now available everywhere and the size of meals has grown. Susan Roberts, director of Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University says that restaurant portion sizes are enormous and calories are excessive. In a 2013 study, she and colleagues analyzed the calories in 42 most frequently eaten meals from independent and small chain sit-down restaurants in the Boston area. They included popular cuisines like Mexican, American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Greek and Vietnamese. The average meal had roughly 1,300 calories, about two-thirds of the calories an average person needs in a day and people have no idea how many calories they are eating.
Bottom Line: What’s typically served in restaurants can make you gain weight.
‘All extra calories are equal.’
Extra calories from saturated fat and added sugars make a beeline to your belly, unlike extra calories from vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes. A Swedish scientific study fed participants muffins; three times a day to 39 young and lean adults to make them gain about 3 ½ pounds over seven weeks. Those who got muffins made from saturated fats gained more visceral and liver fat than those who got muffins made from polyunsaturated fats. The same researches found more liver fat when they fed obese people with butter instead of sunflower oil.
The extra calories from added sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup may also prefer to settle in deep-belly fat. When researches gave 32 overweight and obese middle-aged men and women a high dose of fructose or glucose for 10 weeks, both groups gained about three pounds. Fructose significantly increased visceral fat while glucose does not. We get nearly all of our glucose from carbs but fructose only from added sugars from soft drinks, cookies, cakes, ice creams, muffins, doughnuts, candy and other sweets.
Bottom Line: Excess calories from foods high in sugars and saturated fats are more likely to settle in deep belly fat.
‘I can exercise off the extra calories.’
So what if you over ate over the weekend. You can always work it off, right? Not so fast. Most people overestimate how many calories they burn when they exercise. In fact, most studies find that people who are told to cut calories lose more weight than those who are told to exercise more, though a combination of both diet plus exercise works best.
Exercise for weight loss is often unhelpful because of the huge variability with individual differences with hunger, what people eat, the amount they eat and when they eat it. Exercise is very important for preventing health problems and maintaining strength but for most people, exercise is not the solution for losing weight. You must also maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy eating plan to lose weight and build lean muscle mass to sustain the weight loss.
Bottom Line: Get in exercise and live and active lifestyle, but don’t count on exercise alone to lose or keep off the extra pounds.