Sunday, March 19, 2006

Study: Finding Diet You Can 'Stick With' Leads To Permanent Weight Loss

Dr. Schaefer says specific diet not as important as commitment to it

This Agricultural Research Service story about a study of various weight loss plans came to one very eye-opening conclusion about diets -- those who are successful at losing weight are the ones who stick with the program they selected as a permanent lifetime commitment!

Well, shazam! Imagine that. What an earth shattering study this is!

I've been preaching that exact same message ever since I lost over 180 pounds on the Atkins diet in 2004 and have kept it off by continuing to eat this way. While I advocate low-carb living, I certainly don't discourage people from trying something else to help them shed pounds. The point is that overweight and obese people need to find something that will work for THEM and then STICK TO IT forever. This isn't rocket science people.

The study, led by Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer and funded in part by the Agricultural Research Service as an extension of the United States Department of Agriculture, looked at the Atkins low-carb diet, the Ornish low-fat diet, Weight Watchers, and The Zone.

Overweight and obese participants in the study were divided evenly among the four diets that were to be done for an entire year. The first two months were closely monitored with counseling by the research staff. Thereafter, the 160 study participants were on their own to continue on with their specific plan.

The people who completed the entire 12 months lost a significant amount of weight and saw their lipid profile noticably improve.

But, according to the researchers, only about 50 percent of the participants who were on "more extreme diet plans," identified as Atkins and Ornish, remained on the plan for the duration. In comparison, two out of every three of the study participants who were on the "more moderate diet plans," identified as Weight Watchers and The Zone, finished.

The researchers concluded that the "strongest predictor of volunteers' weight loss was not the type of diet, but their compliance with it."

These study results were published in the March 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

None of this is surprising to me. What is disturbing to me is how people may misconstrue the results of this study and conclude that they shouldn't try the Ornish low-fat diet or the Atkins low-carb diet because they are labeled as "extreme" and had only a 50 percent success rate of people sticking with them. Don't blame the diet for that!

For people who have struggled to lose weight their entire lives as I once did, finding something (ANYTHING!) that you can enjoy and comfortably live with is the ultimate weight loss nirvana. Not having to obsess over food anymore, not worrying about losing your breath walking from your car to the front door at Wal-Mart, not having to ask to sit at a table at a restaurant because your belly can't fit in the booth anymore...can I get a witness anyone?!

That's why when I started the low-carb lifestyle on New Year's Day 2004, I was committed. I was just too tired of being overweight and obese that I demanded more out of myself than just settling. I KNEW my fate was not to remain fat for the rest of my life. Somewhere deep down inside of all of us is that sincere desire to be that healthy, vibrant, and energetic person we have always dreamed of becoming. It's there RIGHT NOW just screaming to be let out!

One of my blog readers posted a comment this week stating she "can't seem to get back on track no matter what I do."

"I lost 20 lbs and was doing amazing. I looked great. I was walking 2-3 miles per day on my treadmill. I want to get back on track but can't seem to make it through one day. I don't know why I'm doing this to myself. I know how to do this, I did it for a year. Every time I lose weight I do this and I just can't figure out why. I've eaten my way back up the scale eating sweets, breads, everything bad for me. I want to look, and more importantly, feel great again the way I did before when I was on program. I just hope I can get through 3 days because I know from experience that after that my cravings will go away. I really hope it's not true that this only works the first time around but I am not sure how to stay on low carb for life. I love to cook and bake and I always fall back into baking cookies or cake for my kids and then eating it. I am fine until a holiday comes up and then I say, okay just for today I'll have what I want, then I slip. Eventually I get back on track but this time it's been over 2 months. Last time it was my surprise 40th birthday party and there was cake and of course I ate it. I need serious help. Well, thanks for listening, wish me luck!"

Yikes! This gal's got some issues to deal with, wouldn't you say? While I can understand why she feels concerned about her inability to lose weight despite seeing previous success on low-carb, it is obvious to everyone that she lacks the commitment or desire to make low-carb living a priority in her life. If she did, then she would resist the temptations that befall her. I never said it was going to be easy, but it CAN be done if you make a serious oath to a healthy eating plan for life.

But it does come down to that all-important choice: Do I want this so bad I am willing to stick with it no matter what?

Dr. Schaefer and his fellow researchers agreed that is the key question to ask.

“The bottom line was that it wasn’t so much the type of diet followed that led to successful weight loss, but the ability of participants to stick with the program for the entire year’s time,” Schaefer explained. “The study showed that whether volunteers restricted carbohydrate calories or fat calories—whether they lowered intake overall, or balanced intake overall—everybody lost weight."

If this is true, then why does the USDA, who funded and called for this study to be conducted, continue to ram down the throats of the American people that they watch need to watch their fat, calories and portions as part of a weight control program? Doesn't this study show the Food Pyramid is bunk because there are MANY ways to lose weight depending on who you are and what works best for you?

Of course it does. But breaking through that thick, steel wall that stands between health "experts" and low-carb is next to impossible at this juncture. It will take years of convincing to chip away at all the social norms that have been so deeply ingrained in the medical profession regarding good diet and healthy nutrition.

For example, look what else Dr. Schaefer said about a "good" diet.

"Ultimately, it comes down to calorie restriction," he said.

While this may be true scientifically, I don't think that means you need to be anal about counting every single calorie you put in your mouth. That's the freedom that comes from livin' la vida low-carb. Calorie counting doesn't exist and the pressure of measuring exact amounts of food while calculating and keeping track of your caloric intake is no longer necessary.

In the 2+ years I have been on the low-carb lifestyle, not ONCE have I watched my calories. The foods I eat must satisfy me so well that I end up eating less calories than if I simply watched my calories regardless of my food choices. And THAT is the key ingredient to successful weight loss to me: find foods that you can enjoy, will satisfy your hunger for long periods of time, and help you lower your caloric intake naturally. Low-carb has done all three for me!

Regardless of the plan you choose, though, Dr. Schaefer hits the nail on the head with this final thought on his study.

"The strongest predictor of weight loss was not the type of diet, but compliance with the diet plan that subjects were given,” he concluded.

Amen, amen, and amen! That statement alone is why I will NEVER stop eating low-carb for the rest of my life. It's the best nutritional approach I have ever used to lose weight, get healthy and now maintain my weight and health forever. Why would I EVER change that? Dr. Schaefer agrees that you must stick with the diet plan you choose to make the weight loss permanent!

You can e-mail Dr. Ernst J. Schaefer to thank him for his superb study at


Blogger Beth said...

This is really an interesting study, as it speaks to something I've blogged about before, which is the whole issue of compliance and response.

That said, you write re the woman having trouble sticking to low-carb:

[I]t is obvious to everyone that she lacks the commitment or desire to make low-carb living a priority in her life.

Well, it's not obvious to me that the issue is her commitment or desire.

I don't low-carb the way you do, but I do manage carbs, and like your reader, have experienced what she's talking about.

Part of the issue may be that she is not aware what really happens to some of us when we "slip." That small dose of sugar and fat can send sensitive body chemistries (particularly the kind that respond well to low- and managed-carb diets) into a cycle of cravings and overeating that can take a long time to recover from, especially if you aren't aware of why that happens.

Your reader may want to check out Adele Puhn's books, which suggest some supplementation plans that can help "slips" from turning into full-fledged freefalls. Or she may want to come up with some strategies for handling occasions like holidays and vacations that will better prepare her for the post-slip cravings. The Drs. Hellers' The 7-Day Low-Carb Rescue and Recovery Plan may also be useful.

3/19/2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

The pressure of those around us and society are pretty enormous. The response to those pressures vary with the individual.

Jimmy you obviously have, and did have a strong will to succeed.

Sometimes it's not easy to summon that strength, especially if you have other emotional things happening in your life.

That's why you are so inspirational Jim!

3/19/2006 8:40 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for sharing your comments. While it is not easy, I contend that EVERYONE who commits in their heart of hearts to this way of eating 100% can and will succeed. Yes, I admit I'm very strong-willed, but not having this characteristic doesn't let you off the hook either. I appreciate the comments!

3/19/2006 9:55 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Anyone who can get through Induction the first time, can do it the second time when you fall off the wagon and the cravings come back.

When you are truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, you'll do it. Until then - hey, nothing could move me when I weighed 206. I hated gaining so much weight, but I wasn't yet to the point of being sick and tired enough to do anything that was required.

3/19/2006 10:05 PM  

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