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3 Surprising Things That May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

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best diet for you Even in today’s day and age, we still have a lot to learn about nutrition and weight loss. Despite the thousands of diets and other quick-fixes out there claiming to raine solutions, our understanding of the science around this frustratingly complex and individualized science remains in its infancy.

We simply do not have enough research to offer crystal-clear solutions. However, with that caveat in mind, we do know enough to follow some general recommendations and avoid certain pitfalls. Here are three topics worth considering, as they may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

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1. Counting Calories

Of all the diet techniques that have persevered over the years, none compare to the resiliency of the counting calories method, or the belief that losing weight can be boiled down to the calories we consume versus the calories we burn. It seems simple enough, and in fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to promote this approach. Nevertheless, calories simply are not created equal (for example, eight ounces of soda is similar in caloric content to a banana or apple, but is hardly as healthy or nutritious), and research and science continue to undermine this technique.

A recent publication of the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shined more evidence on this truth by examining the quality of the food participants were consuming, as opposed to the quantity. In fact, the researchers never even asked the participants to track the amount of food they ate. Despite this freedom, the study found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods in favor of eating more vegetables and whole foods lost significant weight over the course of a year, regardless of how much food they consumed.

Counting calories may remain a useful guideline for some people aiming to lose weight, but as more and more research is showing, the quality of the food we consume — and therefore the types of calories — is far more important.

2. Yo-Yo Dieting: The Crat Protein

Another common approach to dieting is to follow the latest trend or concept, thereby frequently changing your dieting habits, sometimes drastically. Commonly known as “yo-yo dieting,” many people subscribe to this method in attempt to stay current and refresh or reenergize their efforts to lose weight. Unfortunately, this approach is usually not effective, and even when people are successful in losing weight, they often regain it later.

Now, research is shedding more light on why yo-yo dieting may not be a long-term solution. Recently-published findings from scientists at Monash University in Australia revealed the presence of yet another complex component in weight maintenance: a protein named carnitine acetyltransferase, or the Crat protein. The Crat protein appears to regulate the storage of fat in the body, and thereby may condition the body to respond to a perceived food shortage caused by dieting by storing more fat in the future when more food is introduced.

We still have much to learn about this phenomenon, but the Crat protein may explain the tendency of people to quickly regain weight upon concluding a diet. On top of this developing concern, yo-yo dieting is typically difficult to maintain and may not provide the body with balanced nutrition.

3. Unhealthy Gut Bacteria

Managing the biome of bacteria in your stomach may become increasingly popular as we learn more and more about how bacteria impact our ability to lose weight. Research out of Johns Hopkins University that was recently published in the journal Mucosal Immunology detailed findings related to this phenomenon in a mouse study.

To boil the study down to its essence, those mice that were manipulated to have a specific protein (named TLR4) in their stomachs that activates inflammation were more likely to gain weight. This protein, and perhaps others like it, may be responsible for promoting metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that includes obesity around the waist, along with high blood sugar and increased blood pressure.

There is much to learn about what steps we can take to manage the biome of bacteria inside our GI tract, but early thoughts suggest that eating certain healthy foods — such as probiotics, prebiotics and fiber-rich foods — may promote good gut health as opposed to processed foods, sweets, alcohol, and some red meats and fried foods.

What Weight Loss Strategies DO Work?

The combination of our still-developing understanding of diet and nutrition paired with the problems of common approaches to losing weight can lead to a lot of frustration. There really is no magic, cover-all weight loss formula that will work for everyone. However, there are still a number of steps and strategies that everyone can employ for a long-term approach to establishing and maintaining a healthy weight.

Undoubtedly, the best general method to follow is a consistent, thoughtful approach to eating and nutrition that focuses on consuming healthy whole foods. Counting calories can lead to losing sight of what is important, while jumping from diet to diet may be hard to maintain and could even promote future weight gain. Rather, it is practical to establish and maintain a practice of eating as many healthy foods as possible, such as vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, and avoiding refined carbs and processed foods, and especially those that have high amounts of sugar.

There really is no secret; eating healthy foods is the most important thing we can do for our bodies. If we focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, as opposed to bouncing from plan to plan or looking for short cuts, we will be more likely to succeed in losing weight and/or maintaining a healthy weight.


Derek is a researcher, presenter and community liaison at the Behavioral Health & Wellness Program at the University of Colorado, specializing in promoting health systems change and combating health disparities. With his background as a technical writer and editor, he has over 15 years of experience working in the health care field. His experience includes serving as a contributing author on several textbooks in the medical field, running a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and writing a variety of other pieces ranging from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal passion for health and wellness by playing multiple sports, hiking and running marathons, and travels extensively, having visited or lived in over 60 countries.


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