Since my Weight Watchers bashing article has taken off, I’ve received so many misinformed comments on why I’m wrong that I’m now going to write a follow up article on why I’m still right…
Here is the comment that broke the camel’s back as it were…
“Metabolism in terms of weight is a fallacy and has nothing to do with weight loss. The only true way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight is to eat less than or at the caloric level your body needs to function properly. Ergo, if you put in more calories than your body needs to function right, you gain weight.
In reality, it’s exactly as simple as you’d think it would be. There’s no special time of day when eating magically makes your body skinnier. In fact, scientists who aren’t in the business of inventing cookie-based cereals think breakfast is the most important meal of the day to skip if you’re trying to lose weight.
Some scientists say that there’s no significant difference between the metabolisms of obese and thin people. When you take weight into consideration, the folks at the Mayo Clinic found that that the metabolisms of over- and underweight people are the exact opposite of what we always heard: Thin people actually tend to have slower metabolisms than their heavier counterparts.
It’s the same reason European cars use less gas than Hummers. When you put on the pounds, either with muscle or fat, your body has to compensate by expending more energy just to do things like moving your blood around and taking in air. Thus, those things burn more calories.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
Pretty simple really. Weight Watchers will make you lose weight.
There I said it. This point I have absolutely no problem with at all. Sure the statistics prove that most people will then put it back on again but that’s not what I’m addressing here.
What I’m going to address here (for not the first time) is the issue of weight versus fat. We’ll talk about metabolism and caloric intake and why Tom Venuto is wrong by saying that you simply need a ‘caloric deficit to lose weight’ and vice versa to gain.
First and foremost, it’s not about losing weight!!!
This is what makes me so mad. With some exceptions (see below) we can not just step on the scales and use that as our gauge. This is mainstream ‘pop’ health & fitness. Just like saying that eating the new Flora oil is better because it has less saturated fat than extra virgin olive oil.
Muscle weight is very important to us and we can lose that as easily, if not more easily, than fat. We can also lose water and other bodily waste. Lose all that and step on the scales and, by Weight Watchers standards, you get your shiny medal.
In fact, with some exceptions (again see below), there’s a good chance that, if you under eat, that’s what has happened…
Eating less does not always make you ‘slimmer’.
My daily caloric need is around 2400 Kcal. Depending on my needs. I need to push around 3000 Kcal to gain muscle but my appetite won’t allow it. In fact the most I tend to eat is around 2200 Kcal.
I recently took a break from training and I also was only getting around 1800 Kcal per day, give or take a hundred. Sure enough (wait for it) I lost weight, week after week.
I am fortunate enough to own a reasonably expensive and accurate body fat tester. Here are the results of my (pretty moderately) under-eating spell:
April 02 2011
- Total Weight: 137.6 lbs
- Body fat percentage: 10.7
- Lean (muscle) weight: 122.5
May 11 2011
- Total Weight: 133.8 lbs (wow! Give me a Weight Watchers pellet!)
- Body fat percentage: 11.7 (uh-oh)
- Lean (muscle) weight: 117.9 (oh s@~!$%)
Need I say more? I also have a client who recently had a diet plan from me plus a body fat test. He couldn’t yet train for medical reasons so saw me yet again a month later where we tested his body fat again. He somewhat optimistically told me he had since lost 2 pounds but hadn’t started the diet plan at all.
After testing him, his fat weight had gone up and his lean weight was the one that had dropped.
Weight Watchers prescribe points per day. A 150 pound female, a little over 5 feet, about 30 years old, who wants to lose 20 pounds will be on around 23 points per day. From what I gather, a point is 50 Kcal which would have her on around 1150 Kcal a day! This is a moderate (not aggressive but certainly not mild) starvation diet.
“…breakfast is the most important meal of the day to skip if you’re trying to lose weight…” – Why this is utter bullshit.
God, I feel embarrassed that I’m even responding to this. Sigh.
It’s a fact that If you leave long gaps between eating, your metabolism drops. I mean it also makes perfect sense. If someone gave you just two small logs per day for fuel, you’d make a tiny fire and store any extra wood you found later that day. The body works in exactly the same way.
It’s not bloody breakfast cereal manufacturers that tell us it’s the most important meal of the day, it’s everyone who knows anything about metabolism.
Let’s say you ate supper at 8pm, went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 8am. That’s 12 hours you’ve gone without eating! Sure you’ll lose weight if you carry on fasting until lunch. But see the results of my 5 week semi-fast to understand just what weight you’ve lost!
What we can do is take in only protein (not carbs) for breakfast, go for a long walk, and then have our carbs when we get back. This is called ‘fasted cardio’. Some other time though.
Exceptions to the rule!
Most of my clients come to me, telling me of their current diet and they all ate less than half of their daily caloric intake. They were often middle aged women who had around 40% body fat. About double the recommended.
This percentage had crept up on them over years. They had low energy, skipped breakfast and ate 2-3 meals a day. Their metabolism had changed to a ‘storing fat’ mode. Think about the fire wood analogy and it makes perfect sense.
However. Some people get fat by eating cake and pizza for supper. And those people, if they get to about 50% body fat and are morbidly obese… can eat less to lose fat.
There’s an abundance of fat to burn and the minute they stop eating garbage they’ll lose the fat.
If they only do this, they too will start to lose muscle and by the time they’ve finished and look slimmer, their metabolism will still be orientated towards fat storage and the minute they eat cake again – and they probably will – it will go back on again as fat. Especially if they’ve only done the Weight Watchers route because they won’t have learned a thing about how to actually eat, they think it’s all points and scales.
Your doctor will not save you!
I once gave metabolic dietary advice to a doctor who didn’t even tell me he was a doctor until he eventually plucked up the courage and told me he was ashamed that, as a doctor, I knew more about metabolic eating than him.
Doctors are there primarily to sell you drugs that pharmaceutical companies make money from – not to give you dietary advice. They don’t have to know much at all about diet. If you don’t believe me, ask them. They even tell me things like “well, you’d probably know more than me about that sort of thing,” whenever the subject of diet and exercise comes up.
The compromising conclusion
If you want to burn fat primarily (as opposed to gain weight in the style of a bodybuilder) you will have to err on this side of your daily caloric requirements but it’s still going to be a lot of calories for most people.
Most women need around 2000 Kcal to maintain. So they’d need around 1750 to lose. Give or take a hundred. That is 5 solid meals a day.
Check out this article (just read the first bit if you’re skimming) on what happens when we cut our calories too much.
But… and this is a big but… we must eat low carb, high protein moderate fats diet (all clean mind you) and we must exercise our muscles quite intensely (not just jump up and down, get out of breath and call it zumba… once a week).
Stop watching the weight and start watching the fat and the muscle.
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End of rant.