Monday 19 September 2016

The Real Cause and Cure of the Obesity Epidemic

We are in an obesity epidemic. Is “epidemic” too strong? Maybe, but if you track the obesity rates of most developed countries, you will be a surprised at how much things have changed. Take the United States for example. Over the last 40 years, obesity rates have more than doubled. According to the CDC (Center of Disease Control) as of 2014, 70.7% of the people in the USA are overweight or obese. In the great white north of Canada where I come from about 54% of folks are overweight or obese. This leaves us with two critical questions: 1) how did this happen? and 2) what can we do about it? The diet industry has utterly failed at solving the problem. However, you can be successful, if you know the real cause and cure of the obesity epidemic. 

Why the Diet Books Fail
Countless diet books have claimed to have discovered the cause and solution of the obesity epidemic. However, book publishing creates two problems. The first problem is that you have to make the book appealing. This often tempts authors into telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. We want to believe that we have been doing almost everything right and we are just missing this one, easy little secret.

The second problem is that you have to have angle. You have to have something unique and different than the other books if you want to get published. No book is going to get published that tells you to eat less junk, eat more vegetables and exercise. This causes authors to look for a unique, single solution to a complex problem. Here are some examples: 

Popular Causes of the Obesity Epidemic 
  • Eating too much fat
  • Too many calories
  • Sugar
  • High glycemic foods
  • Insulin levels
  • Not eating clean
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Lack of aerobic exercise
  • Lack of strength training 
  • Lack of fasting
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Increased use of technology (e.g. computers, cell phones)
  • Genetics
  • Thyroid
  • Yeast infections
  • Food intolerances 
  • Gluten
  • Wheat consumption
  • Junk food lobbyists  
  • Food marketing
  • Missing some magical new supplement

Okay, I’ll stop now. 

The problem with this approach to obesity it that it creates tunnel vision. People get so focused on one particular possible cause that they ignore other (and often more significant) factors. 

The real cause of the obesity epidemic is multifactorial and nothing short of a comprehensive approach that involves permanent changes to your health, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle will give you the results you want.

Here is your game plan

Step 1: Seek Permanent Changes
It is pointless (and downright unhealthy) to drop 30 pounds in 30 days then then gain it all back with a bonus. Nothing short of a permanent lifestyle change will result in permanent weight loss. Sorry, don’t shoot the messenger. Behavioral psychology research shows that trying to make a bunch of changes at once almost always fails miserably. Forget hopping on the band wagon. Make one change and stick with it until it is normal for you – then more on. Yes, things will take longer, but you will ensure that each step you take is a permanent step in the right direction.

Step 2: Make the Big Nutritional Changes
Fat loss is about nutrition. As a trainer, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time I say that. But, it’s the truth. Countless people slave away at the gym each week trying to out-train bad nutrition and they all fail miserably. 

When it comes to making nutrition changes, many people get caught up worrying about a minor problem and ignoring a major one. Every diet that produces results always does 2 things: 
  1. Creates a caloric deficit by getting people to eat less junk
  2. Gets people eating more vegetables

Until you are doing these 2 things, nothing else matters. 

Another very helpful aspect is eating more quality protein. This will help you hold onto muscle (thus keeping your metabolism up – and because having muscle is fantastic). It also increases the amount of calories you burn because protein requires. 

Focus on eating real food. Call it whole, natural or clean if you want, but just make sure that your diet consists of: vegetables, fruit, healthy fats (e.g. fish oil, olive oil, avocado and nuts – if tolerated) and quality protein (e.g. meat, fish, poultry), beans & whole grains (if tolerated). Also, make water your beverage of choice. 

Step 3: Make Sure Your Health in in Check
Yes, sometimes there can be underlying health issues such as a thyroid problem that could be holding you back. If you suspect this, but all means explore this with your doctor or qualified health care practitioner. 

Step 4: Adjust Your Training to Maximize Fat Loss
While nutrition is the most important aspect, you can definitely accelerate your fat loss with an effective training program. You can also prevent the common muscle loss that most people have when then lose weight with some heavy weight training. Here are some guidelines:
  • Hit the gym 4 times per week
  • Emphasize strength training
  • Minimize your use of small, isolation exercises
  • Use big-bang exercises (e.g. squats, deadlifts, swings, lunges, pushing and pulling)
  • Train as hard as you safely can (if you get a little scared going to the gym, you are on the right track!)
  • Seek to progressively add weight to your lifts
  • Do high intensity interval training 2-3 times per week (do after your resistance training)
  • Do low-intensity work (e.g. brisk walking) on non-gym days

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Step 5: Adjust Your Lifestyle
The lifestyle in most developed countries is perfectly suited to fat gain. You can’t live like the Jones next door and not expect to gain fat like they do. Here are some lifestyle suggestions: 
  • Go for a 30-60 minute walk most days of the week (especially on non-training days)
  • Sit as little as possible
  • Look to add as much movement to your daily life as you can (this is especially important if you have a sedentary job)
  • Get as much sleep as you reasonably can (this is a totally underappreciated body transformation secret)
  • Minimize screen time
  • Take time each day to relax and de-stress
  • Take one day off of work per week
  • Learn to say “no thanks” when people offer you the foods you know will hurt your results (yes, occasional treats are fine)
  • Spend time with people who share your goals

The perfect recipe for obesity

Step 6: Feel Free to Experiment
Once you are consistently applying all of the above, you are now ready to experiment. You have earned the right to look into the minor factors because you are doing the most important things. Now you can feel free to try out different theories and approaches to fat loss. For example, some people find some intermittent fasting really helpful for fat loss. Others may find avoiding a particular food is helpful. Just be sure to think like a scientist. Don’t make the mistake of doing a bunch of new things all at once. If you get results, you won’t know what worked and what did not. Instead, just try one thing and carefully monitor what happens.

Step 7: Share With Others
The final step is to share this information with anyone who will listen. Let's all work together and make a difference!

Want more on fat loss? Check out this link to the many fat loss posts I have on this blog. Also, check out my book Athletic Training for Fat Loss. Packed with helpful training strategies, complete training programs and a guide to create your own fat loss diet.

How about you? I invite you to leave your questions or comments below or on my Facebook Page.

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