Losing Weight the Proper Way

July 06, 2007

Losing Weight the Proper Way: Middle-Aged Women Succeeding! 

Competency # 5 The Way to Eat                    ReferenceAm J Clin Nutrition 2007;85:1467   June Edition 

 Ok, if you are a member of Weight Watchers, this is no big deal.  But it has never ever been studied in a randomized controlled trial (RCT).  Now, from Penn State and the team that published the book on “Volumetrics” comes the research study that powers the book.  And RCTs are what modern medicine claims to run on.  This is very important! It sounds so simple.  It’s nothing short of hitting yourself in the forehead and saying, “Duh”.  

Grandma knew this!  Their finding:  eating foods low in energy density helps you lose weight.  That’s it. The science behind it is interesting.  Turns out we are all programmed to eat a volume of food.  That may be our most sensitive measure of what makes our brain and our stomach feel like they have both had enough and say quit.  You are not really programmed to calories.  Particularly not liquid calories.  And in fact, it only takes an extra potato chip a day to gain 5 pounds a year.  For those who haven’t been gaining 5 pounds a year, consider how accurate your appetite barometer is. 

 Here is the good news.  You only have to eat 100 calories LESS a day to lose a pound a month.  That’s 10 a year.  And “Volumetrics” is the key to success.  You can eat till you feel full.  The substituting of low calorie, high volume food for high density food is all that it takes. Now, here is the rub.  You are programmed, deep inside, to always choose the highest calorie, highest fat density food around.  What do you want: cheesecake or an apple?  Both weigh 5 ozs.  Both are 150 ccs of volume.  Given the choice, I’m in for the cheesecake.  My inner elephant has a very clear pattern of behavior.  He rampages and goes for the sweet, fat, salty, chocolate combo every time.  (Snicker Bar, or Hot Fudge with Pecans) 

 What Barbara Rolls and Julia Ello-Martin did was to instruct 97 women, randomly assigned to several different weight loss strategies/instructions; to eat more fruits and veggies instead of high-calorie sweets and baked goods, cut down on fat, and walk more.  Eat as much as they wanted!  And add 1000 steps a day of exercise.   The women who succeeded?  The ones who ate the most fruits and veggies.  And if they also followed the advice to eat less fat, they lost more weight.  After one year: 16 pounds down.  And, interestingly enough, on detailed analysis of their food calendars, they were only eating about 100 calories a day less.  That’s the difference between an apple and ice cream. 

 WWW:  What will work for me?  This is Weight Watchers.  It’s what I’ve personally done.  I’ve lost 55 lbs in the last 6 years.  That’s about 10 pounds a year.  Here is a research study to show that it works and it sticks.  Now, it’s also changing your environment.  My inner elephant goes crazy when there’s ice cream around.  All the apples, apricots and plums in the world don’t distract my greedy inner elephant who can smell the blueberry cheesecake ice cream through the freezer door.  So, change your environment.  Get that stuff out of the house.  Then, all the plums you want are on the counter.  And the plums right now are gorgeous.  The sugar snaps are in the farmer’s market.  I bought 3 pounds…and then, you do it forever.  Not just to lose 5 pounds.  

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)