Oh boy! This is a bold statement to make because every time we think we have a weight loss fact, somebody somewhere does some research that seems to negate that fact.
The facts I’m about to share have been thoroughly vetted. They stand the test of time and testing!
There’s been research to try to negate these facts and although studies can be structured to vary the results, the overwhelming body of evidence continues to support the facts.
If you want to lose weight, reducing calories works better than burning more calories. This means cutting back on food to reduce calories works better than increasing your calorie burn by exercise, for weight loss success.
It’s easy to over-estimate how many calories were burned through increased activity and it’s likewise easy to under-estimate how many calories were actually ingested. It’s not surprising that exercise is tiring and if you’re wiped out after a workout you may plop yourself down on the sofa because “you earned some rest.” Your rest could not just negate the calories burned by exercise but actually leave you burning fewer calories overall. No weight loss happens if you end up with unburned calories!
I have tried to lose weight by eating less. It worked every time. It took me a while to figure out that if I wanted to maintain my loss, I couldn’t return to my former eating habits! I tried to lose weight by increasing my exercise. I was never able to sustain the increased exercise to successfully take off more than a pound or two.
Exercise alone isn’t the best way to lose weight, but exercise is key in maintaining weight loss.
The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) has taught us two important things. #1 is that people who seem to have all the cards stacked against them when it comes to successfully losing and maintaining a weight loss can lose weight and keep it off. #2 is that people who lose weight and successfully keep it off do so by increasing their exercise and making an effort to stay active.
When I lost 40 pounds to get back to goal in 1991 I had two horses in my barn. Their care ensured I got daily physical activity – cleaning stalls, pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirty bedding out to the poop pile, grooming, riding, hot walking, lugging water buckets – helped me to maintain my loss. In 2001 I no longer had horses and between 2001 and 2008 my weight slowly crept up until I was 20 pounds over goal. I got serious about sticking to the weight loss Weight Watchers food plan (rather than loosely following the maintenance plan) and lost the 20 pounds.
Now I am maintaining it thanks to increased activity coming from 2 dogs that need a lot of walking and grandchildren who like to play and be carried and most of all, chased – a lot!
Weight Watchers of Maine has a leader, Deb Ward, who has been maintaining a 112 pound weight removal for 37 years is living proof that monitoring calories and staying active support successful weight maintenance!
She is an example of how maintaining a higher level of physical activity promotes maintaining goal weight. Deb is a familiar sight walking the causeway in Naples.
Says Deb, “The end of 1977 is when I reached goal, so close now to 37 years! WOW, I’m old, yet the mirror tells me that, NOT my energy level! YES I’m still a fixture on the causeway!”
Dr. Jensen, in the quote below states what Deb has found to be true.
Essentially, it buys us some wiggle room, says Michael Jensen, MD at the Mayo Clinic. “Exercise is very, very important for maintaining lost weight, and people who are not physically active are more likely to gain weight. We think it’s partly because in the extra calories burned from physical activity, you have a bit more flexibility in food intake, so you’re not so much relying on ridged changes in eating habits; it makes it more tolerable.” –The Six Weight-Loss Tips that Science Actually Knows Work
A calorie is still a calorie!
You can argue about the source of the calories.
I’m not denying that some calories come from better sources. I won’t deny that we need to choose our sources wisely. Each of us may be satisfied with a slightly different mix of macronutrients which explains why certain food plans are easier for certain people to sustain. That doesn’t change the scientific fact that too many calories cause weight gain and too few calories result in weight loss.
All the food plans – take your pick:
- Weight Watchers PointsPlus®
- Don’t eat anything that comes in a box
- South Beach
- Jenny Craig
- The Grapefruit Diet
- the 5 Day On/ 2 Day off plan
- the Zone
They all work because when you get to the very bottom of each plan they all serve to reduce calories! If you don’t reduce your calories to a point that shifts the balance from too many calories to too few for your body’s energy needs, you won’t lose weight. If you want to maintain your weight loss you need to adjust your calories in slightly to match the calories your body is burning.