A scientist adjusting a measuring device

Want to Lose Weight? Here’s a Scientist’s Advice

YouTube is my entertainment of choice.Whether I’m on the bus, trying to get to sleep or having a glass of wine while my husband puts the kids to bed, I’m spending time on YouTube. One of the side effects of this is that I am often confronted by advertisements of energetic personal trainers, telling me that they have found the secret to weight loss success. Having struggled with weight for most of my life, I’m slap-bang in the middle of their target audience. As a result, I’ve signed up for classes, bought meal plans and tried every diet that’s been thrown at me. Guess what?

via GIPHY

Nothing works…at least not for long.

For years I blamed myself. After all, I see overweight people getting skinny all the time on Facebook, Instagram and of course, YouTube. I clearly do not have the dedication and commitment required to be a slim human. Sure, many before and after shots have been questioned, and many articles written on the techniques used to create perceived results. Additionally, psychology papers and websites, including this page on the American Psychological Association website, have pointed out that years of conditioning cannot be overcome quickly and easily. Having been told throughout our entire childhood years to eat everything that’s on our plate, it’s hard not to feel guilty when you eat less.

All this got me thinking – what does science think? Not the personal trainer pseudoscience touted by numerous unqualified “experts,” and websites, but actual scientists who wear lab coats and spend their days with test tubes and chemicals. In other words:

What does science think is the best diet?

Luckily for me, I know a scientist. One of my best friends works for a large food manufacturing business who hires something called a “nutrition scientist.” In fact, they hire quite a few of them, but I only know one. I’m not allowed to use her real name, as some of her opinions are contrary to the core philosophy of her employer: “sell more product,” so we will call her Mary.

This isn’t Mary. It’s a stock photo of a science-like person. Thanks Pixabay.

Mary agreed to chat with me about nutrition on two conditions-

  1. I bought the wine.
  2. She would tell me what science said, and I wasn’t allowed to throw in my own uneducated opinion and frustrate her.

As it ends up, “what we know,” is part of the reason why we don’t know anything. We get told all these myths and legends about dieting, believe them and then exclude any scientific evidence. For Mary, arguing with science is like yelling at a rock; it makes you look stupid and doesn’t change the rock’s mind.

Breakfast is good

It ends up Nanna was right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As long as you are eating the right things, that is. Mary, in true scientific fashion, cited a number of studies conducted both in Australia and overseas, including this one conducted on adolescents. All of these studies proved, with staggeringly high numbers, that a high-protein breakfast will unequivocally help you lose weight. But you may have already known that. What you probably didn’t know is that anything except a high-protein breakfast will probably force your body to gain weight. Not eating, or having a high-carbohydrate breakfast will lead to increased fat stores, and binge eating at, or immediately after lunch. Mary’s advice? Plan a series of high-protein breakfasts in advance, and make sure you have time to eat in the morning.

Drink water correctly

You think you know how to drink water, but, like me, you may be wrong. You see, it’s not just about what you’re drinking, but how you’re drinking it and when. Mary tells me that we should drink 500 mls of water before every meal, and 2 litres of water per day (more if we are undergoing strenuous physical exercise.)

But why? I’ve been told that water is crucial for weight loss, but I don’t understand the importance. Again, Mary cited a bunch of studies including one that showed that drinking 500 ml of water increased the metabolic rate by 30%, through something called “water-induced thermogenesis.” In other words, drinking water kickstarts your metabolism so do it before you eat.

Be realistic

At this point, I was starting to get frustrated. Eating protein in the morning and drinking water can’t be the only two solutions science has to offer. Then, Mary pointed out the glaringly obvious –

“Most diets fail because the dieter adjusts their lifestyle too much. The best thing you can do is identify the most effective actions you can take, with the least possible effort. If I was choosing three things for you to do, it would be eating protein for breakfast, having water before meals and undertaking 20 minutes of exercise every two days.”

So anyway…

I did it. Two months ago I started preplanning my protein fuelled breakfasts, and drinking more water, especially before meals. The results have been excellent – but Mary tells me that weight loss and size loss is only a good measure within individuals, so despite our proud I am of what I’ve accomplished, we don’t need to get distracted by numbers. The main thing is that I feel better, and now have the energy to start exercising. Also, now I can skip those ads on YouTube.

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Casey Fredricks

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