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Want To Lose Weight? Stop Counting Calories

On its face, it all seems so easy: Calories are calories, no matter the food. And if you want to lose weight, all you have to do is simply “spend” more calories than you consume, either by exercising more or eating less.

But anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight this way knows that it’s not easy at all. And long-term weight management seems downright impossible for most, given the dismal number of those who do manage to keep the pounds off over the years.

The problem, says cardiovascular research scientist James DiNicolantonio of St. Luke’s Hospital, is the idea of calories themselves as a weight loss tool.

“Every country around the world is having a problem with obesity, and so far nothing has worked,” said DiNicolantonio. “But it’s important to note that we’re not dying of obesity, we’re dying of chronic metabolic disease.”

Things like heart disease, diabetes and stroke contribute to about 800,00 annual deaths in the U.S. alone — and now researchers are hoping to isolate foods that are metabolically disruptive, rather than high in calories, in the hope of lowering the rates of such illnesses.

In a study review published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, DiNicolantonio argues that thinking about the human body as a balance sheet of calories — keeping a ledger of calories in and calories out — ignores the very real and negative metabolic effects that certain ingredients, like simple carbohydrates (pastas and white bread, for example) and added sugars, have on the body.

In the review, DiNicolantonio argues that rapidly absorbable carbohydrates — things like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, potatoes, white rice, cereal and anything made with white flour — result in weight gain because they spike blood sugar, which causes insulin levels to rise. This leads to a sudden drop in blood sugar, prompting the person to crave still more carbohydrates. He calls this a “reinforcing loop for overconsumption” that, in the long term, could disable leptin (the hormone that makes us feel full), resulting in even more overeating.

This pathway has been investigated and described in previous studies by scientists like University of California, San Francisco sugar researcher Dr. Robert Lustig, who described sugar as a “poison,” and Dr. Peter Havel of University of California, Davis, who is investigating the link between fructose and metabolic syndrome.

“Just as we wouldn’t blame a child for growing taller if they’re going through puberty — because their hormones are causing that to happen — hormones also can cause fat storage, and they can promote hunger,” DiNicolantonio explained in a phone interview with The Huffington Post.

“Once you know the biochemistry, you realize that it’s not your fault, and it’s not about willpower. These foods have altered your biochemistry to make you literally feel starved.”

Focusing on calories can also create a bias against many healthful foods, particularly high-fat foods. Dietary fat is more caloric than carbohydrates or protein, so low-calorie foods are often low in fat. This leads people to replace healthy fatty foods like nuts with lower-calorie foods like low-fat baked potato chips that aren’t as nutritious or filling.

Moreover, accurately estimating calorie intake and expenditure is extremely difficult, even for the most well-informed and dedicated person with the latest gadgets.

More crucially, our bodies will simply not be fooled. If you exercise more, your body responds by prompting you to eat more food. If you eat less, your body will respond by holding back energy that you might otherwise use. And unless you like going to bed hungry, something — either exercise or eating less — is going to give. DiNicolantonio described this as the biological coupling of calorie intake and calorie expenditure, and researchers theorize that it may be one reason why people struggle to maintain weight loss over the long term.

DiNicolantonio doesn’t endorse any particular diet, but the message from the review was straight-forward: If you want to lose weight, “don’t focus on calories,” advised DiNicolantonio. “A higher-fat, higher calorie food is generally going to promote more satiety, and you’re going to eat less of it.”

Earlier this year in an unrelated but influential study, Tulane University nutrition professor Lydia Bazzano conducted a year-long randomized controlled trial of two groups of dieters: those who cut down on carbs and those who cut down on fat. She found that low-carb dieters lost eight pounds more than the low-fat group. The low-carb dieters also significantly decreased their estimated 10-year risk for coronary heart disease, while the low-fat group did not. Her study participants didn’t count calories, and her results are corroborated by much of DiNicolantonio’s work.

Bazzano praised the new review for pointing out that different foods affect the body differently, in more profound ways than the calories they contribute.

“Acknowledging that not all calorie sources have equivalent effects in the body is crucial, and the ‘calorie is a calorie’ theory actually prevents this,” Bazzano wrote in an email to HuffPost. “These macro-nutrients, carbohydrates, fats and protein, go down different metabolic pathways in our bodies and produce different feelings, trigger different hormones and cellular messengers, producing different outcomes in terms of weight and disease risk.”

A decades-long obsession with lower calories (and consequently lower fat) has benefited companies that make low-fat foods but add sugar and salt to make their products tastier, Bazzano continued.

“Food items that are 100 percent rapidly absorbable carbohydrate could add ‘low fat’ to their labeling and thereby be perceived as ‘healthy’ and potentially assisting with weight loss, because these items didn’t contain that concentrated source of calories: fat,” said Bazzano.

According to the World Health Organization’s global figures for 2008, the latest available, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight. In 2013, 42 million preschoolers worldwide were overweight, and overweight children are more likely than normal-weight children to be obese as adults.

Julie Durian helps motivate people to lose weight

Julie Durian photo

Julie Durian photo

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2014 9:17 am

Julie Durian helps motivate people to lose weight

OSKALOOSA — It takes a lot of will power and determination to stay fit and healthy for some.

However, there is one individual who has proven that staying fit is doable by making a few lifestyle changes. Julie Durian, a part-time instructor at the Mahaska County YMCA, officially joined the staff in April. She has been dedicated to teaching others the importance of exercising without totally giving up the foods people crave.

There was a point in Durian’s life where she had weight issues and one day decided to make some changes.

“I went to classes for about a year before I really decided that I really needed to lose some weight. I started doing more and setting goals for myself,” she said.

“I have changed the way I eat some. I am a big believer in not denying anything. So I certainly watch how much I eat. I use a tracker on my phone and that is how I can track the things that I can eat,” Durian added.

Durian has spent countless hours in the gym to reach her goal to get fit. She explained the process of how long it took her to reach her ideal weight. However, she stressed that at the beginning, she did not have a weight goal because it was a year before she was able to lose the weight.

Once she reached her goal, she decided it was time to be a motivator for others.

She said one of the reasons why she wanted to become a part-time instructor at the YMCA is because she knew that there was a high turnover rate and that there would always be a need for help. She indicated that she also wanted to encourage others who struggle with weight issues and help them get to a better place.

She offered some advice for those who are working hard to lose weight, but are having a difficult time.

“Keep at it. Find a friend that will help out. That is a good support method. This helps people to be held accountable,” Durian said.

Durian shared tips on how stay away from fast food, or limit the intake of those foods.

“Write everything down that you eat. That is a big help. There are lots of free trackers that you can put on your phone,” she said.

She recommended that one should take the process very slowly. One should not do anything extreme when it comes to weight loss.

“Portion control is important,” Durian said.

She said it is still possible to enjoy some of the foods you crave and love, but only in moderation.

“I still eat things like chocolate and pizza from time-to-time,” she said.

In all, Durian said that she has lost 90 pounds.

Durian instructs the cycling classes Tuesday nights beginning at 5 p.m. She teaches Intro to Body Assault on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. On Thursday, she teachers the Body Pump Class at 6 p.m.

City Editor Jonathan R. Pitman can be reached by email at

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Monday, November 24, 2014 9:17 am.

3 Ways to Lose Weight and Keep It Off During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year yet it’s the hardest time of the year to keep our waistlines in check. Many people ask me: “How can I avoid gaining five to 10 pounds during the holidays?” Along with having a positive attitude and self-discipline, I always answer that question with the three tips below. Cheers to keeping the holiday “party pounds” off!

1. Make every meal count.
The key to weight loss is having a healthy, well-balanced meal plan. The meal plan should be tailored to your individual calorie needs, current health status, and food preferences. Eating a variety of nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean protein choices, and high fiber whole grains, will leave you little room for processed food choices.

To ensure you are eating a healthy well-balanced meal, fill half your plate with plant-based food (e.g., sautéed Brussels sprouts), one quarter of the plate with a lean protein source (e.g., grilled salmon), and the other quarter with high fiber whole grains (e.g., quinoa).

2. Make a mind and body connection with every meal and snack. Overeating commonly occurs when your mind is not aware that your body is being fueled. Allowing your mind and body to connect results in healthier portion control and a satisfied appetite. The mind and body connection can be achieved simply by enjoying your meals and snacks sitting down without any distractions. Some common distractions include: watching television, working on your laptop, reading a magazine, and getting caught up on social media. We are all guilty of being preoccupied while we eat. Make a conscious effort to avoid these distractions. Turn off the television. Leave your phone in the other room. When we enjoy our meals without distractions, we eat less and make better food choices throughout the day. Changing eating habits takes time and willpower. If you get off track, jump right back on. Never give up on your health!

3. Move every day.
Exercise is essential for weight loss and our overall well-being. Whether you choose to go for a hike, swim, or Pilates class, exercising is one of the healthiest ways to relieve stress. Cardiovascular exercise is important for heart health. Weight training helps to build lean body mass and strengthen our bones. The American Heart Association recommends that we aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. If you cannot devote an entire 30 minutes to exercise, then try to fit two mini-workouts into your day. Always keep in mind when you want to shed some pounds, you need to burn more calories than you eat.


For healthy recipes and more nutrition advice visit and “Like” Professional Nutrition Consulting, LLC on Facebook.

Financial incentives can motivate people to lose weight

(TRFW News) Weight loss shows on national television are quite popular. Shows such as “The Biggest Loser” or “Extreme Weight Loss” have gained popularity over the years. It’s fascinating for us to witness amazing transformations in people’s lives!

There are many different reasons that people get inspired to take control of their health. For some, it may be a spiritual awakening, breaking through deep emotional pain in life, or a sobering health crisis.  Studies now show that motivation can also be from financial incentives. (1)

Financial incentives resulted in three times more weight loss

A study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008 showing that short-term incentives, such as financial rewards, do provide a strong motivation. The participants were split into three groups. Two of the groups were given incentives, while the third group was used as a control. (2)

The study was evaluated over the course of 16 weeks and the participants in the incentives group lost, on average, 13 to 14 pounds compared to only 4 pounds in the control group. (2)

Long-term weight loss posed challenges

After the completion of the 16 week study, participants were evaluated with long-term effects on their weight loss goals. After the end of 7 months, the incentive group actually gained some weight, which resulted in no statistical differences between them and the control group. However, the upside is that the incentive group weighed significantly less compared to the start of the study, whereas the control group did not. (2)

A few years later, the same group of researchers decided to do another study and lengthen it. Instead of 16 weeks, they tested 32 weeks. The results proved quite similar; “Financial incentives produced significant weight loss over an 8-month intervention; however, participants regained weight post-intervention.” (3)

Dieting for dollars

An article from last year in NBC News Today’s Health showed that financial incentives help people jump into their weight loss goals. The goal is simple, if a person reaches that month’s weight loss goals, monetary reward is given; however if the goal isn’t reached, monetary reward is punished. As much as people love to make money, they also hate losing money. (4)

Mayo Clinic did an even longer study that lasted an entire year, compared to previous studies that were only 4 to 8 months long. There were rewards and there were penalties. For some, it’s worth it, “As human beings, our brains really respond to rewards. Unfortunately, you would think being healthier, having a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer is the reward itself, but that’s a long term thing. Money, you feel it in your pocket and you like it.” (4)

Sources for this article include:


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