Tag Archives: weight loss

Science Tells Us What Works For Weight Loss

AsapSCIENCE makes short videos in which they explain the science behind various things — like hangovers — and then give you tips that make your life better. Their latest video has the dos (and a don’t) for losing weight:

  • Exercise: big surprise. The calories you burn during exercise come mostly from carbs; later, while you rest, it has no more carbs to get energy from, so it burns fat instead. So after you exercise, eat meat or cheese — not pasta. Also, don’t work out hungry, and your exercise routine should include weights, interval training, and metabolic resistance.
  • Don’t skip meals: when your body gets stressed out, it will release a hormone called ghrelin that makes you want junk food. That stress can be from working too much, not getting enough sleep, being too hungry, getting in a fight with your mistress, or what have you. You can resist that urge for a while, but your will power is limited, and your body will win out since it obviously always wins — otherwise you wouldn’t need to lose weight. (Crash diets don’t work for a similar reason.) So rather than skip a meal, eat a chicken breast and an orange, because that’ll keep you from giving in to pizza and a hot fudge sundae later.
  • Sleep as much as you need: see above
  • Avoid stress: you better have read that bullet about the ghrelin!


Not Ghrelin


  • Eat breakfast: not necessarily when you wake up, but eat when you first get hungry. That will keep your metabolism burning faster the whole day, and bring your blood sugar and hormone levels to where they should be.
  • Eat more meat: a little bit more protein keeps you full a lot longer. The body’s response to protein is to release a large amount of the peptide YY, which reduces appetite.
  • Eat low-fat dairy: the calcium binds to fat in your stomach and makes a substance that can’t be absorbed. The result: less fat gets from your food to your spare tire.
  • Drink soup and smoothies: thick liquids take a lot longer for your stomach to process, making you feel full longer than if the liquid and solid food were separate.
  • Count calories: studies show it does wonders for weight loss. Besides telling your brain what your body forgot (i.e., when to stop eating), it also shows you the price of junk food, when you realize that a can of soda and two cups of cherries have the same calories.
  • Use smaller plates: this is a psychological trick that makes the same amount of food look bigger, only because we want our containers to be overflowing with food. If you use smaller plates, you’ll be more satisfied with less food. There are other psychological tricks you can play on your brain, like having people tell you a meal had more calories than it actually did (which makes you feel full), or that your exercise routine is more effective than it actually is.

See also:

From YouTube, via Neatorama

Why Crash Diets Don’t Work

Your body is really not a fan of quick weight loss — or maybe it’s just the more primitive parts of your brain. In any case, a new study shows that you need a lot of will power to lose weight fast and keep it off, because even a year later, your body still remembers it used to be fatter. In its infinite wisdom, it will try to make you eat more, because it feels less secure in its ability to survive… in case you got stranded somewhere with no 7-Elevens. (Apparently this need to survive in unlikely scenarios trumps more likely concerns, like the ability to not get heart disease, the ability to be attractive, and the ability to go up stairs without wheezing and having people stare.) Metabolism was also down.

So that’s why people usually gain all the weight back, and then some. Which just reinforces what the fitness community’s been preaching for years: eat healthy, eat less calories and exercise — for the rest of your life. You’ll end up losing weight slowly (you also gained it slowly, since you probably didn’t gain 30 lbs in 3 months), and your body, like the frog in boiling water, will get used to being thinner and not raise alarms about it.

Details of the study? Sure: the (Australian) researchers put 50 fat people on a crash diet (550 calories/day, meaning a quarter of normal) for 2.5 months. They lost about 30lbs each, or 14% of their body weight; they also tested their blood for levels of hormones dealing with appetite and hunger, and they were in “eat more” mode. Then they went back a year later, and the people had gained back about 13 lbs each and were now down to 8% weight loss. They also measured their hormones again, and they were still telling people to eat more. For example, leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, was low; ghrelin, which says you’re hungry, was high.


Ghrelin is not the same thing as Gremlin


From The New England Journal of Medicine, via NPR

Mind Over Fatter

According to two separate articles, a diet is only as good as you think it is. This revelation comes from two studies: one, in 2006, in which a group of housekeepers were told they got a pretty good amount of exercise, and it was healthy for them. The other group of housekeepers got told nothing. What happened? The first group lost two pounds in a month and their blood pressure dropped. The second group, bupkis.

Banksy's maid in Chalk Farm. Photo by Rachel Slack.


The second study in question, from last month, is based on more treachery: all of the subjects were given the same kind of milk shake, but some were told it had half the calories it actually did, and others were told it had twice the actual amount. The researchers then measured the levels of a hormone (called “ghrelin”) in the subjects’ blood, which are higher if you’re hungry. The people that thought they ate the half-calorie milkshake had a lot higher levels (almost unchanged from before they ate the milkshake) than the ones who thought they ate the double-calorie milkshake. Even though they had the same milkshake.

Sycamore Fig Tree


What does this mean? Well, maybe Jesus was on to something:

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:18-22


So pray to lose weight, and if you have faith, it won’t actually matter if God heard your prayers.


From Psychology Today and IO9, via Lifehacker