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The Paradox Of Weight Loss – Science And People

Written by: Michele DeJesus, PhD, NBC-HWC, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Michele DeJesus, PhD, NBC-HWC

There’s science and then there’s people. While weight and health have been written about as far back as Hippocrates and scholarly research on weight loss goes back a few centuries, we’re still looking for definitive answers regarding the best diet, the best exercise, the best lifestyle and the best therapy for individuals wanting to lose weight. After 26 years of coaching individuals on weight loss, I often see these two worlds, science and people, collide. It turns out, there’s science and then there’s what happens when you work with people in their own environments, relationships and life. This is a look at a couple of current concepts in weight loss science and what I see in the trenches. 

Blue weight scale

1. The kilocalorie(calories) and weight loss


In the realm of weight loss, the conversation often revolves around the sheer quantity of kilocalories consumed, leading many to adopt a simplistic approach of counting kilocalories. There are apps in every cell phone that make it so easy to do. Should we rely on these counters to guide and support our clients to make lifestyle changes and reach their weight loss goals?

We now have a more nuanced understanding emphasizing that the quality of calories holds paramount significance. Not all calories are created equal, and the source of these calories plays a pivotal role in shaping the body's response. 

1000 kcal. of kale is very different from a 1000 kcal. of chocolate.

We know a diet primarily composed of processed or refined foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies, increased cravings and foil sustainable weight loss efforts. Consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods provides the body with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, promoting satiety and overall well-being. 

When a client steps into my office, there are degrees of willingness to change. This is the day-to-day human part of behavioral science that makes weight loss so difficult. Despite knowing health and weight loss concepts, people are not doing these things. The potential reasons “why” are too numerous to list here and it’s a very complex problem. 

And in my office, the line is drawn at what a person is willing to do and what needs to be put away for a later weight loss conversation. The question of whether or not to count calories because the counters are not precise is less the question for me versus will a person be willing to use a counter to learn about their choices and pivot their behaviors to align with their goals, link. At the end of the day calorie quantity still matters. A solid estimate of one’s intake and nutrient breakdown provides a great deal of information and guidance on how to shift one’s nutrition to get results.

We can and should talk about accuracy of the count and quality of the food, but in essence, I believe we need to move the needle towards self-understanding and behavior change. If you’ve ever talked with chronic dieters, they know about quality foods, they’re choosing not to eat them and the question really is “why not?” Again, that is a much bigger conversation.


2. The best diet for weight loss


This one is more controversial. Depending on who you listen to, you’ll absolutely believe you’re supposed to follow the diet ‘an expert’ proclaims with certainty is the best, healthiest diet to lose weight and live long. And there are a number of diets on social media currently bombarding our senses with this message. For my clients, it’s very confusing. 

Here’s what the science tells us:

  • Most diets work link

  • The best eating patterns are individualistic and a fine balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats. One size does not fit all. 

  • Dietary restriction, calorie restraint and nutritional quality have the highest probability of weight loss and health success. Link

  • The “best” diet is the one that promotes health and one that you can sustain.

My clients always bring me back to reality. Most of them are chronic dieters, vacillating between 2 or 3 different popular diet protocols and not having long-term success. Their environment fast food and restaurants on every corner, food deserts, convenient packaged foods that supply a meal in 3 minutes challenges their ability to consistently follow these diet protocols. Or relay the science to someone who doesn’t cook, doesn’t plan to learn how to cook, won’t give up their weekly McDonalds happy meal and says “help me lose weight.” The science is clear but we’re having difficulty competing with the convenience and taste of quick, cheap, processed foods.

I meet the client where they’re at. Clearly, providing a complete and strict diet protocol has not worked. Understanding what science tells us is step one. Implementing those concepts in doable doses is step two. There is great freedom in realizing the tight restrictions that most dieters try to follow are more like parameters to creating a lifestyle that fosters weight loss and health. Crafting a strategy that incorporates the most recent scientific findings for optimal health practices and aligns with the individual's life circumstances is invaluable.

We are in a time when 38% of the world population is overweight and more dealing with metabolically related health issues. It’s projected that 51% will be overweight or obese by 2035. This is despite all we know about nutrition, exercise and other practices that positively affect weight and health. The health and wellness conversation must change. My goal for my clients and for you is to offer better alternatives, freedom from difficult and restrictive diet protocols, and a more doable and positive approach to turn this tide. 

To follow me and learn more information about Midlife Confidence, health coaching and my online group coaching program connect with me through Facebook, IG, and LinkedIn.

Michele DeJesus, PhD, NBC-HWC Brainz Magazine

Michele DeJesus, PhD, NBC-HWC, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Michele DeJesus, PhD, NBC-HWC is a board-certified & Mayo Clinic-certified Health Coach and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer with a PhD. in Holistic Nutrition. She is the CEO of a 26-year coaching business, successfully guiding adults in transforming their health, fitness and weight loss. Michele has been featured in the IDEA Health & Fitness online magazine as well as numerous television appearances speaking about fitness, weight loss and health. She is the host of the Facebook group, MIDLIFE CONFIDENCE: Women Conquering Weight Loss and the creator of an online 12-week weight loss intensive for midlife women. Her mission is to support midlife women in creating their own health & wellness Renaissance.



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