Experts say eating less and exercising more is not the key to long-term weight loss. Instead, those looking to lose weight should simply stop counting calories.
“We intuitively know that eat less exercise more doesn’t work,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The uncomfortable fact is that an exceedingly small number of people can lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off following that advice.”
Ludwig, along with Dr. Mark L. Friedman of the Nutrition Science Initiative in San Diego, says refined carbohydrates – like sugar and processed grains like white bread – are the culprits behind obesity, not fat.
Carbs spike insulin levels, which trigger fat cells to soak up more calories. But when there aren’t enough calories and nutrients to give us the energy we need, the brain triggers a hunger response to slow our metabolism.
“We have to forget the low-fat paradigm,” Ludwig says. “Some high fat foods like avocado, nuts, and olive oil are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.”
So don’t count calories, but do focus on the what we eat.
“If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose that battle. Metabolism wins,” Ludwig says. “Simply looking at calories is misguided at best and potentially harmful because it disregards how those calories are affected our hormones and metabolism – and ultimately our ability to stick to a diet.”