Have you ever heard the term “fat loss hacks”? There is an abundance of articles claiming to have the secret to attaining the “perfect body”. Unfortunately, most of these claims are false, and leave you wondering why you’re still fat.
“No matter what diet or workout you are currently following, there’s a lot of evidence out there to show that it doesn’t work, or that the results you see are only short-lived.”
As the name suggests, hacks are things you’ve probably already done but don’t think about much. A hack is a little thing you can do that can make a big difference. 10 Hacks To Help You Lose Weight. Read more about fat loss timeline and let us know what you think.
Google was a garage startup just over 20 years ago, and no one had heard of “fat loss hacks.”
In two decades, however, a lot can happen. (We’ll refrain from showing you a screenshot of our search results.)
Obesity is still on the rise, which is something that hasn’t changed. 1
Obesity and severe obesity prevalence in the United States from 1999 to 2018.
To put it another way:
Despite server farms full of fat loss hacks, there are no legitimate fat loss hacks.
That’s because obesity isn’t a problem that can be solved easily.
Physical, psychological, social, environmental, and emotional elements all play a role in our capacity to eat less and move more.
And the importance of each component varies from person to person. Check out the graphic below for a visual representation.
Here’s where the irony comes in:
The majority of “diet hacks,” “quick fixes,” and “simple solutions” make fat reduction more difficult than it needs to be.
These methods frequently advocate for unnecessarily tight and unneeded laws that:
- Sugar or carbs should be avoided.
- vilify fat or meat (ethical reasons aside)
- moralize food choices (implying that there are “good” and “bad” ways to eat)
- Perfection in the kitchen is encouraged or required.
- emphasis theoretical optimality over practicality (and may recommend supplements or “superfoods” as necessary components)
This isn’t to say that what you eat and how you exercise aren’t important. Rather, to argue that, in comparison to most fat loss techniques, you (or your customers) can be more flexible with what you eat and how you exercise while still achieving the long-term outcomes you desire.
What is the situation in our case? Exhibits A-J are the ten charts that follow. When it comes to fat loss, they may be able to help you visualize a more successful and long-term solution—no “hacks” required.
The foods we eat the most are Exhibit A.
There’s no denying that many people who have trouble losing weight eat too many carbohydrates. (As well as a lot of fat.) Is this, however, an indictment of carbs as a whole? Or the carbohydrate sources? Take a look at the results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). 2
According to this study, desserts, candies, snacks, and sugary drinks account for roughly a quarter of the average American’s calorie intake. (Not all foods are represented in the graph.)
That’s a significant portion of your daily calorie intake.
These foods aren’t on anyone’s list of healthy eats. But, as you might probably guess, if you drastically reduce your carb intake—or even simply your sugar intake—you’ll instantly eliminate the majority of these “junk meals.” (Not to mention a lot of calories from carbs and fat.)
This leads to a frequent claim: giving up carbs makes it easier to lose weight since you don’t crave junk food.
That could be the case. Is this, though, because you’ve cut out carbs or because you’ve cut out junk food?
The following graph elucidates the situation.
Exhibit B: The delectable meals we can’t get enough of.
Researchers from the University of Michigan examined the “addictive” properties of common foods in a recent study. 3 Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale, the chart below illustrates the top ten foods that people are most likely to label as “problematic.”
The glycemic load (GL) of a food is a measure of how much and what kind of carbohydrate it contains. A food with a GL of 20 or more is regarded to have a high glycemic load. A low-glycemic load food has a GL of 10 or less.
Whether you limit carbs or fats, nine out of ten of these foods would be off-limits or drastically curtailed.
All but one are ultra-processed foods, and the majority contain sugar, fat, and salt in some form.
This combination of ingredients makes these foods “hyper-palatable,” or so good that they’re difficult to put down. Food producers design them to be this way. (For further information, see Manufactured Deliciousness: Why You Can’t Stop Eating.)
What about items that don’t have all three of those elements, such as soda or chocolate? To increase their attractiveness, they often contain “drug-like” substances like caffeine and/or theobromine.
With this in mind, it’s also worth revisiting the prior graph. Exhibit B shows that eight of the ten most “addictive” foods are also five of the top six most eaten food groups in Exhibit A.
What is it that they all share in common? They’re frequently highly processed and made in order to be irresistible.
Consider this: What meals are particularly troublesome for you? What do they have in common, exactly?
(Download our Yale Food Addiction Scale worksheet to test this on yourself or with a client.)
Most people’s “problem” lists don’t include minimally processed, whole foods like vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains. We simply don’t overeat these items on a regular basis.
However, there are fat reduction tips that recommend avoiding fruit, never eating a starchy vegetable, and avoiding all beans and grains.
Our concern is when did these foods start to be a problem?
That brings us to the following point.
Exhibits C-G: The nutrient-dense foods we’re skipping.
More vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains have long been recommended by public health professionals.
However, some suggestions have been criticized for not functioning. Because, despite them, we’ve all gotten fatter. Certain parties argue that it is the problem of these “healthy” foods.
Is this, however, the case?
Is it because people are substituting other (highly processed, highly palatable) foods?
Here’s why that sounds like a loaded question:
According to NHANES data, ultra-processed foods account for 58.5 percent of total calories consumed in the United States. 4
And our consuming habits aren’t getting any better: Every year during the five-year survey period, that percentage increased by 1%.
But, since whole grains are frequently maligned, let’s take a closer look at the recommended “health” foods, starting with whole grains.
You could probably argue that individuals consume too many refined, ultra-processed grains based on the NHANES statistics. 5
But what about entire grains? People, on the other hand, are still not eating them.
The same may be said about fruit. 5
As well as vegetables.5
As well as legumes. 5
The truth is that most people focus on subtraction while trying to enhance their diet. They might say something like, “I’m giving up sugar” (see Exhibit A) or “I’m avoiding junk food” (see Exhibit B).
The problem is that they generally don’t have a plan for what they’ll eat instead. This might cause emotions of deprivation and dissatisfaction with one’s diet.
As a result, starting with addition can be beneficial: Increase your vegetable consumption. Increase your fruit consumption. Increase your intake of whole grains and legumes. Increase your intake of lean protein. (Men tend to eat fattier protein sources, which supply more calories, whereas women frequently struggle to acquire enough protein overall.)
This “add first” method, based on our experience working with over 100,000 clients, can be quite effective at “crowding out” ultra-processed, hyper-palatable items. (No, this does not imply that you must live a life devoid of “junk food”: find out why.)
When you “add first,” you not only get more nutritious foods into your diet, but you also immediately eat less.
A recent study from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers an example (an institute of the NIH). 6
Twenty adults were admitted to a metabolic ward and were randomly assigned to either an ultra-processed or minimally-processed diet. They were free to eat as much or as little as they wanted. They swapped after two weeks and went on the alternate diet for two weeks.
The result: On the ultra-processed diet, subjects consumed 508 more calories per day and gained weight, as shown in the graph below. They dropped weight by eating a diet that was minimally processed.
It’s a small but well-controlled study (previous studies have found comparable results7,8) that mirrors what we find with clients that employ our “add first” strategy.
As people consume more minimally processed foods, their overall calorie intake decreases. They find meals to be more enjoyable and rewarding.
If adding versus subtracting seems counterintuitive, consider this: What if conventional wisdom is incorrect?
You’ll quickly discover that adding first is lot easier than completely changing your diet. You can always subtract if it isn’t working for you.
But the best part is that, as Exhibit H shows, you don’t need perfection to achieve important outcomes.
Exhibit H: Perfection isn’t required for progress.
We don’t expect our clients to change their habits or learn new abilities overnight when they work with us. We don’t want them to even try.
Instead, we give them one daily health habit to adopt every two weeks for a year, such as eating five daily portions of fruits and vegetables or eating lean protein at each meal.
These habits build up, and by the end of the year, they’ve adopted a total of 25 routines.
This is how we assist people establish healthy eating and lifestyle skills and behaviors that aren’t dependant on willpower or discipline.
None of these methods instruct clients to abstain from certain foods.
That is a natural occurrence.
However, because our clients are people, this does not always happen.
And that’s fine. In any case, it works.
The effects are usually fantastic when people are 90% consistent with their daily habits, according to our data.
However, even when people are only 50 to 80 percent consistent, they have significant consequences.
Furthermore, even clients who are only 10% to 49% consistent can make considerable and meaningful progress.
The end outcome is as follows.
Over the course of our 12-month coaching program, we collected data from 1,000 clients.
This strategy is founded on the notion that progress isn’t about perfection.
It all boils down to accepting the fact that better is better. And a regular effort, no matter how tiny, can result in significant fat loss and health advantages.
This isn’t merely true in terms of nutrition. It’s also true when it comes to fitness…
Exhibit I: You don’t have to program your movement.
Here’s a cool graph. It shows how daily energy expenditure changed from 1900 to the early 2000s. 9 The researchers also charted the proliferation of both time-saving and time-wasting technology.
Over the previous century, total daily energy expenditure has decreased by 60 to 70 percent.
The same investigators found that actors portraying Australian pioneers 150 years ago were 1.6 to 2.3 times more active than sedentary modern office workers in a prior study. 10 That’s the equivalent of walking an extra 5 to 10 miles every day (or around 10,000 to 20,000 steps).
This isn’t to say you should start walking 10 kilometers every day. It’s to underline how little we move in the current world in comparison to any other period in human history. And that most of us, even if we work out regularly, would benefit from greater everyday activity of any type.
In terms of practicality, this may just necessitate a mental shift. Consider the following scenario:
- Cleaning the house using a vacuum
- The yard is being weeded.
- Taking a longer walk with the dog
- In the driveway, shooting hoops
- Marco Polo and the children (instead of watching them play in the pool)
These aren’t annoyances or time sinks; they’re opportunities to get a little more done while doing other things.
No, these activities won’t help you burn the most calories per hour. This minor shift in perspective, on the other hand, may encourage you to get more done, have more fun, and considerably raise your daily energy expenditure—all without spending more time in the gym.
What should I do next?
Exhibit J is now available for viewing. If you’re a regular reader of PN, you’ve probably seen this Venn diagram before. (It’s one of our favorites.)
What’s the bottom line? In practically every well-considered dietary pattern, the nutrition fundamentals in the centre of the figure are universal. You may call them the fundamentals.
That doesn’t make them simple. In fact, they can be really difficult.
After all, how many people do you know who adhere to these six nutrition principles on a regular basis?
Or, to put it another way, how likely is it for the ordinary individual to successfully absorb these elements all at once… throughout time?
The chances aren’t in your favor. That is something you probably don’t need a chart to see.
Consider this: If the fundamentals are too difficult, what can you expect from a strategy that excludes even more items or recommends drastic adjustments to what they’re doing now?
Make no doubt about it: Keto, Paleo, a purely plant-based diet, or any other diet can be very successful. But what about overnight? That doesn’t happen very often, at least not in a long-term fashion.
Instead, we propose a different approach—one that encourages long-term behavior change.
Here’s a quick rundown on how to get started:
Step 1: Concentrate on only one new daily habit at a time.
Do this for two or three weeks at a time. The aim is to pick a daily exercise that will help you achieve improvement, no matter how tiny it may be. You could begin with the fundamentals by choosing one of the following options:
- Consume a sufficient amount of high-quality protein.
- Consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.
- Place a premium on minimally processed whole foods.
- Eat carefully until you’re full.
(Try adding another after you’ve practiced one for a few weeks.)
Step 2: Make it appear as if the exercise is simple.
Getting five servings of fruits and veggies per day may be too difficult if you’re only eating one currently.
Could you, however, aim for three portions every day? Or three or four servings three or four times a week?
The concept: You want a practice that is likely to succeed. From there, you can expand.
Imagine this: If you pile easy on top of easy, one day you wake up and find you’ve made significant progress, and it was… easier than you thought. (Because we’re not going to pretend that long-term change is ever “easy.”)
Step 3: Strive for consistency rather than perfection.
Your day will not always go as planned: a last-minute job deadline, a squabble with your partner, or an unexpected trip to the veterinarian.
However, as we’ve seen, even with less than 50% regularity, you can see meaningful results. One bad day does not undermine all of your good work.
All of this may appear to be far too “simple” to be effective.
“It sounds way too slow!” you might think. I’m in desperate need of a quick fix!”
This is very understandable.
However, you may feel this way because:
- You’ve probably seen commercials promising “six-pack abs in six weeks” or a “bikini body in 30 days.”
- You’ve been starved and unhappy in the past when trying to lose weight (and often like a failure).
In case you didn’t notice, these two things are inextricably linked.
As a result, it’s understandable to be put off by the “extended duration” of behavior change, the lack of a “specific eating plan,” or the concept of “making one small change at a time.”
If that’s the case, all we have to say is:
How has the alternative worked in the past for you?
Maybe you’ve found what works for you if you’re happy with the experience and the result—and where you are now.
However, if you aren’t feeling warm and fuzzy, it may be time for a change (whether for yourself or for your clients).
One that assists you in changing your eating and living habits in a way that takes into account the complete complexity of fat loss (and your entire life).
So that you are not unhappy. You don’t feel deprived in any way. It’s also difficult to fail.
That seems a lot like a fat-loss scheme, doesn’t it? (However, this isn’t the case.)
To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.
1. C.M. Hales, M.D. Carroll, C.D. Fryar, and C.L. Ogden. Obesity and Severe Obesity among Adults in the United States, 2017-2018. NCHS Data Brief, vol. 360, no. 1, pp. 1–8. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db360-h.pdf
2. Adapted from the report of the Advisory Committee on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is available at https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf.
3. E.M. Schulte, N.M. Avena, and A.N. Gearhardt. Which foods have the potential to be addictive? Processing, fat content, and glycemic load all play a role. PLoS One, vol. 10, no. 2, e0117959, published online February 18, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117959
4. Baraldi LG, Martinez Steele E, Canella DS, Monteiro CA, Martinez Steele E, Martinez Steele E, Martinez Steele E, Martinez Steele E, Martinez Steele E, Martinez Steele Evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study on ultra-processed food consumption and associated sociodemographic characteristics in the United States between 2007 and 2012. 2018 Mar 9;8(3):e020574 in BMJ Open. 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020574 is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020574.
5. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: A Closer Look at Current Intakes and Recommendations; health.gov. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/dietary-guidelines/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/
6. KD Hall, Ayuketah A, R Brychta, H Cai, T Cassimatis, KY Chen, et al. An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake found that ultra-processed diets cause excessive calorie intake and weight gain. 30(1):67–77.e3 (Cell Metab., 2019 Jul 2);30(1):67–77.e3 (Cell Metab., 2019 Jul 2);30 For more information, go to http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008
7. Larson DE, Rising R, Ferraro RT, and Ravussin E. Effects of a “cafeteria diet” on 24-hour energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in males. 1995 May;19(5):331–7 in Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord [Internet].
Ad libitum food intake on a “cafeteria diet” in Native American women: relationships with body composition and 24-hour energy expenditure. Larson DE, Tataranni PA, Ferraro RT, Ravussin E. 1995 Nov;62(5):911–7 in Am J Clin Nutr. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/62.5.911/
Estimating Changes in Daily Physical Activity Levels over Time: Implications for Health Interventions from a Novel Approach. 9. Vogels N, Egger G, Plasqui G, Westerterp KR. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2004 May 24;25(08):607–10.
Estimating historical changes in physical activity levels. Egger GJ, Vogels N, Westerterp KR. Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 175(11-12), pp. 635–636. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11837872
If you’re a coach or wish to be one…
It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.
Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.
You can’t be a successful fat loss hacker if you don’t know the fundamentals of healthy eating, in fact, you’ll probably see better results if you take a more balanced approach.. Read more about precision nutrition weight loss calculator and let us know what you think.
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