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Because Dr. Stuart Farrimond knows exactly what he’s talking about when it comes to maintaining a healthy mind and body
The diet and weight loss industry is full of myths and red flags. The frequency with which I have heard from people receiving wrong advice or following crazy things, most of which have no evidence, is amazing. However, over the years scientists have come up with a number of strategies that you should consider that are effective in following a science-based health system. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle through Lockdown 3.0, you are not alone. Remember these four essential weight loss tips and be kind to yourself …
1. Blame Belgians for BMI bullshit
Ask a doctor or personal trainer for nutrition tips and your ideal weight, and they will likely point you to your BMI (Body Mass Index). It is calculated as your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. If your number is between 18.5 and 24.9, then you are said to be “healthy”. If you are above or below you are overweight or underweight. Like scriptures, few people question the BMI scale and its weight classes.
The scientific piece: In reality, the formula is a 200 year old math hack based on the sizes and weights of seated Belgians. BMI urgently needs an update. Your BMI can be used as a rough and simple way to assess whether you are significantly over or underweight, but everything else needs to be taken with a bucket of salt. The BMI does not take into account the muscles that are heavier than fat, nor does it adjust properly to the height.
Get this: when you grow up your BMI will be excessive; If you are shorter than average, your BMI is excessively low. You can easily be out of the recommended range and be perfectly healthy. It’s far better to have your body fat measured, which can be done fairly accurately at home with some decent “smart scales”. Otherwise, a better, newer, and more accurate formula for calculating body fat than BMI is relative fat mass (RFM) – all you need is a tape measure – and there are plenty of online calculators out there that can help you figure the numbers out for yourself .
2. Not all bodies are created equal
Could the slim-framed among us have a faster metabolism or be born with thin genes? The truth is that we are terrible at judging how much we have eaten. Most of us significantly underestimate the number of calories we eat in any given day – even when we keep a food diary. Sugary drinks, milky coffee, that mid-morning biscuit, and evening glass of wine are easily (and conveniently) forgotten, but they all add up.
The scientific piece: That means we don’t get bodies that put us on a level playing field. As for nutrition tips, you have your own basal metabolic rate – the amount of energy your body burns to stay alive. In general, the younger and more muscular you are, the more calories you burn. Two equally proportioned people have different metabolic rates, although these rarely vary by more than 200 calories per day. Achieving this balance between food intake and your personal metabolism can be an ongoing challenge. On average, everyone gains about 0.5kg each year, but we can’t blame a drop in metabolism: our weight increases mainly because we get less exercise as we age.
3. Is my weight genetically programmed?
Your genes determine whether you are tall, short, or a born marathon runner. And at least 50 of your genes determine how well you can accumulate fat.
The scientific piece: For example, if you have an abnormal version of a gene called MMP2, your body can produce body fat faster than most other people. Around a third of women have this fat-building gene. Such people are blessed when faced with famine, but cursed in our world of cheap fast food. Another gene, FTO, determines how much you enjoy eating by determining how much of the hormone dopamine is released when you eat. People who carry a certain version of this gene are 20 to 30% more likely to be obese and, on average, about 1.5 kg heavier than non-carriers. You are not powerless, however – research shows that regular exercise can negate the effects of a faulty FTO.
4. What is the best weight loss diet?
As for nutrition tips, losing weight is easy – if you put less fuel into your body than it needs, it will burn off its excess fat. But the reality is incredibly difficult for many of us. There is no perfect way to lose excess fat, although there are many very bad ways. Beware of diet mumbo jumbo: “clean” and “natural” don’t really have a proper definition and just listen to vaguely mythical ideas of a “purer” past.
The scientific piece: Theories about “detoxifying” and balancing acid and alkali are pure guesswork based on null science. Some diets will lose pounds, but not for the reasons you might think. Cutting out carbohydrates works because high protein foods are more filling than starchy foods. It’s much easier to mock up a medium serving of high-carb chips than cleaning off two chicken breast fillets (a protein-rich food with almost no carbohydrate), even though they both contain the same amount of energy. Always avoid quick weight loss programs unless strictly directed by a doctor. 10% of the weight you lose on a crash diet is muscle, not fat. Mental health is usually affected and the risk of obsessive thinking is high.
* The Science of Life by Dr. Stuart Farrimond (edited by DK) is out