March is National Nutrition Month.  The key to healthy weight and supporting optimal health is about eating healthy high quality foods….

The Zone Diet.  Keto. South Beach. Whole 30. Raw Diet. Paleo. Vegan. With so many diets being touted as the miracle answer to your weight loss woes, a new study published in JAMA in February blew these theories out of the water, finding that there was no difference between a low-fat or low-carb diet, and that focusing on calorie restriction was not a major factor in weight loss success.

The key to weight loss, they found, was focusing on eating high-quality food.

The study divided participants into 2 groups, a low-fat group and a low-carb group. Both groups met regularly with a dietician over 12 months and were taught to focus on “real” or whole foods, but that they could eat as much as they needed to avoid hunger.  The low-carb group was taught to eat whole foods like olive oil, avocados, grass-fed meat, salmon, hard cheeses, and nuts.  The low-fat group was taught to eat whole foods like brown rice, lentils, oats, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and legumes.  Both groups were taught to eat more vegetables, and reduce sugar and refined grains.

More Than Just One Key To Weight Loss Success 

Whole foods were a major part of the study but there were other key factors that led to successful weight loss:

  • Eat whole foods
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Eat less sugar and refined grains
  • Eat to avoid hunger
  • Classes with a nutrition-expert to discuss food and behavioural strategies to support the dietary changes
  • Change relationship with food

Reducing Calories without Thinking About Reducing Calories

By changing the focus away from calories and restrictive diets, participants were able to change their relationship with food away from a “food is the enemy” mindset.  By focusing on healthy, whole, nutrient-dense food with an increase in vegetables, participants naturally reduced calories while increasing nutrient intake.  The focus became eating for nutrients, rather than calories.

Changing Eating Habits

How you eat is as important as what you eat.  By focusing on avoiding hunger, participants were tuning in to natural signals for hunger and fullness, helping to avoid overeating and bored eating, while increasing mindful eating.  Participants noted that they were no longer ate in their cars or at their desks, but were cooking more at home and eating more with their families.  The focus became eating to fuel the body, rather than for comfort.

Group Support Guided By An Expert

Making dietary changes can be difficult. Meeting regularly with a nutrition-expert was vital to help participants build strategies to support their dietary changes over 12 months. Meeting in a group setting allowed participants to stay motivated to stay on course by sharing experiences, receiving support, and giving support to others going through similar struggles and successes.

The Bottom Line

It’s not just about low-carb or low-fat.  It isn’t even just about eating whole foods.  Losing weight is not just about how much food you put in your body.  Success in achieving a healthy weight is found in building a healthy relationship to food – eating whole foods, mindfully, and as a way to support the optimal health of your body.  Such a big change requires dedication and guidance to un-learn bad habits and build healthy habits to last a lifetime.

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Sources: Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin SecretionThe DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667–679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245

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