The Yo-Yo Dieter’s Dilemma

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People lose oodles of weight on the Wheat Belly lifestyle. Weight loss results rapidly on this lifestyle because we 1) remove gliadin-derived opioid peptides that previously stimulated appetite, 2) remove amylopectin A that previously raised blood sugar and thereby insulin to high levels, 3) remove other factors that add to inflammation such as wheat germ agglutinin. We have thousands and thousand of people who have lost 30, 50, 100, 130 pounds on the basic program.

But not everyone does. Some people fail to lose weight because they have hypothyroidism, fail to restore iodine, take prescription drugs that block weight loss, drink diet soda with synthetic sweeteners that disrupt bowel flora, have ongoing wheat/grain exposures, or other unresolved issues. (You can find a full discussion of such issues in the Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox and Wheat Belly Total Health books. Also. follow the emerging strategies in the Undoctored Blog and Undoctored Inner Circle.)

But there is another impediment to weight loss that we have not thoroughly discussed: the reduction in metabolic rate that comes from previous efforts to limit calories. 

Here’s a common scenario: Someone wants to lose weight and does so by reducing calories. Weight loss of, say, 20 pounds results over a couple of months—success . . . ah, but it’s short-lived. Long-term, the weight is regained—even if the calorie restriction is maintained. This was vividly illustrated by study of the Biggest Loser TV show contestants

It means that people who have lost weight with calorie restriction, pushing the plate away, “move more, eat less,” etc. have ratcheted down their metabolic rate. And some people go up and down in weight repeatedly, so-called yo-yo dieters, for whom metabolic rate declines with each episode, making long-term weight control tougher and tougher with each cycle.  The solution is therefore not to further restrict calories, which is misery to begin with, but to increase metabolic rate.

How to achieve this? As with so many bits and pieces of information nowadays, you will find no shortage of easy-fixes that really don’t work, such as drinking more coffee (trivial effect), green tea (trivial effect), or consume more protein (minor effect). To break this weight loss/metabolic depression, you need more powerful strategies than what comes in an extra cup of coffee.

I won’t kid you: this will require work. One fairly effective solution, but one that requires time, effort, and commitment, is to engage in high-intensity interval training, HIIT. All this means is engaging in some form of exercise—stationary biking, walking a treadmill, elliptical, etc.—at moderate intensity for 2-3 minutes followed by a burst of high-intensity (in both speed and resistance) for 30-45 seconds, the cycle repeated four to six times for a total time investment of around 20 minutes. This has been shown to increase metabolic rate, as well as generate many of the same health benefits of traditional long-duration exercise, such as increased insulin sensitivity and increased muscle mass. The high-intensity phase of exercise should leave you breathless and sweaty, having exceeded your personal exercise capacity for a brief period. The formula of moderate- and high- intensity has many time variations–longer or shorter high-intensity bursts, longer or shorter moderate-intensity periods—and you can obtain greater effects by increasing the number of high-intensity cycles. Even without a ramp-up in metabolic rate, the high-intensity intervals also increase the body’s ability to mobilize fat considerably, accelerating weight loss even further.

Another strategy that increases metabolic rate is strength training. Strength training builds muscle: the more muscle you have, the higher the metabolic rate. This is especially true for people with a history of yo-yo dieting, as every bout of weight loss involves muscle loss. A weight loss of, say, 30 pounds achieved via calorie restriction means you lost around 10 pounds of muscle. Regain the weight and you have regained 30 pounds of fat, not muscle. Each cycle of weight loss/weight regain means you progressively lose more and more muscle, reducing your metabolic rate. Rebuilding the lost muscle helps reverse this phenomenon. To hugely accelerate rebuilding muscle, use our L. reuteri yogurt. (Personally, I have regained a huge amount of muscle and strength on the yogurt, so much that I now handle more weight than I have in 40 years and have gained 13 pounds of muscle.)

A simple strategy that I like to use that combines high-intensity training with strength training is to use high-repetition, high-intensity circuit training at the gym. This means lining up something like 8-10 different exercise machines at the gym: lat pulldown, bench press, seated or standing row, overhead press, standing deltoid lift, leg press, leg extension, back extension, etc. Focus on large muscles such as those in the thighs, latissimus, and lower back. (You cannot achieve the same intensity using such tools as low-weight dumbbells or resistance bands; you really need weights. Using machines makes the intensity and speed faster, rather than having to load up barbells and dumbbells, though they work fine, too, if you have the patience to change the plates.) Use a weight that allows you to start with high repetitions of around 18-20 repetitions for each exercise taken to exhaustion. Repeat the entire cycle a second time using a weight that allows 10-12 repetitions to exhaustion. By the end, you should be breathing hard and sweating. There are numerous variations on this theme, with every personal trainer with their own notion of how to best do this, but the key is to not stop between sets and to take each set to exhaustion. This is a big part of the reason CrossFit routines yield substantial benefits (which is another way to achieve these effects). Not only will you increase metabolic rate and accelerate fat loss, you will also build muscle. Combine this strategy with the L. reuteri yogurt, as well as the basic program, and you can obtain dramatic effects in a relatively short time.


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