Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Science trumps Math in weight loss...

Kari by our woodstove.
As most of you know, I have been following Weight Watchers and doing the online program for about 9 months. So far I am down 62# with about 13 more to go to reach what WW says I should weigh. I think 3 more pounds should do it, but I am going to go down the extra 10 and see how that works for me.

At any rate, anyone who has ever tried to lose weight usually runs into a road block where they are doing all the right stuff, but they don't lose any more. You almost have to go into starvation mode to lose weight and even then if you breathe warm cookie fumes, you gain. 


I have read in various places that your body slows down its metabolism if it thinks food sources are scarce, so that you don't starve to death too fast. It is the body's natural mechanism to keep you alive as long as possible. But, if you are overweight, you are not starving to death, just trying to burn fat. 

And then you read some dieting strategies or talk to a doctor and they pretty much always speak mathematically. Just use more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. It is math, calories in have to be less than calories used up. Mathematically simple.

The problem? It doesn't work. 

 Talk to anyone who has lost a lot of weight, or dieted for a few months and they will tell you that it doesn't work. If they tell their doctor that, they are usually told that they need to measure what they eat, track every mouthful and also the doctor secretly believes they are cheating.

But, what if they're not? What if our body is doing what it was designed to do...keep us alive during times of starvation?

And that's where science saves the day for dieters. This idea is not unique to me, but it makes sense and in a practical sense it has worked for me. I read up on something called the Wendie Plan [link below] and suddenly it all made sense.

 The body is not a calculator, calories in have to be less less than calories expended, it is more like a wood burning stove--which I know a lot about. If you put in lots of fuel and light it and give it enough air, it burns fast and furious till the fuel burns down then it kind of glows. If you put in more fuel it burns like crazy again.

Our bodies seem to be like this. So, if you want to lose more weight after being stalled [or on a plateau as dieters like to say] eat more food one day. I am not saying to eat a bag of M&Ms, but eat more food. Add some bread, extra protein, maybe a couple of cookies and some good fat. Get that fire roaring. Your body will increase its metabolism to burn the fuel [because now it realizes you aren't starving]. 

THEN, and this is the secret, the next day or two, eat the minimum you usually eat and your fast metabolism will burn those calories faster, then burn fat before it realizes you are in starvation mode again [not really starvation, but eating lesser calories].
I am totally convinced that with dieting science trumps math.

 Calories in and calories out don't really make sense a lot of the time. But the science of metabolism does make sense. I think it must be the science of metabolism that works in conjunction with the mathematics of calories. 

 Just reducing calories doesn't work for a long time because your metabolism slows down to compensate, but eating a ton just to keep metabolism up doesn't make sense either because I think we can all attest to the fact that we gain weight.

I think the conclusion that Wendie makes that we need to have a couple of higher calorie days scattered throughout the week [but keep those within our weekly point/calorie limit] keeps our body guessing so that it burns the food more effectively and keeps us losing. It is hard to eat more on some days though, because our natural tendency is to eat less to lose more, but it pays off over and over again. 

Science trumps math.

You can read more about the Wendie Plan (using the old Weight Watchers point system) here. Basically Wendie did a lot of research and realized what I outlined above. She recommends following the Weight Watcher Plan on not eating more than what WW allows for the week, but loading some days with higher points and other days with the minimum points.

  I wonder why doctors haven't figured this out? 

Take care,


  1. Interesting...

    This can help explain why losing the first 7 to 10 pounds is relatively easy, but after that I either gain or plateau even if I haven't changed a darn thing.

    Have you done any research into how hormone fluctuations affect weight loss?

  2. No. I really haven't done much research at all on that, but I am sure it plays a part. I decided to try WW for three months and see what happened. I was convinced I couldn't lose weight at this stage of life--nothing worked. But, I lost nearly 30# in that first 3 months. It has come off slower since, but it has been steady. Reading Wendie's theory really made a difference to me. It does make sense.

  3. Good stuff, Jill! Plenty of food (for thought, at least!!!) for me!

  4. Enjoyed this, and this has been true in my experience.

  5. Thanks for sharing this!