For Weight Loss, What You Eat May Matter More Than How Many Calories You Ingest

For Weight Loss, What You Eat May Matter More Than How Many Calories You Ingest

A new study by nutritionists and public health experts at Harvard University showed that the conventional wisdom that the key to weight loss is just to eat less and exercise more actually isn’t very effective when it comes to weight loss. For many people, they say, what you eat matters just as much.

Photo by Magnus D.

The moral of the story is that it’s not enough to count calories; you have to look at the kinds of calories you’re counting because your body processes them differently based on their source. The Harvard study followed 120,877 men and women of all shapes and sizes for 12 to 20 years. Every two years, they completed a survey about their diet and lifestyle, along with their weight and current health.

The results were startling: even though most of us have been taught to believe that just eating less, avoiding fatty foods, and taking everything in moderation, it’s just not enough to stay healthy. Instead, they propose, we should temper their diet to minimise the foods that contribute the most to weight gain, like French fries, potato chips, and sugar-sweetened drinks. They also noted that the “good foods” were the ones most people already associate as good for you: fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The study also reinforced how important it is to sleep and moderate alcohol intake. The authors also remind us that exercise is just as important as diet and sleep. Ultimately, they say, there’s no magic bullet to weight loss: you have to pay attention to what you eat, how much you eat, and how much exercise you get.

Still Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated [The New York Times]


  • It’s not common sense because they have had people fill out a survey every 2 years for 20 years. An DrBoon, who said it was simple? Obesity runs rampant because people are naturally lazy and lack the necessary willpower.

  • Avoid eating grains too often (or at all :p), perhaps?

    Ideally I find paleo(although I’m a “Primal Lifestyle” marksdailyapple convert, what some would call an offshoot I guess) is the way to go – that’s Subjective of course, I know. I see Lifehacker doing quite a few posts on weight-loss and health, the take-away foods week was a fantastic highlighter of how fast foods really suck for all of us. Perhaps, Lifehacker, you can look into Paleo/Primal for another health post?

    What are your thoughts, fellow readers?

    It works for more peolpe than just me, that’s all I’m sayin’.

  • When I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I started using a blood glucose meter to see what foods I could eat without raising my blood sugar to dangerous levels.

    Basically, cutting right down on carbohydrates not only keeps my A1C in the fairly harmless 5.5 region, it also helped me lose 25kg.

    Insulin is a major player in enabling calorie storage as fat, so keeping your blood glucose from spiking (diabetic or not)and therefore keeping your insulin secretion lower, helps prevent weight gain.

    Exercise also helps a lot, partly by actually using the energy (although less than is generally assumed), but mainly by making your muscles ready to absorb glucose and thus preventing that insulin spike.

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