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Refined grains are missing the bran and germ, which contain trace minerals along with antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids. And while weight loss will never be easy for anyone, the evidence is mounting that it's possible for anyone to reach a healthy weight--people just need to find their best way there. A step-by-step guide to losing fat, getting fit, and living a healthy lifestyle. By meeting with the clinic's psychologist, she also learned that she had generalized anxiety, which helped explain her bouts of emotional eating. For example [my story] would show as my story on the Web page containing your story.

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The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Diet Isn't Working

But then his own research--and the contestants on a smash reality-TV show--proved him wrong. On the one hand, it tracked with widespread beliefs about weight loss: To understand how they were doing it, he decided to study 14 of the contestants for a scientific paper. Hall quickly learned that in reality-TV-land, a week doesn't always translate into a precise seven days, but no matter: Over the course of the season, the contestants lost an average of lb.

What he didn't expect to learn was that even when the conditions for weight loss are TV-perfect--with a tough but motivating trainer, telegenic doctors, strict meal plans and killer workouts--the body will, in the long run, fight like hell to get that fat back. That may be depressing enough to make even the most motivated dieter give up. But finding answers to the weight-loss puzzle has never been more critical. And doctors now know that excess body fat dramatically increases the risk of serious health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, respiratory problems, major cancers and even fertility problems.

A study found that obesity now drives more early preventable deaths in the U. For a limited time, TIME is giving all readers special access to subscriber-only stories. For complete access, we encourage you to become a subscriber. It's also fueled a rise in research. What scientists are uncovering should bring fresh hope to the million Americans who are overweight, according to the U.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading researchers finally agree, for instance, that exercise, while critical to good health, is not an especially reliable way to keep off body fat over the long term. And the overly simplistic arithmetic of calories in vs. They also know that the best diet for you is very likely not the best diet for your next-door neighbor.

Individual responses to different diets--from low fat and vegan to low carb and paleo--vary enormously. Chan School of Public Health. Hall, Sacks and other scientists are showing that the key to weight loss appears to be highly personalized rather than trendy diets. And while weight loss will never be easy for anyone, the evidence is mounting that it's possible for anyone to reach a healthy weight--people just need to find their best way there.

Dieting has been an American preoccupation since long before the obesity epidemic took off in the s. In the s, Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham touted a vegetarian diet that excluded spices, condiments and alcohol. At the turn of the 20th century, it was fashionable to chew food until liquefied, sometimes up to times before swallowing, thanks to the advice of a popular nutrition expert named Horace Fletcher.

Lore has it that at about the same time, President William Howard Taft adopted a fairly contemporary plan--low fat, low calorie, with a daily food log--after he got stuck in a White House bathtub. The concept of the calorie as a unit of energy had been studied and shared in scientific circles throughout Europe for some time, but it wasn't until World War I that calorie counting became de rigueur in the U.

Amid global food shortages, the American government needed a way to encourage people to cut back on their food intake, so it issued its first ever "scientific diet" for Americans, which had calorie counting at its core.

In the following decades, when being rail-thin became ever more desirable, nearly all dieting advice stressed meals that were low calorie. There was the grapefruit diet of the s in which people ate half a grapefruit with every meal out of a belief that the fruit contained fat-burning enzymes and the cabbage-soup diet of the s a flatulence-inducing plan in which people ate cabbage soup every day for a week alongside low-calorie meals.

The s saw the beginning of the massive commercialization of dieting in the U. That's when a New York housewife named Jean Nidetch began hosting friends at her home to talk about their issues with weight and dieting. Nidetch was a self-proclaimed cookie lover who had struggled for years to slim down. Her weekly meetings helped her so much--she lost 72 lb.

When it went public in , she and her co-founders became millionaires overnight. Nearly half a century later, Weight Watchers remains one of the most commercially successful diet companies in the world, with 3. What most of these diets had in common was an idea that is still popular today: Even the low-fat craze that kicked off in the late s--which was based on the intuitively appealing but incorrect notion that eating fat will make you fat--depended on the calorie-counting model of weight loss.

Since fatty foods are more calorie-dense than, say, plants, logic suggests that if you eat less of them, you will consume fewer calories overall, and then you'll lose weight. That's not what happened when people went low fat, though. The diet trend coincided with weight gain. Research like Hall's is beginning to explain why. As demoralizing as his initial findings were, they weren't altogether surprising: That's because when you lose weight, your resting metabolism how much energy your body uses when at rest slows down--possibly an evolutionary holdover from the days when food scarcity was common.

What Hall discovered, however--and what frankly startled him--was that even when the Biggest Loser contestants gained back some of their weight, their resting metabolism didn't speed up along with it. Instead, in a cruel twist, it remained low, burning about fewer calories per day than it did before they started losing weight in the first place. The contestants lose a massive amount of weight in a relatively short period of time--admittedly not how most doctors recommend you lose weight--but research shows that the same slowing metabolism Hall observed tends to happen to regular Joes too.

Most people who lose weight gain back the pounds they lost at a rate of 2 to 4 lb. They show that it's indeed biology, not simply a lack of willpower, that makes it so hard to lose weight. The findings also make it seem as if the body itself will sabotage any effort to keep weight off in the long term.

But a slower metabolism is not the full story. Despite the biological odds, there are many people who succeed in losing weight and keeping it off. Hall has seen it happen more times than he can count. The catch is that some people appear to succeed with almost every diet approach--it just varies from person to person.

But within each group, there are people who are very successful, people who don't lose any weight and people who gain weight. Understanding what it is about a given diet that works for a given person remains the holy grail of weight-loss science. But experts are getting closer. For the past 23 years, Rena Wing, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, has run the National Weight Control Registry NWCR as a way to track people who successfully lose weight and keep it off.

Hill, Wing's collaborator and an obesity researcher at the University of Colorado. To qualify for initial inclusion in the registry, a person must have lost at least 30 lb. Today the registry includes more than 10, people from across the 50 states with an average weight loss of 66 lb. On average, people on the current list have kept off their weight for more than five years.

The most revealing detail about the registry: And most of them had to try more than one diet before the weight loss stuck. The researchers have identified some similarities among them: The one commonality is that they had to make changes in their everyday behaviors. When asked how they've been able to keep the weight off, the vast majority of people in the study say they eat breakfast every day, weigh themselves at least once a week, watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week and exercise about an hour a day, on average.

The researchers have also looked at their attitudes and behavior. They found that most of them do not consider themselves Type A, dispelling the idea that only obsessive superplanners can stick to a diet. They learned that many successful dieters were self-described morning people. Other research supports the anecdotal: The researchers also noticed that people with long-term weight loss tended to be motivated by something other than a slimmer waist--like a health scare or the desire to live a longer life, to be able to spend more time with loved ones.

Their smooth texture takes little effort to chew. Overeating refined grains is easy and leads to weight gain. A issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that increasing whole grain consumption correlates with lower levels of belly fat while increasing refined grains increases belly, or visceral, fat.

Choose percent whole wheat bread over white, opt for brown rice instead of white rice or make a side dish of wild rice or quinoa instead of white pasta. Caloric sweeteners, including honey, maple syrup, agave and cane sugar, are carbohydrates prevalent in our food supply.

Obvious sources of sugar such as syrups, cupcakes and cookies and candy should be avoided on a weight-loss plan. By far the biggest source of sugar in American's diets is soda and other soft drinks, notes the Center for Science and the Public Interest. Sweetened cold cereal, sweetened dairy -- such as yogurt or flavored milk -- and processed foods, such as salad dressing, ketchup and sauces, are other major sources.

Naturally-occurring sugar found in fresh fruit and plain, unsweetened milk and yogurt, provides healthful, weight-loss supporting carbohydrates, when eaten in moderation. Starchy vegetables contain fiber and nutrients essential to your diet. Don't ban them completely when you're trying to lose weight, but avoid excessive serving sizes.

Starchy vegetables contain a lot more calories and carbohydrates per serving than do watery, green varieties. For example, a cup of sweet potato contains calories and 41 grams of carbs, a cup of cut corn contains calories, and 31 grams of carbs whereas two cups of raw spinach contains only 14 calories and 2. Approximately three servings, or cups, of starchy vegetables a week are recommended by the U.

You can replace a serving of whole grains at some meals with these vegetable options to keep your carb intake in check.

Avoid embellished versions of starchy vegetables altogether. Fried white or sweet potatoes and chips or a buttery, cheesy gratin, will not support your goals. Some weight-loss plans discourage you from eating fruit, noting that the sugar in them will hinder your results. Fresh or frozen fruit without added sugar contains critical nutrients and fiber. Fruit can also curb your sweet tooth when sugar is off the table.

Eating too much fruit -- like eating too much of anything -- can prevent you from losing weight. If you rely on fruit at snack time and at all meals, you may be overdoing it. Melina Jampolis, points out that fruit has approximately three times the number of calories per serving as watery vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce and asparagus.

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