Over the years Jade and I realized that in order to help someone lose weight, a more holistic approach was needed than what the caloric model dictated. This model basically says that if you expend more energy (exercise more) than you consume you will lose weight. Seems simple enough; however, the human body is much more complex than this simple math problem.
Also, the worldwide obesity epidemic is not just a result of being sedentary and eating too much; although, one can understandably come to this conclusion through simple observation. After all, many Americans do have a lifestyle of Eat More and Exercise Less (EMEL), and 70% of the US population is either overweight or obese.
So if the cause of obesity is being a glutton-ness sloth, than common sense dictates that to lose weight one should do the opposite, Eat Less and Exercise More (ELEM). And so this is the weight loss mantra healthcare providers tell their patients and clients.
In fact, this prescription for losing weight has been standard recommendation since the time of Hippocrates. Unfortunately, it works for a very small percentage of people, and this percentage gets smaller and smaller as the years go by. Worse yet, trying to lose weight this way causes our body’s to push back by slowing down our metabolism, which increases the likelihood of gaining more weight than we initially had before starting the diet.
One important fact about the way the body loses weight especially on a ELEM plan is that it initially tends to lose muscle faster than fat. So in other words, you may lose weight, but end-up fatter by having a higher body fat percentage.
And the real kicker is that once you come off of the diet (and everyone does, because diets are not sustainable) you tend to gain fat faster than muscle. This is naturally how the body works when under the stress of an ELEM regimen.
When the body is given the message that food is scarce (dieting) it will tend to hold on to fat and be more likely to get rid of muscle. Then when you add lots of exercise into this scenario, the body gets even more stressed, and compensates in a way that will make it prone to gain weight when you come off of the diet, thus making it more difficult to lose weight the next time you diet. In prehistoric times this was an important survival mechanism in times of famine; however, in our modern day it is a vicious cycle that makes for a fatter person.
As a result, losing excess weight never has been as simple as it’s portrayed to be. Most weight loss professionals will tell you that all you have to do is eat less and exercise less (ELEM) and your weight loss problems will be solved. This unfortunate advice has many flaws and assumptions some of which include the following:
- Works against the body’s natural physiology
- Assumes many people that are overweight just eat too much
- Assumes all calories are created equally
- Assumes everyone’s metabolism is the same
- Assumes people with weight problems are lazy
- Assumes sleep and stress have nothing to do with fat loss
- Assumes environmental pollutants are a non-factor in weight loss.
- Does not take into account how gut bacteria influence weight
- Falsely, assumes the nutrient value of food does not impact fat loss
In reality, fat gain has many causes and tends to be influenced by everything you do in your daily life. However, some of the above influences are beyond our control. The two things in our control that are foundational interventions are nutrition and movement.
The problem is we have not been using these two interventions wisely. In general, there are 4 ways to use nutrition and movement to your advantage depending on what you want to accomplish. We call them the 4 Toggles of Fat Loss [Eat More, Exercise Less (EMEL), Eat Less, Exercise More (ELEM), Eat Less, Exercise Less (ELEL), and Eat More, Exercise More (EMEM)].
We call them toggles for fat loss because you can make adjustments by toggling between them to help your metabolism stay in fat burning mode. Depending on your lifestyle, or the inevitable times in your life where you cannot exercise, or know you are going to overeat (i.e. the holidays) toggling between ELEL and EMEM can keep you burning fat while preserving muscle.
EMEL (eat more, exercise less)
This is the stereotypical Western lifestyle. There is no doubt that most modern peoples, especially people of industrialized countries over eat and do not move. On top of that, most of us overeat foods with very low nutrition value. Chronically following the EMEL lifestyle is the most significant cause of chronic disease. On the other hand, there are times in our lives when a short bout of EMEL can help our bodies, especially when the body needs to recover from illness or over-exercising. However, this only helps if the nutritional value of the food is high. As far as athletes go, Sumo wrestlers and Power lifters tend to fall into this category, but only relative to the way other elite athletes eat and move, not the average person.
ELEM (eat less, exercise more)
So if the main cause of obesity is EMEL than logic would dictate that all one would have to do is eat less and exercise more. Unfortunately, this recommendation is not a long-term solution. It may work in the short-term, but as stated above, chronically doing this leads to a slowed metabolism and fatter body. Furthermore, ELEM usually leads to excessive cravings, fatigue, possible muscle loss, and systemic hormonal imbalance. A short-term solution that in the long-run makes you worse off is not a solution.
There are brief times in our lives when our bodies will naturally go into an ELEM mode. This generally happens when we are under acute stress. During these times we will not want to eat, because the body is focused on getting out of the stressful situation. For example, you will never be hungry if a tiger jumps out and starts chasing you, even if you were hungry moments before you even noticed the tiger.
For the average “healthy” person ELEM should only be done if you are not trying to lose weight, and should be done for a few days at most. Examples of ELEM maybe fasting for a day or two while walking a lot. Another example is doing a short-term vegetable juice fast with a conventional weight training protocol.
EMEM (eat more, exercise more)
It always amazes me how some healthcare providers (personal trainers, nutritionists, doctors, etc.) will give the same exercise and nutrition recommendations to average people like ourselves that they give to elite athletes. The thinking goes that if you eat like and move like these athletes you will get the muscled ripped body you always wanted. This is actually true to some extent, but for the average person it is not feasible or sustainable to eat and move like Michael Phelps (the Olympic Swimmer) does, who consumes about 6000-8000 calories/day and works out 4-7 hours/day when training for competition.
The average person tends to get the excessive eating part right long-term, but definitely not the moving part, and as such is really doing EMEL. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, healthcare providers recommending ELEM to athletes that need to lose weight while trying to be competitive. Think about how ridiculous it would be to put Micheal Phelps on a ELEM more regimen in preparation for the Olympics. He would not even be competitive doing this.
On the other hand, there are definitely brief periods in our lives where EMEM can help with fat loss. We all know that around the holidays or even the weekends we tend to eat more, and knowing this then we should also move more. If we are eating more than the body will tend not to see exercise as just another added stress, like it does with ELEM, which will help our metabolic engine optimize. Mimicking the eating and moving patterns of elite athletes occasionally, will not only help build muscle, but also burn fat.
ELEL (eat less, exercise less)
This is what our healthy height weight proportionate grandparents and great grandparents did. Even our ancient ancestors spent most of their time in ELEL. In general, they did not over consume food and they certainly did not over exercise in an intense way. They did however spend most of their waking hours doing light activity, like walking, gardening, and doing other chores. Sitting was uncommon compared to what it is today. During their time there were not gyms on every corner like today, and no one was sitting around all day looking at their cell phone or computer. They certainly did exercise (move), but it was less intense then what many of us do at a gym. Their lifestyle forced them to move in more of an active rest kind of way. If you are eating less, then you should move less intensely. This allows your body cope with your daily stressors in a healthy way without seeing your eating and moving patterns as just another stress.
Most of us have extra weight to lose. Knowing these toggles of fat loss and how they affect the body will help significantly help in burning unwanted fat. The 2 primary toggles to assist with building muscle and burning fat are EMEM and ELEL, respectively. These two toggles are where the majority of our nutrition and exercise lifestyles should be spent, with ELEL being primary. Not only does EMEM and ELEL help keep us free of disease, they lead us to more productive and happy lives. ELEM is not a sustainable lifestyle, and causes significant metabolic stress leading to rebound weight gain. Unfortunately, this is the predominant recommendation for weight loss. It is not a solution, and makes the problem worse. The long-term effects of EMEL, aka the Western Lifestyle, are apparent when observing the overweight sedentary average American. The quickest way to be diagnosed with a chronic disease is by living the EMEL lifestyle.
With that being said, all of these toggles can help with fat loss and improve health if done appropriately and individualized to the lifestyle of the person doing them. However, toggling between ELEL and EMEM for the majority of our daily lives, reduces the metabolic stress on our bodies, and stokes our fat burning potential. ELEL and EMEM will also help us to reverse the metabolic damage and weight loss resistance from too many years of YO-YO dieting (ELEM) and living the average American lifestyle (EMEL).
Lose Weight Here, is the second book by Dr.s Keoni and Jade Teta. It will assist the person interested in weight loss understand why 95% of dieters regain all their lost weight and why most of them end up fatter. It gives a common sense approach to avoiding the diet trap that most of us are in by elucidating the key laws of metabolism; thus helping the dieter use their unique hormonal environment to burn excess fat in a sustainable and healthy way. It will give the reader the tools needed to help themselves lose excess fat. While this book is a stand alone book; it is also considered a companion book to their first book, The Metabolic Effect Diet.