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11 Surprising Scientific Studies That Will Change The Way You Look At Weight Loss

Author: NeuroGym Team | November 16, 2016

There’s no shortage of information on the internet — especially when it comes to weight loss. This is just a handful of surprising information nuggets that have been discovered recently.

1. Obesity May Impair More Than Just Your Body… 

Obesity has been linked to brain dysfunction before, and now scientists are starting to wonder what that means for behavior.

There’s a funny little piece of your brain that looks kind of like a pea pod. It’s called the  “hippocampus” and it takes care of important tasks, like memory.

A study in the UK revealed that very high BMIs went hand-in-hand with glitchy “episodic” memories (the ability to remember events that happened). 

Psychologically, this could make you more likely to eat when you’re not hungry. If you  clearly remember your lunch, you might think twice before mindlessly grabbing a bag of chips from your secret desk stash.

If you’re not thinking about the big, juicy, (and filling) burger you just had 2 hours ago,  you may see a blueberry muffin and just go for it (even though you’re not really hungry)!

Tip: Pay close attention to what you eat and how much of it! Next time you think of munching mid-morning, recall in detail the deliciously crunchy, fruity, whole grain cereal you had for breakfast. Then see if you’re still “hungry."

2. One Important Thing Moms Can Do To Have  Healthier Kids From Day 1

You’ve definitely seen a connection between “fit moms” and active children. Until now, studies haven’t been able to prove anything conclusively. There were too many factors involved — maybe kids just mirror parent’s behavior, or they have a genetic predisposition to like crossfit… 

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine decided to eliminate those complications, and used mice to test the theory. 

A group of expectant, run-aholic mice were selected and then split into two groups — one with a running wheel, and one without. 

The wheel group continued to run each night throughout the entire pregnancy, while the no-wheel group had no choice but to sit and twiddle their paws. 

Later, they all gave birth, and the mice with running mommies were 50% more active than the other group, and this pattern continued all the way into adulthood! 

Conclusion: “If a similar effect can be confirmed in people, it could represent an effective strategy to counteract the current worldwide epidemic of physical inactivity and obesity.”

3. Nature’s Delicious Little Gift

Are you one of those people who needs coffee ASAP when you wake up?

Do you regularly hear things like “whoooa, is that your third cup?”

If so, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. 

That’s right. 

According to Vasanti Malik, a nutrition research scientist at Harvard, up to five cups of coffee a day is perfectly healthy. Numerous studies have proven that coffee has cardiovascular benefits, weight loss benefits, and a variety of healthy antioxidants and vitamins.  

It’s gotten a bad rap (undeservedly) these past few decades. As long as you aren’t contaminating the delicious purity of nature’s magical energy bean with sugar and artificial sweetener stuff, you’re good! 

It will be your friend on the weight loss journey. Partially because of it’s healthy  properties, and partially because it gives you more energy to move.

Coffee with breakfast? Yes! Mid-morning perk? Why not! 

With lunch? Alright! 

Before bed? Probably not … let’s not get too crazy here.

 4. Not Just For Cheat Days…  

In the last decade, steak has spent a lot of time in the dog house. You hear people say, “Ohhh I would kill for a steak, but my doctor said I should watch my cholesterol….” or “I love red meat, but I’m really trying to lose weight so I only have it on cheat days…”  

In reality, “Red meats contain an array of important micronutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, potassium and a range of B-vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B12.” 

What you probably should avoid is heavily processed meats, like salami. No one’s claiming that’s a healthy choice. Just don’t lump it in the same category as fresh, nutritious grass-fed beef. 

5. When Diet and Exercise Alone Don’t Cut It, A Third Factor Will 

Help You Get Cut.

One big reason people struggle with obesity is because they eat recreationally (rather than for the nutrition). 

Maybe you're stressed in the afternoon, so you grab a Krispy Kreme donut… or 3. 

Perhaps you had a bad day at work, so you get home and scarf down your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s while catching up on The Bachelor. 

It happens. 

Actually, it happens a lot. 

Obesity is kind of an epidemic right now… 

Stress-eating and “reward-driven eating” are sort of… eating away… at humanity’s health.

Food (especially junk food) is super easy to get your hands on, and it gives you a quick sugary boost that just makes you feel a little better. With this in mind, some researchers developed a study. 

“Can we get people to lose weight by training them to eat more mindfully?” they wondered.

The answer?

Yes! Two groups of obese individuals went through a matching diet and exercise program. One of the groups also got “mindfulness training.” 6 months later, the second group was eating less for stress and reward, and that led to more weight loss at the 12 month mark. 

The results were statistically significant, leading to the conclusion that eating consciously does contribute to weight loss success. 

(Unless, of course, you’re dreaming. In that case, feel free to unconsciously indulge in as much imaginary cake as you like.)

6. 9 Out of 10 Restaurants in America are Overfeeding You (By A Lot)

Everyone knows that fast food is bad for you. But when’s the last time you thought about your meal at a sit-down restaurant? 

That’s “real food,” right? So it’s healthy? 

The problem here is quantity, not quality. The average calorie intake recommendation is about 2,500 for men, and 2,000 for women.

Unless you’re big on tapas, or gourmet restaurants with teeny portions are your thing, you’re eating too much. 

The average restaurant entree in America contains 1,200 calories. American, Chinese, and Italian food are even worse, with an average of almost 1,500 calories per plate (gasp)! 

To be clear,this study focused on entrees alone. We’re not even talking about drinks and appetizers.  

If you’re the type of person who can’t even imagine life without a bi-weekly trip to your favorite watering hole, here’s a tip: 

  • Order your meal and ask for a to-go box right away. When your food arrives, put half in the box for later and enjoy two meals for the price of one! OR,
  • If leftovers are totally unappealing to you, order one entree and split it with your dinner companion.

7. The Type of Protein You Eat May Change Your Risk of Type II Diabetes

A nutritionist at Harvard wanted to know if there was a difference between people who ate more plant protein, and people who ate more animal protein. So he took a huge  sample of people, and found out that there is.

He observed that switching just 5% of your protein intake from animal to plant gives you a 23% reduced risk for getting type II diabetes.

That’s pretty significant. 

Next time you want a hot dog, maybe consider having a plant based protein shake instead.

8. The “Sweet Spot” of Any Exercise Plan

What is the best way to workout, if you’re goal is to burn fat? 

According to this study, you’ll see the biggest change if you’re feeling the burn at your “FATmax.” 

During exercise your body “oxidizes” fat or carbohydrates, which is another way of saying you’re either burning fat or carbs to fuel your energy expenditure. 

As you increase the intensity you start burning more fat, until you get to a peak. After the peak the fat burn goes down and you’re burning more carbs again. 

The FATmax is the intensity zone where you’re burning the maximum amount of fat  instead of carbs.

After 10 weeks of training, the subjects in the FATmax group lost an average of 5 times more pure fat than the control group. 

9. Vegetarian? Vegan? Omnivore? Which One Wins the Game of Weight Loss?

Ever wonder what type of diet will result in the most weight loss? 

Some researchers in South Carolina took a sample of overweight adults and randomly assigned them to a six-month diet plan. 

The options were: 

  • vegan (no animals or animal by-products)
  • vegetarian (no meat, but some dairy and eggs)
  • pesco-vegetarian (dairy, eggs, and fish allowed)
  • semi-vegetarian (red meat once a week, white meat no more than 5x/week)
  • omnivore (nothing off limits)

They all ate close to the same things each meal with a few variances. For instance, everyone had a taco for lunch, some with beans, some with fish, some with chicken. 

After 6 months of following the diet, one group showed significantly more weight loss than the other 4 groups.

Take a guess…

It was the vegans. This is probably shocking to a lot of people. Or maybe you’re reading this and thinking “I knew it!”

Either way, with most factors controlled, it appears that a vegan diet will help you lose weight on a larger scale than if you’re also eating meat and dairy. 

10. When Weight Loss Surgery Can Be A Bad Thing

Something drastic like bariatric surgery can really turn your life around. 

…Unless you think of a procedure as a cure-all for every problem in your life. Then a good surgery can have bad results. 

When someone over age 35 has a weight loss related procedure, they can increase their life expectancy by a lot. Younger individuals (women in particular) don’t necessarily get the same perk.

Many young people who are drastically overweight think “If I just lose the weight, everything will be better…” 

These high expectations can lead to disappointment, and in many cases that’s exactly what happened. 

Suicide rates increased for patients under 35 following weight loss surgery. 

Physically, these procedures are great. Just don't put all your happiness-eggs into one post-surgery basket.

11. High Intensity Workouts… Better For Weight Loss Than Moderate Intensity? 

Physiologically, high intensity training causes “superior improvements in aerobic fitness.” 

Psychologically, it’s more difficult to maintain an intense training program than a moderate one. , it’s more difficult to maintain an intense training program than a moderate one. 

If you have a hard time sticking to a fitness regimen, don’t over commit. If you make it too hard for yourself, you're not likely to stick to it. If you’re already somewhat of a fitness junkie, you’ll definitely see more progress the harder you push yourself each session. 

You may have noticed that some of these studies contradicted each other. 

Red meat is bad or good? Should you really drink that much coffee? Or any? Black, soy milk or 2%? How do I optimize my workout plan? 

Here’s the takeaway: There is no one-size-fits-all method for losing weight, or maintaining a healthy body. 

Some people do really well on a vegetarian diet. Some people get really gassy from beans and legumes. 

What does your body tell you?

That’s what you should listen to. 

Pay close attention to how you feel, when you eat red meat, when you don’t, when you eat a low carb diet, or dairy products, etc. 

There’s really only one thing that everyone has in common when it comes to weight loss: mindset. 

That’s it. 

Your mindset is sort of like the foundation of a house. No matter how good your building materials (or diet and exercise plans), a shaky foundation means a fragile house. 

Remember the mindful eating study (#5)?

The mindful participants learned how to have a positive relationship with food, and lost more weight (even though everyone in the study followed the same diet and exercise program).

Before you start working on the outside, what’s going on inside?  

How do you see yourself?

People who stay in great shape identify with that persona. Even on an off day, or week. Internally, a healthy person will know “I’m healthy” the same way she knows “I’m a woman.” 

Your relationship with food and your body is just like any other relationship — you get the kind of results you expect and encourage. 

Think about some of the negative self talk you hear in your head sometimes (we all have it). 

Would you ever talk to your best friend that way? 

Probably not, if you know anything about winning friends and influencing people. It’s much easier to help and encourage people when you’re positive and supportive, right?

Luckily, your brain can be retrained just like your muscles. If you want to have the healthy self-image of anyone who’s ever graced the cover of Shape Magazine, you can. 

Affirmations, visualizations, and Innercises are shockingly effective tools for losing weight.

They help you reaffirm beliefs that help you, and eliminate the ones that hurt your progress.

With enough internal exercises, you can become the type of person who can easily build your ideal exterior. 

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” 

 -Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change


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About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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