What’s the trick to losing weight? Of course, healthy eating habits and exercise is the correct answer — though you may be getting constantly bombarded with advertisements and claims about pills, trendy diets, and “miracle wraps.” As medical science continues to narrow-in on exactly what types of exercise and eating habits are the most effective in combating obesity, the average individual is better able to mount a worthwhile weight-loss campaign.
And now, after decades of one very popular type of diet, we know that the attempts of millions have likely been in vain.
Low-fat diets, it has been concluded, are no better at helping individuals shed pounds than any other diet. In fact, it’s not really the fat content that’s important — a high-fat diet would essentially lead to the same results as a low-fat diet, researchers found. The study in question, published in the medical journal The Lancet, concluded that when no concessions were made in eating habits, low-fat diets were better by comparison. But in terms of low-fat diet superiority? No evidence could be found.
“Results of non-weight-loss trials and weight maintenance trials, for which no low-carbohydrate comparisons were made, showed that low-fat versus higher-fat interventions have a similar effect on weight loss, and that low-fat interventions led to greater weight loss only when compared with usual diet,” the study says.
“These findings suggest that the long-term effect of low-fat diet intervention on bodyweight depends on the intensity of the intervention in the comparison group. When compared with dietary interventions of similar intensity, evidence from RCTs does not support low-fat diets over other dietary interventions for long-term weight loss.”
So, it turns out that the key is, in fact, a strict adherence and dedication to a specific eating plan, rather than what the eating plan itself consists of. It’s the ability to stick to the diet for the long-term that actually determines whether or not a dieter will actually lose weight.
While this may be frustrating news for some, it shouldn’t come as all that much of a surprise. Low-fat diets haven’t really been in fashion for quite some time, as they peaked in popularity in the 1980s and ’90s. Interestingly enough, there is a lot of evidence that the resulting influx of low-fat and fat-free foods actually ended up making people fatter than they were before. This is because people opted to replace fattier foods with carbohydrates, and would eat more thinking that a diet lower in fat warranted a little wiggle room.
Clearly, that wasn’t the case. And we now know, fat isn’t all that big of a deal, all things considered. The obesity epidemic has been linked to other things — including sugar and red meat consumption — more so than foods that are simply high in fat. These days, it’s a matter of lowering your intake of calories, carbs, and sugar that will likely lead to successful weight loss.
A healthy diet, as a result, is plant-based for the most part, with a good amount of proteins and lean meats. Buying “low-fat” cookies, for example, wouldn’t be a proper substitute.
So, with all of that in mind, the odds that you were actually sticking to a low-fat diet with the hope of seeing some real progress was probably pretty low. Though it’s not unheard of: There are still tons of products at your local grocery store labeled and marketed as “low-fat.”
The trick, in this case, is to look past the marketing jargon, and stick to the foods that you know are good for you. And as we’ve learned from this most recent study, it’s not even so much about the diet itself — it’s about having the discipline to stick to it for the long haul. Big changes in eating habits are not easy to institute, but a lifestyle shift is often what is needed to effectively lose weight.
Now, thanks to these findings, you can make sure you don’t waste time with the “low-fat” moniker, and instead focus on staying disciplined in your diet choices.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger