We all know the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight but with so much conflicting information available on weight loss, how do we actually manage this?
We talked to weight loss specialist Dr Charlie Seltzer to clear up some weight loss myths and get answers to your most frequently asked questions.
1) What was your inspiration for specialising in Obesity Medicine and becoming a Clinical Exercise Specialist?
Up until about 10 years ago, I yo-yo’d up and down as much as 70 pounds. I always had a passion for fitness and loved the way I felt when I was leaner. I wanted to be able to help others who battle the same issues with food that I did.
Since there is so much bad information out there, I wanted to create a practice that could help people not only lose fat and get stronger and healthier, but to do so in a way that complimented their lifestyles instead of conflicting with them.
2) How do you know how many calories to eat a day and is it important to calorie count everything?
There are equations that can give you a rough idea of how many calories you need to maintain, gain, or lose weight. But “rough” isn’t good enough.
There are also fancy machines you can breath into that gives you an estimation of your resting metabolic rate. But in this case, the info doesn’t really apply to real life. (You must be relaxed and can’t exercise or drink caffeine before the test. How many people are always relaxed and don’t drink caffeine?)
The best way to figure out how many calories you need is to weigh yourself every morning for two weeks. During that time, track everything that passes your lips that has calories without making conscious changes to your behavior. Then after two weeks, look at your caloric intake vs. your weight and you will know what you need to do.
If you don’t track everything, you don’t get accurate data. If you don’t know where you are now, it makes it hard to get to where you want to go.
3) Does exercising before breakfast burn more body fat?
This can be a complex answer, but simply, for most people, fasted cardio is a bad idea!
Although you may burn a higher percentage of calories from fat when you exercise in a fasted state, you will likely increase the chance of muscle loss and your overall work output will be lower than if you exercise after eating, as the food will help you work harder.
And remember that you can’t out-exercise overeating. I prefer people to set goals with cardio, like getting faster, doing more jump squats in a given time period, etc.
Adjust your daily caloric and macronutrient intake to ensure you are losing fat at an appropriate rate.
4) What tips would you give for controlling cravings for high calorie foods?
If you can, work them into your nutrition plan. Most people find that once you eliminate the idea of forbidden foods, the urge to binge on them decreases.
Here is a common scenario – a woman goes on a “no processed food” diet. (This is a set-up for failure, as are essentially all “diets.”) At noon, she eats a bite of her kid’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which contains maybe 50 calories. But since she’s broken her diet, she will then try to eat as much of the food she likes as possible before she goes to bed with the thought that she will just “start again tomorrow”. And we all know how this turns out.
If this woman had a calorie number as a goal instead, she could easily note the approximate intake from that bite of food and eliminate 50 calories later in the day. Or NOT!! Compare 50 calories over a goal to cramming in as much “off-limits” food as possible in 10 hours and you can see which approach makes more sense.
5) What is your opinion on cheat days?
I am all for people experimenting to see what works best for them. But if you are playing the odds game, cheat days often lead to periods of binging then over-restricting, which creates an unhealthy cycle.
It is better to work the foods you like into your daily nutrition plan so you don’t need cheat days. In other words, if no food is “not-allowed,” then with proper planning every day can be a “cheat day.”
6) Is it true that eating at night makes you gain weight?
NO. This is one of those statements that is just clear wrong. There is a great study which showed that eating carbs at night led to more weight loss than eating the same amount of carbs in the morning.
Theoretically, it should have been the same amount of weight loss, but I want people to get from this study that there is no need to cut off eating at a certain time, and there is a lot of evidence that “backloading” food is a good idea.
And since most people like to eat at night, it makes sense that compliance will be higher if you account for this. It makes no sense to force-feed yourself a giant breakfast if you don’t want one and then have to go to sleep hungry, and before you want to, just to keep from eating.
As an aside, I have almost all of my physique competitors eat a lot of carbs before bed. They get super lean, and a big part of it is that this style of eating makes it easier to stick to the nutrition goals.
7) Why do some people have a slow metabolism and how can you speed Your metabolism up?
Metabolism is affected by many factors, including muscle mass, hormone levels, recent weight changes, activity levels, and exercise.
Aside from correcting any existing hormonal disorders, the best way to increase metabolism is to slowly increase the amount of food you eat, focus your exercise on intense, progressive resistance training using compound movements (like squats and deadlifts if you can do them), and doing high intensity interval cardio.
8) Is sugar-free diet soda just as bad for weight loss as regular soda?
I don’t think so but there are plenty of people who do.
I personally drink diet soda and find it helps with my cravings and makes it easier to keep my body fat low.
An article I wrote about diet soda that was picked up by Huff Post: Is Diet Soda Healthy or Harmful?
9) What advice would you give to someone who is exercising and eating healthily but isn’t seeing any improvements?
Count your calories – ALL OF THEM. Things add up fast. And what consitiutes “healthy eating” is relavitve. If you’re stuck on an island and only have access to high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, they are better options than starving to death. Similarly, if you are highly allergic to kale, eating it is most certainly not healthy.
If you are not losing weight, make sure you are counting everything that goes into your mouth, and if there is room to decrease calories, do so. And although it is more likely than not that there is no issue with thyroid, insulin, etc., it makes sense to see a doctor to make sure.
10) How can a Weight Loss Specialist help someone who is struggling to maintain or reach a healthy weight?
If you want life insurance, you would probably never think to get a policy without talking to someone who knows about it. Same thing with weight. If you are not seeing results and putting in the work, you should question the plan. If you are not putting in the work, then the plan is likely wrong as well.
Weight is such a complex issue (biologic, psychologic, social, etc.) that it is essentially impossible to do by yourself.
About Dr Charlie Seltzer, M.D.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts, Dr. Seltzer went on to study medicine at Jefferson Medical College, where he graduated as a Medical Doctor (M.D.).
Driven by his past personal struggles with weight and binge eating, Dr. Seltzer’s mission is to help others who want to improve their health.
He takes a 360 degree approach by evaluating and addressing all of the factors that contribute to suboptimal health, including medical problems and medications, sleep, stress, depression, food addiction, busy work schedules and social commitments.
To find out more about Dr. Seltzer and his weight loss, lifestyle, and fitness solutions, visit Dr Seltzer Weight Loss
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