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3 Reasons Dieters Don't Lose Weight

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This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series. If you missed Part 1, go here.

What's Going On?

OK, today we are going to have the hard discussion. You may not like what you hear today. And some of it may not apply to you. But if you have struggled to lose weight, at least part of what I say today, applies to YOU.

#1 Reason Dieters Don't Lose Weight

If you aren't losing weight, it is quite possible you aren't following the diet. How could that be?

Let's start at the top. You understand the need for the calorie deficit. You know you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you eat to lose 1 pound of fat. You know the rule of thumb that the average woman burns 2,000 calories a day, and the average man burns 2,500 calories per day. And you are on a 1,500 calorie a day diet, to create a daily 500-1,000 calorie deficit to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

Why isn't the Diet Working?

OK, let's look at some possible answers for why your diet isn't working.

  1. The 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day rule of thumb does not apply to everybody. It applies to "moderately active" people. A moderately active person gets more than 5,000 steps per day and at least 30 minutes of moderate level aerobic exercise each day (such as a 30 minute brisk walk). If you are a sedentary office worker getting only 2-3,000 steps a day, and no daily walk, you never were burning 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day. You may have only been burning 1,700 or 1,800 calories a day.

  2. Second mistake is, after starting your diet, you may have cut your activity level back even more, because....well... you didn't feel like doing much, because you were dieting, after all. So now you are burning even less calories than typical for you.

  3. The final mistake: you aren't actually counting the calories each day, just kind of estimating them. In fact when you take a real close look, counting the extra butter, counting every snack, looking at the actual portion size, you are actually going 200 or 300 calories over your 1,500 calorie goal.

When you take these 3 facts into consideration, you find that most unsuccessful dieters are not creating a daily calorie deficit and are not going to lose weight. Or they might have 1 or 2 good days when they really get serious about their diet, followed by several sloppy days. Some version of this explanation applies to most dieters that aren't losing weight. Does this apply to you? Only YOU can answer that.

As my Dad used to say: "Everybody in concentration camps lost weight."

Concentration camps didn't offer midnight snacking, no sources of extra calories, just the starvation diet the Nazi's handed out, and everybody lost weight.

We are going to discuss 2 other reasons people don't lose weight, but you need to take a very close look at this issue before moving on.

#2 Reason Dieters Don't Lose Weight

In this study, the unprocessed real-food diet led to a 1 pound weight loss per weak. The ultra-processed food led to a 1 pound gain each week.

Ultra-Processed food makes weight loss hard and in fact promotes weight gain. One in 8, or 13 percent of adults aged 50+ meet the criteria for addiction to ultra-processed foods. Among other symptoms, these people experienced physical withdrawals and an inability to cut back, when trying to quit ultra-processed foods. Nearly half of adults exhibit some signs of addiction, such as eating more than they planned and and inability to cut back.

The effect of ultra-processed foods was tested in a controlled trial, conducted with patients in a residential facility, that were monitored 24 hours a day. Those given real-foods, as opposed to ultra-processed foods, automatically consumed about 500 less calories per day, even when everybody could eat as much as they wanted. Even when nobody was coached to eat less or attempting to diet. (Cell Metabolism, Vol 30, Issue 1, 2019)

Those on the ultra-processed diet were fed a selection of dishes including tater tots, turkey sausage, Spam, and lemonade. The real-food diet was mostly made up of fruit, vegetables, and unprocessed meat. The critical part, however, was that the two diets were nutritionally matched, so each contained roughly the same amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and so on. Even without dieting, those that ate the ultra-processed foods gained weight, and those that ate the real-foods lost weight.

Ultra-processed foods are the main source (nearly 58%) of calories eaten in the US, and contribute almost 90% of the energy we get from added sugars. In other words, the majority of the food eaten by most people is ultra-processed food. Is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic?

Ultra-processed foods are packaged foods that have been made by food companies using many manufactured ingredients, rather than actual foods. Those ingredients are combined in some way to make something that is edible, but it in no way maintains the integrity or nutritional content of the original foods. Ultra-processed foods also contain additives like artificial colors, flavorings, stabilizers, flavor enhancers, emulsifiers, preservatives, anti-caking agents, anti-oxidants, humectants, acids and buffers, foaming agents, thickeners, propellants, gelling agents, and bulking agents.

Each one of these additives have been individually tested and found to be safe. But the COMBINATION of multiple additives have never been tested! Quite frankly, nobody knows for sure what the effects are when Americans eat untested combinations of these additives.

When you consider that animals are eating the same ultra-processed foods we are, it makes sense to look to the animal kingdom for some answers. Even lab rats are getting ultra-processed foods. Manufacturers of rat food have the same incentive to increase shelf life, prevent spoilage, maintain uniform appearance, etc, and they use the same additives and preservatives used in human food.

Animals Are Also Experiencing An Obesity Epidemic!

Researchers, led by David Allison of the University of Alabama, looked at more than 20,000 animals from eight species that live near or with humans in industrialized places. They included several species of monkeys, chimpanzees, wild rats, lab mice and lab rats, and domestic cats and dogs. In every population, the trend was clear: The animals are gaining weight. The researchers are very concerned and stated: "Maybe domestic pets and feral rats fattened up because the availability of food has increased over the years. But how does that explain why lab animals in controlled environments got heavier, too?" (Nov. 2010: Biological Sciences 278(1712):1626-32)

I believe the gross amounts of food additives we consume are damaging our metabolism and predisposing us to over eat. The same thing is going on in the animal kingdom and they are getting fat just like us. Same food, same additives, same outcome. I'm not the only one with this concern. There are multiple studies showing that ultra-processed foods lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer, etc.

Real-Food vs Ultra-Processed Food

Having a hard time visualizing the difference between real-food and ultra-processed? Think of:

A pork chop vs a hot dog

Roasted chicken vs chicken nuggets

A fresh apple vs an apple fritter

A baked potato vs Pringle chips

Quaker Oatmeal vs Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs

Carbonated water or tap water vs Pepsi or Sprite

Roast beef vs bologna

If it comes in a package and has an ingredient list, it is probably ultra-processed and you should think twice before eating it.

#3 Reason Dieters Don't Lose Weight

Some people are hard wired to be fat. Scientists and researchers have argued about this for years. The question has always been: Do you learn your eating habits from your family, thus obesity runs in families. Or do families have similar genetics, hence similar predisposition to obesity?

The only way to answer this question would be to take identical twins, separate them at birth and have them raised in different families. That would allow us to look at people that are genetically identical, to see if the family they grow up in is the deciding factor or the genes they are born with.

Your Tendency to be Obese Is Due To Your Genes!

Well for those that want to know the truth, that study has already been done!

A study of 311 pairs of identical twins who were separated at birth and raised in different families and 362 pairs who had been raised together corroborated the results of other twin studies and verified that the shared childhood environment has little or no influence on obesity. In adulthood the identical twins raised in different families resembled each other in weight more than the family they were raised with. (The body mass index of twins who have been reared apart. N Engl J Med. 1990;322:1483–1487.)

Does this mean you are stuck with being fat? That you can't lose weight? Mother Nature wins and you can't do anything about it?

NO, it doesn't mean that. But it does mean you shouldn't underestimate what it will take for you to lose weight. Many people are hard wired to be thin, and if you think you can do like they do and lose weight you are wrong. Genetically thin people can eat when they are hungry, and can eat until they are full and can eat whatever they want, and they still stay skinny. If they ever do get overweight, they lose weight very easily.

If you are genetically programmed to be overweight, your experience will be different. If you want to control your weight, it will take a lot of effort. You can still control your weight, if you choose to, but it will take some effort and persistence and you will need the information we are sharing in next weeks Newsletter. It is not fair but it is reality. You will set yourself up for failure, if you are genetically programed to be overweight and you assume you can control your weight as easily as somebody who is genetically thin.


Part 1

  • You must create a 3,500 calorie deficit, by eating less and increasing your activity/exercise to lose 1 pound of fat.

  • You should get 7,000+ steps and walk briskly for 30 minutes, 5 days a week to help prevent muscle loss and slowing of your metabolism.

Part 2

  • Accurate calorie counting combined with a realistic appraisal of your activity level will ensure you are actually creating a calorie deficit.

  • Replacing ultra-processed foods with real-foods promotes weight loss.

  • Those prone to obesity must work harder than others to lose weight.

Stay Tuned! Next week we will talk about methods to make weight loss easier. These methods will work even for people that are programmed to be obese.

Take care and BE HEALTHY!

CW Jasper

March 2023

© 2023· Content is Property Created by CW Jasper


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Hi Cary,

Do you have any recommendation for an easy calorie tracker app for iphone? This has always been a difficult habit to form.

Thank you, Cathy Dennis

Doctor Jasper
Doctor Jasper
Mar 09, 2023
Replying to

I haven't used any calorie counting apps, but I know there are a lot of them to pick from if you want to use one. For an iphone you go to the App Store and put calorie counter in the search engine and you will have a lot to pick from. Read the reviews from other users and pick a free one. If you don't like it, you can usually uninstall it pretty easily and try a different one. GOOD LUCK!


Gerald Hacker
Gerald Hacker
Mar 03, 2023

Dr. Jasper, should I be counting my protein intake as well as my calories? I read that most weight-lifters have a protein rich diet because it contributes to muscle building and promotes the necessary iron the body needs to function.

Doctor Jasper
Doctor Jasper
Mar 09, 2023
Replying to

You can count protein, but most people that eat eggs and meat get enough. You want around 50 grams a day, so you can check it and see if you are doing OK. One serving of beef has about 25 grams, IE about half of your daily need. Add in 2 eggs and 2 pieces of bacon and you're getting your daily amount. Chicken might have a little more protein than beef. There is never a day when I won't have at least 1 serving of meat and some eggs and bacon or sausage. If I skipped breakfast, I would have at least 2 serving of meat before the day is over, so I don't worry about it.

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