“Adults with obesity may have more success in weight loss by engaging inefficient behaviors,” said a presenter at the Obesity Medicine Association 2021 virtual conference.
“Efficiency is not a mindset, it’s an essential way of life for professionals. You don’t have to be born with this mentality either—you can learn the ropes and apply them in your everyday activities if you want to take that next step forward,” Harold Bays, MD states.
“Efficiency is also a mindset that may unfavorably promote the onset and/or maintenance of overweight or obesity. A focus on efficiency may help explain why individuals who are successful in other aspects of their lives may find challenges in achieving and maintaining healthy body weight. It may help if these individuals better understood that regarding body weight, it may be advantageous to transition from an efficiency mindset to an inefficiency mindset.”
With their efficiency mindset, highly motivated adults with obesity might not easily achieve weight loss. One example is in food consumption: energy-dense ultra-processed foods can be obtained easily and are often easier to cook than healthier options. Another reason why they may struggle to lose weight could have something to do with physical activity. If a person holds on the treadmill handles or uses any other assistance that makes exercise easy for them, then this may deter their progress toward achieving a healthy body weight.
Bays said providers can help adults with overweight or obesity to learn how they are more inefficient. Individuals who want to be more efficient in their caloric absorption should consume fewer energy-dense, high fiber foods that have a lower glycemic load. Bays said that less efficient microbiota may slow down or make it hard for nutrients to be absorbed in the intestines.
When overweight adults exercise, they can be less efficient by walking to a park rather than exercising in their home. They should not use the handles on a treadmill at home, which will make them use more energy when they exercise.
To be more healthy and less efficient, park farther away from a building. Use the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. And do more shopping in stores instead of online. Adults who are overweight should also take periodic breaks away from their computer screen even if it is less efficient for work purposes, and move around during those times.
Efficiency also affects your body. Cooler surroundings can make fat cells brown more easily and burn more calories.
“If you have obesity, it might be good if your mitochondria were less efficient,” Bays said. “That’s because, in some animals, the uncoupling proteins kick in during hibernation and make mitochondria store fat less efficiently and boost non-shivering thermogenesis.” But you don’t want to take things like 2,4-dinitrophenol so that you develop hyperthermia. That would increase your risk of death.
Adults who want to lose weight can also help by doing different types of exercises. If you always use the same muscles, they might become more efficient. This means you would use less energy for the same movement over time. So it is best to do different exercises every day so your muscles stay strong and don’t get too used to being used a certain way.
“It is important for people to be less efficient if they want to lose weight,” Bays said. “Many of the patients we see are used to being efficient in many parts of their life. The message should be that it is important for a lot of people to do things inefficiently.”
Dr. Bays is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology and Metabolism. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology.