Much to my complete surprise I have been approached by an inordinate number of friends lately asking me for weight-loss advice. With so many ‘diets-gurus’ out there, I had rather innocently assumed that you all had it sussed. As it transpires there is so much conflicting advice being screeched from the rooftops that it is point blank impossible for anyone without a thesis on optimal nutrition to know what to do.
We all know those people who can eat like a horse and never gain a pound, whilst others of us can all but look at a piece of succulent butter shortbread and gain five pounds. Is it unfair? Absolutely. But weight loss is about more than calories in versus calories out. This is part of the problem. We are bio-individuals meaning that we are biochemically different. What works for Peter does not work for Paul and vice versa. Genetics, the environment, stress and gut health all play their part too.
To this extent nutrition, diet and weight loss are an art and not a science. There is no specific formula anyone can tell you to guarantee boundless energy, glowing skin and a perfect figure. This is why no fad diet with specific rules (atkins, 5:2, zone, paleo, blood type anyone?) can work for everyone and why you should be WARY of anyone claiming anything different. Some people are best on low carbohydrate, high protein diets and others are quite the reverse.
Dependent on your nature you may be best to eat little and often (high energy individuals who quickly deplete their blood sugar levels) whilst others may benefit from not being too weighed down and hence lethargic from a continual drip-feed of food.
Your best diet is essentially a complicated dance, and it’s one where only you know the beat. To this effect I encourage you to play with different eating patterns and notice what works best for you. Start a food diary where you write down everything you eat for three weeks, the exact timings and how you feel morning, noon and night. If that’s too much work, just take a photo with your iphone every time you eat. It will quickly become apparent what is working for you and what is not.
Other than the basic ‘calories in vs. calories out’ theory, the following biological processes are thought to play a significant part where weight gain is concerned. I have read countless journals on the topic and these are by no means the only reasons for weight gain but scientifically speaking they make sense and anecdotally they look to be the primary culprits.
They have a large number of toxins floating around inside their bodies. Toxins harm our internal ecosystem. The body knows this so looks to protect itself by creating excess fat storage deposits to hide these nasty toxins in. Yes, the body actually creates fatty deposits to protect us. Consequently if we reduce our toxic load, the fat falls off. This is why clean-living yogis (who basically just stretch a lot) are enviably slim. They lead a toxic-free lifestyle. Eternal mystery of the inexplicably slim yogi solved.
They have a high-sugar diet, which raises your body’s insulin levels and triggers fatty acids to enter your fat cells where they are converted into triglycerides. This means that when the body needs energy it looks to your lean tissues to burn carbohydrates instead of your fat cells to burn fat. Carbohydrates have four calories per gram, whereas fat has nine calories per gram. It is interesting to note that the fat cells in your belly region are particularly insulin-sensitive which explains why people who eat a lot of sugar often carry excess weight in their belly region. A low sugar diet is required to encourage insulin deficiency and hence trigger the release of fatty acids from one’s cells. People who continuously eat a high-sugar diet over a prolonged period of time frequently become insulin resistant (elevated triglycerides and low HDL), a precursor to the more serious disease Type II diabetes. Another reason to reduce your sugar intake!
They are eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. The human gut reaches capacity (and subsequently sends a message to your brain to tell you that it’s full) when you reach one of two capacity bands; stretch, or nutrition. When you eat high-calorie, low-nutrition foods it takes a lot of this food to make you feel full because you basically keep eating until you reach your stretch band (and by this point you will have consumed a vast number of calories and limited nutrients). When you eat a low-calorie, high-nutrition diet you keep eating until you reach your nutrition band, which you do fairly rapidly (and at which point you will have consumed lots of nutrients and minimal calories).
So what does this mean? To lose weight and achieve optimal health you should:
In doing so you will begin to reverse the weight-gain process for good, and in a manner that is appropriate to your individual body and lifestyle. This is FAR superior to fad diets that absolutely do not work longer term and are horrible for your internal health. Any diet that encourages weight-loss through starvation, most commonly through cutting carbohydrates, works by subjecting your body to ketosis (body stops burning carbohydrates and burns ketones), which leads to short-term weight-loss whilst permanently lowering your metabolism in the longer term.
This is why there are those people in life who have been ardently dieting for years but can never keep weight off (a horrible cruelty in life) – their metabolism is shot. In this case, it is particularly important to abandon fad diets, boost your metabolism and fix the fundamental issues (toxins, sugar and nutrient-less foods). If you had a broken leg would you rather patch things up temporarily with a hefty dose of paracetamol to mask the symptoms (fad diet) or fix the fundamental problem for good?
Try adopting a few of the measures suggested below and see how you feel. Not all of them at once (that would make for a miserable week!) but one or two. And when in doubt, just smile. That’s often the best medicine of all.
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