I’ve been in the health industry for almost twenty years and I’ve seen and heard everything and anything that could happen while dieting from wholly cutting out macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat) to drinking every meal (yuck) to fasting for extended amounts of time. Almost no one has the determination to practice any of these tactics on a continual basis. Why? Because we’re genetically programmed to search for and consume calorie-dense food.
Here’s the deal! There has never been a fad diet that has given long-term results. Sure, I’m not going to argue that all of these strategies will work short-term for most healthy individuals but none of these diets will keep the weight off. And that is the end result that should be every dieter’s ultimate goal – keep the unwanted fat off for good!
On the most elementary level, losing weight is a matter of burning more calories than you consume. But your body is a sophisticated organism so it defies the “calories in calories out” ideology. Through evolution, your body has developed multiple mechanisms to help prevent you from starving to death.
Unfortunately, overeating was never an issue throughout time (until about 12,000 years ago when we entered the Farming Revolution) so your body doesn’t have many mechanisms to keep you from overeating. If all you do is simply cut calories to manage your weight, you will eventually lose the battle against the bulge.
Here are a few reasons why you’ll regain lost weight:
1. Not all calories are created equal. Carbohydrates raise insulin levels higher than protein or fat so it enables your body to store more carbohydrates as body fat. Your body has a limited amount of space for stored carbohydrates (glycogen) but an unlimited amount of space for stored body fat. Once your glycogen tanks are full, the rest of the carbs you ate during your last meal will be converted to body fat.
2. Cutting out carbohydrates from your diet causes a powerful hormone called leptin to decrease. Leptin is like your fuel gauge in your car. Providing it’s working properly, the fuel gauge in your car tells you how much gas you have in your tank before you need to refill. Leptin is much like your fuel gauge. When you eat, your body has to process your food into usable energy. Part of this process is that some energy from the foods you eat will get stored in your fat cells, which makes your fat cells enlarge and produce leptin. Leptin travels up to your brain and signals your brain that you had enough food and to stop eating. This is why leptin is nicknamed the “I’m full” hormone. When you stop eating carbohydrates for about three days, leptin levels drop approximately 50%. So when you eat, your brain doesn’t get the message that you’re full so you keep eating.
3. When you lose weight, you lose three substances – muscle, water, and fat. The typical dieter loses about one pound of muscle for every three pounds of total body weight lost. This is detrimental because muscle is much more biologically active than fat and therefore requires more calories to nourish. When you lose muscle, you slow down your metabolism and more calories from the foods you eat get stored as body fat. You become a smaller, fatter version of yourself.
4. Eventually you’ll hit a plateau where the amount of calories you consume will equal the amount calories needed to maintain your bodyweight. At that point, you’ll need to cut out more calories to continue your weight loss journey. And this becomes a slippery slope because you risk becoming vitamin and mineral deficient when you don’t eat enough. On average, women should be consuming at least 1,200 calories per day while their male counterparts require 1,800 calories to ensure a proper amount of nutrients. In time, nutrient deficiencies will lead to certain diseases. A lack of vitamin C, for instance, causes scurvy.
5. Your body weight set point mechanism, helps ensure that your body composition (lean body mass versus fat mass) remains relatively constant. Let’s say that you’ve weighed 170 pounds for the past two years. You’re body wants to stay in homeostasis at all times so it will trigger different hormones to keep your body weight at 170 pounds. On the one hand, if you overeat every so often, your body will initiate hormones like leptin to make you feel physiologically satiated so you stop eating. On the other hand, if you drastically cut calories from your diet, your body will signal hormones like ghrelin (called the I’m hungry hormone), which is the growling sound you hear coming from your stomach to make you want to eat.
In the end, losing weight is not dictated by calories but rather by the hormones that are triggered from the types of foods eaten. If the “calories in versus calories out” theory were true, everyone would be able to eat Snicker’s bars and Coke and not gain a pound so long as they burned an equal amount of calories that were consumed. However these two foods cause weight gain because of the way your body processes sugars, which are carbohydrates. Sugary foods trigger a surge of the fat-storing hormone insulin. The more sugar you consume the more insulin your body rushes into your system to get the sugar out of your bloodstream. And almost all sugar gets stored as body fat due to both its chemical structure and its effect on insulin.
It’s not glamorous and it’s not exciting but a sure way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat whole, nutrient-dense foods. The main hormone to focus on is insulin. The more sugar in a food, the higher insulin spikes, resulting in more weight gain.
Your sure-fire way of getting the extra poundage off, and more importantly, keeping the weight off is to focus on:
1. Lean Proteins
2. Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates
3. Health Fats, especially monounsaturated fats
that will make you feel fuller with less food consumed compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is processed foods that are nutrient deficient and loaded with sugars and unhealthy fats.
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