The hypothesis that if you just eat less calories than you burn seems to make sense on it’s face, and seems to have been ingrained in us by the mainstream media and the health experts they rely on. I mean it’s basic physics, if you take in more energy than you burn you will gain weight and vice versa, right? But it’s not as simple as that. Our bodies are much more complex, not simply a static engine that consumes fuel at a constant rate. Calorie restriction has been upheld as the simplest way to lose weight, when in fact it causes you to want to move less, resulting in a net loss of zero. Fat storage has been shown to be hormonally driven, one of the most active components being insulin. Insulin is a storage signaling hormone whose job it is to carry nutrients including fat through the cell wall into the cell itself. Anyone concerned with improving body composition, and losing bodyfat especially, would do well to control the release of insulin. Healthy fat cells should release fat to be burned for energy, but with elevated insulin, this is impossible, so the fat stays in the cell.
Controlling insulin release
Ask your grandmother or great grandmother how to lose weight and you know what you’re going to hear: stay away from the sugary foods. It was common knowledge for eons, but with all the differing opinions and new “studies” coming out all the time about the role of fat in our diet, it somehow became lost in all the confusion. Let’s get back to basics again. Sugar = elevated insulin. Elevated insulin + excess calories = fat storage. Sugar can come in obvious forms such as table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. But it can also come in not so obvious forms such as starchy foods like potatos, grains, cereals, all of which get converted to sugar in the body at much higher rates than fresh fruits and vegetables. Somehow we’ve gotten away from eating fruits and vegetables in favor of the convenience of packaged foods. Packaged foods for snack, side dishes from a package at dinner, etc. Eat less sugary foods and insulin levels will remain within a normal range, allowing your body to tap into those stores of energy locked away in your fat cells. Pretty simple, but easier said than done.
To avoid elevated levels of blood sugar and consequently insulin:
- replace grains and packaged, processed foods in your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables
- eat plenty of animal protein and natural fats, i.e. olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado… this will keep you satiated for longer periods of time
- restrict sugary treats to once a week, or even better, special occasions