So you want to be slim and toned right? Easy. Eat more and exercise less. Yes, you read that right! Before you dismiss the seemingly mad statement, let me explain.
Sure, fundamentally, your bodyweight is a bi-product of the calories you consume. However, not all calories are created equal and the human body is much more than an engine for processing food. In fact, during digestion, a range of differing chemical reactions occur to ensure nutrient absorption is maximized for optimized cell health. Calorie content within food is measured in a lab by burning the food and measuring the energy required to break it down. Our stomach is not a furnace or a flame and doesn’t break down food this way. Therefore, in short, food is not just a fuel or energy to burn.
So, I’m going to address a few common thought processes we at NewMoves come across when people decide they want to lose weight…
1) I need to lose weight, so I better eat less calories….
This approach has been tried time and time again. Most of the time, this is what happens.
We do not provide our body with essential nutrients
We go into “starvation mode” whereby the body wants more stored energy- body fat!
The body gets rid of muscle and stores more fat.
The story doesn’t end there. Once “starvation mode” is survived, the body’s number one priority is to protect us from starving in the future and does this by storing more body fat.
So that approach doesn’t work, what next….
2) I need to exercise more….
We often assume that this is the main cause of weight gain. Our body does not see the difference between eating less and exercising more. To that end, a study on overweight college-age women, who burned 2000 calories a week through exercise for eighteen months found the women, experienced no weight loss. Increasing activity levels clearly isn’t the main thing we need to be changing.
3) All calories are created equal right?
There was an interesting study that had 2 groups eating 2000 calories a day. One group had 30g of protein with every meal and another remained vegetarian. The group who had protein burned 600 calories more per day. What this tells us is that we must consider the quality of our calories, not the quantities. The nutrients contained in our food are something we must focus upon when choosing our foods. So instead of reading the calorie content on packaging, stop reading packaging labels all together. By this I mean, the food you should be eating, real food, doesn’t have nor need labels. Choose real food. Simple!
So if I’m not focusing on calories, what am I focusing on?
Your body naturally wants to be slim, fit lean and strong. Your body also wants to be balanced whilst in this state. Your hormones are responsible for pretty much every process in your body and they work together to maintain your body in a state of balance. The type of food you consume directly affects your hormones and we’re going to talk about one hormone in particular- Insulin.
Insulin is released when there is too much sugar in the blood. To those of us wanting to burn fat, Insulin is not really a hormone that we want to stimulate. Insulin will direct the sugar to your cells, where they will then be converted to and stored as fat. A key implication here is that sugar makes you fat.
An increase in sugar in the diet eventually prevents the body from responding to signals to burn fat. Insulin becomes resistant and the body begins to accept high levels of body fat as the norm. So the body then balances us at a new normal of overweight.
Another thing to bear in mind is that all processed foods (fat free, low fat, packaged, etc.) are packed with added sugars for flavor and all carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. So we must be careful as to the amount of refined/processed foods and carbohydrates we consume. If you like you’re rice and potatoes, think about swapping it for some nice grilled veggies. Foods like vegetables fill you up quickly and are naturally low in calories. So we don’t need to count calories when eating healthy food! What’s more, when we consume foods that are rich in nutrients- we can eat as much as we like.
Hold on, I thought fat made you fat!
Not so much. A higher fat and protein intake will lead to greater fat use during exercise. To support this, a study of European women found that the more dietary fat women eat, the less body fat they carry. However, this doesn’t mean we should load up on the pastries and cakes! We want fats from real foods. Think meat, fish, nuts and natural oils.
Here’s another interesting fact- a decline in the proportion of fat in our diet, has been accompanied by the largest spike in obesity and disease rates in history! So the lesson here is eat fat to lose fat!
So it seems hard to believe when this is almost preaching the exact opposite of what we have always been taught. However, scientific research suggests that we have been misinformed, on a major scale. The body is more complex than the calorie model suggests and we need to think about the quality of our food and how nutrients affect our hormones to bring us to a state of healthy balance. To this end, we should be eating as many real foods as possible and we should not fear the fat content of these foods. This will leave us in great health and great shape.
Cheese and crackers anyone?