I haven’t written this article lightly. I don’t believe that weight is the be all and end all. I always like to make sure my articles come from the perspective of enhanced health and wellbeing, which will ultimately reflect in our weight anyway. A healthy body usually results in a healthy and balanced weight, which for some people can mean weight loss. I have written this article to eliminate the confusion around body fat and gaining weight. There is a lot of terribly incorrect information out there about ‘how to lose weight,’ which shouldn’t be followed.
I find that a lot of people book in to see me post Christmas with New Years resolutions to reach their 'ideal' weight. Alternatively I encourage a lifestyle of healthy eating, which will result in your 'ideal healthy' weight without starving or excessive exercise, and supporting the body to function at its best. Fat loss can often be a result of this. I hope the words you find on this page will shed some light on why healthy eating is the best (and only healthy long-term) solution for weight management.
For years people believed that eating fat made you fat – this myth has since been busted (read more here). Now the debate is around fat versus sugar. On top of all this, we often hear, “move more, eat less,” and yet when we look around at the levels of obesity (or fat) across the globe, we instantly recognise that this just isn’t the solution. So how do we really gain excess body fat, and therefore know how to lose weight?
Let’s consider for a second what happens when we eat processed and refined carbohydrates. Now remember, these include bread, pasta, pizza, sugar, chocolate, potato chips, and baked goods. For some people, excess root vegetables and fruit can have a similar effect.
When these foods enter the body they are converted into glucose (sugar). Glucose is used as fuel – to move your muscles, keep your heart pumping, and primarily to keep the brain functioning. It is important to note that glucose is not the body’s only source of fuel – more on this later.
Glucose then stimulates the secretion of a hormone called insulin. Insulin pours into the blood circulation with the purpose of bringing down our blood sugar levels so they stay in a healthy range.
However, insulin has other effects on the body as well…
Firstly, it increases the activity of an enzyme called LPL on our fat cells. Essentially, this means that the LPL enzyme grabs hold of floating fatty-acids and draws them into our fat cells. Once it has done this, it also increases the uptake of glucose into our fat cells. When fatty-acids and glucose get together in the same cell, what do they do? You guessed right – in the words of Will Smith, its all about “gettin' jiggy with it.” They combine, do a little dance, and create triglycerides, which is STORED FAT.
Secondly, insulin decreases the activity of another enzyme called HSL on our fat cells. Usually, HSL works to break down triglycerides back into fatty-acids and glucose so they can be drawn out of the fat cell to be used as fuel for the body. This is a positive situation. But when insulin is present in the blood, this process isn’t possible and the triglycerides (fat) stay stored in our cells.
For many people, insulin has an enormous part to play in weight gain and weight that just won’t shift.
What should I swap these carbohydrates with so I'm not hungry?
I know it sounds controversial, but the jury has spoken about fat and the verdict is, “Not guilty.” Fat is the most sustainable fuel that is available at all times, whereas glucose is only available after consumption, and is then "locked" away. When our body uses fat for fuel it can also tap into our body fat for fuel, helping us to burn our own body weight.
So, if it is more beneficial for our health and weight to primarily get our energy from fat and not glucose, then what will switching from glucose to fat look like? Imagine a plate void of bread, pasta, white rice, but with loads of colourful vegetables, some protein, and added fat. This could mean adding olive oil to your vegetables, cooking in organic butter, smashing avocado over your salads, sprinkling your meals with nuts and seeds, snacking on full-fat yoghurt with raspberries, eating the skin off your chicken, stirring coconut oil in your (decafe) coffee, and drizzling tahini over your salad.
However, some realfood carbohydrates are part of a healthy eating regime. These foods help to feed the brain with necessary nutrients and can include wholegrains, legumes, and root vegetables.
It has to be said that there are more factors to consider when approaching weight loss, like liver health and hormone levels, but insulin is a massive factor.
Take home point.
Reduce intake of processed and refined carbohydrates and increase fat to see excess body weight shift. Eating fat does not stimulate insulin, meaning that fatty-acids are freely available to travel in and out of our fat cells instead of becoming stuck inside them and making us fat.
It is important to make this transition well, as not to incur any unwanted symptoms. Some guidance wouldn’t go astray - my Nutritional Health Coaching programme can help you make this transformation safely and effectively.
Feed, nourish, value yourself.