Outdated nutritional paradigm drives obesity epidemic
Research studies on obesity confirm what many of us already suspected, that well-meaning dietary advice dished out by nutritional authorities is ineffectual or even seriously flawed.
That paradigm has failed us. It turns out the main cause of weight gain isn’t simply overeating and under-exercising, but triggered by a number of complex factors we are still in the process of unravelling.
Our high glycaemic industrialised diet with its heavy emphasis on sweet, refined foods stripped of their natural fibre is clearly doing us little favours. Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars sets off excessive secretion of the hormone insulin which encourages fat to build up in our bodies. These refined carbs also trigger cravings to eat more, initiating a vicious cycle and result in steady weight gain.
Other risk factors for weight gain (apart from food) include:
- genetic predisposition
- shortage of sleep
- prescribed drugs
- chronic inflammation
- hormone-disrupting industrial pollutants.
Chronic stress is another major risk factor because high levels of stress hormones increase the levels of fat and glucose in the blood which are then stored as abdominal fat.
It’s not my fault, it’s their’s…
To cap it all, even the wrong kind of bacteria in the gut can make you tubby.
Researchers have discovered that the bacterial flora in obese individuals improves their ability to store fat, but reduces their ability to burn it off!A compromised bacterial ecosystem can also cause inflammation and intestinal permeability, triggering allergic and autoimmune diseases as well as weight gain.
Looking back in time at what we used to eat may provide solutions to the obesity epidemic. Most traditional diets consisted of large quantities of highly fibrous plant foods which, unlike modern fare, don’t dramatically raise blood glucose and insulin levels. We know that many hunter-gatherer tribes ate over a 100 species of different plants. Compare the plant variety in their diets to our paltry recommended 5 a day!
As our diet literally shapes our gut microflora, it’s no surprise to learn that traditional diets also encourage diverse communities of microbes to flourish and promote beneficial species over harmful ones. Yet another reason to eat your veggies.
Back to the Paleo Diet, then?
The most advantageous ratio of carbs, proteins and fats for weight loss is endlessly debated in nutritional circles. It’s well established that eating more ‘good’ fat and protein whilst reducing carbohydrates is one of the best ways of suppressing “hunger hormones” and getting leaner. Many people, however, tend to go overboard, over-consuming fats and proteins, and neglecting their veggies. A problem I often see my clients struggling with is being able to properly digest all the extra protein and fat.
The timing of when we eat matters, too. Research from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge found that people who eat a greater proportion of their calories at breakfast time and a smaller proportion over the rest of the day, put on less weight over time.
An idea whose time has come
Intermittent fasting takes the idea of restricting meals further, alternating intervals of fasting with times you are ‘allowed’ to eat. This means eating 500 calories or less 2 days a week or every other day. Or skipping breakfast and lunch altogether several days a week. Intermittent fasting is hugely trendy at the moment and shows impressive health benefits in addition to weight loss by repairing cellular damage as well as reducing inflammation.
Intermittent fasting may be problematic for those with blood sugar issues who require regular meals. Some may develop an unhealthy obsession with food. Others over-consume caffeine in an attempt to keep going. When not fasting, it’s apparently ok to eat anything you fancy. Seriously? Unless you plan to fast for life, this is surely not the best way to retrain your tastebuds.
A personalised nutrition plan for sustainable weight loss
So here’s my take on how to lose weight and keep it off. The one-size-fits-all approach will never work. We all need our own nutritional support programmes tailored to meet our unique requirements, and these include:
- Psychosocial stressors
- Medical history
- Food sensitivities
- Digestive issues
Nutritional Therapists are trained to help you establish exactly what’s right for you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free 15 minute session to discuss how to shed those extra pounds!
In the meantime, pay attention to the one basic rule that applies to all of us: stabilise blood sugar levels. This helps to reduce cravings and reduces the tendency to store fat. Combining protein with carbs is essential for good blood sugar control (eat fish with rice, beans with pasta or tofu with vegetables). Lean animal protein, fresh vegetables, tart fruit, pulses and wholegrains have less effect on raising blood glucose than sweet or refined foods.
So, have a go at making the right food choices
Don’t fall for all the marketing hype surrounding new diets. Use a strategic nutrition plan that suits your mind, body and soul to help you achieve weight loss of the lasting kind!