Over half of the people living in modern society, at some point in their lives, will face the “battle of the bulge”.
For many, it is a daily war that is waged in confusion with a lot of misinformation. For some of us, slimming down is something we do just a few weeks before a wedding, summer holidays or a high school reunion. Whatever our reasons for wanting to lose some weight, or more accurately lose some retained water and some fat (adipose tissue), there are good ideas and bad ideas. In this series of articles I am going to discuss the challenges of weight loss or fat loss, explain some basic physiology about why typical diets don’t work and offer a long term solution to one of the greatest health challenges of our time.
I am going to do some myth busting around the obsession most of us place on calorie counting, introduce you a slightly complicated phenomena called Angiogenesis that is very often the cause of those stubborn plateaus. I also want to share an evolutionary perspective on human eating patterns that prove exactly why under-eating and overexercising will actually cause the opposite result we have been lead to expect. But first I thought it would good to talk about what to expect if you actually make a commitment to better health and a leaner body.
The first six weeks of any diet are the hardest on your metabolism. The first three weeks are about dealing with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. The next three weeks are about the die-off process of Candida, a yeast and fungus that lives on the refined sugars and starches in your food, and the elimination of toxins that are stored in your fat cells. This is where many people get stuck because their liver and kidneys cannot handle the process of eliminating toxins so they cannot metabolize their fat cells. Almost always, slimming down is not just about how much you eat but more about what you eat. By eating an abundance of foods that support your liver and kidneys, gradually you will regain your ability to metabolize these wastes. Besides actually eating liver and kidneys, eating as many vegetables as you can every day is a great start.
Depending on your age, the season and your ancestry (genetics), you will have a metabolic weight that is ideal for your health. As you age your metabolism naturally slows down about 10 percent per decade beyond 40 years of age. This means it takes 20 percent more effort to slim down in your fifties. Unless you live in a place that doesn’t have winter your deeper evolutionary survival metabolism wants to gain five to ten pounds over the winter months. Believe it or not this is an important and healthy process assuming you lose that extra adipose tissue in the spring. And, of course, you must look at your parents and grandparents and ask about your great grandparents to learn how your families genetics is responding to the modern ways of eating.
Some of us just need to remove the obvious junk food, eat more plants (veggies, roots and seasonal local fruits) and get more exercise to get to our ideal metabolic weight. The rest of us have to retrain our metabolism or shift the gears of human evolution around food and exercise to get to our metabolic weight. If you need help with your health I don’t recommend negotiating with problem foods or treats, especially things like sugar and alcohol – at all. Diets that suggest taking days off or having “cheat” days do not work if your metabolism is struggling.
Counting Calories Doesn’t Add Up
For many years we have all been told that weight loss is simply a process of regulating the balance between calories in and calories out. There is a basic truth to that idea but there is a lot more going on than a simple equation to human health. If the calorie equation worked, everyone would succeed every time they went on a diet. Here are some facts that challenge this idea:
- All people do not digest food in the same way
- Stress can effect how well you absorb nutrients, how you burn calories and how your body holds on to extra weight.
- Bad calorie foods (sugar, starch alcohol) drive your metabolism towards weight gain, good calorie foods (plants, healthy fats and proteins) drive your metabolism towards balance.
- Different foods require different amounts of energy to be absorbed. Fats take about 4% of their calories to digest, carbohydrates about 10% and lean meats take almost 20% of their available calories to digest.
- Our metabolism drops about 10% every decade after 40.
- If you are physically active your metabolism, specifically your muscle mass burns energy much better.
- Your sleep cycle determines your metabolism. Not enough sleep and your body will be very stubborn about weight loss, even if you eat well.
- Starving yourself while restricting calories is guaranteed to make your body store any extra energy as fat as soon as you stop restricting your food intake
I could go on and on, but calorie counting is much less effective than focusing on eating the best foods, as much as you need, while you get your metabolism working for you instead of against you.