With the New Year now upon us and resolutions firmly set, a common thread is the desire to lose weight and along comes the calorie counting obsession. Cutting calories is simply not the best way to achieve and maintain healthy weight loss for a variety of reasons.
- Weight loss is more likely to be caused by a diet too high in carbohydrates such as bread, cakes, pizza, soft and alcoholic drinks. Yes, these can be high in calories, but perhaps more significantly, it is their impact on your blood sugar that leads to weight gain. High carb foods lead to rises in blood sugar, which leads to insulin secretion. Insulin encourages your body to make and store fat. It also tends to create a low in blood sugar a while later, which leads to cravings for more of the same carb based foods. Fat and the high calories from an avocado or nuts, for example, will not encourage fat storage but should satisfy your body’s natural demand for fats and leave you feeling full and energised for several hours. Of course, if you ate the whole bag of nuts, then that may be a little too much fat for your body not to store where you would prefer it not to!
- If we start looking at calories, we often go for low-fat options. The problem with low-fat is that it usually equals low-taste, which means sugar or sweeteners are added by manufacturers and we have the issue of blood sugar outlined above. We need fat for all sorts of things (e.g.:brain, skin, hormones, energy) so if we don’t have it, we crave it. Unfortunately, we are far more likely to crave doughnuts than coconuts so we steer clear of “fats” until we fall off the wagon and binge. A little bit of good fat every day is far more conducive to sustained weight loss.
- Calorie counting is a stress. Stress increases the production of cortisol, a hormone known to increase appetite, spike cravings for sugary carbs and increase belly fat.
- The formula may be wrong. There is some discussion from scientists on how our 100+ year formula for working out calories may not be correct. Some may contain less if some components don’t get digested, i.e, types of fibre, and some may contain more. Also, it depends on how a food is cooked as to what effect it can have on your blood sugar. Mashed potato has a higher impact that new potatoes and so will effect weight more, regardless of calories. Certain foods increase metabolic rate, such as ginger and chili and so may also have an impact on weight.
- Studies have found that groups who eat a high level of antioxidants have a lower BMI and smaller waistline than those who consumed fewer antioxidants but the same number of calories. It is probably the combination of nutrients derived from the healthier diet, that led to an increase in metabolism.