By Lynn Difley
Is there anybody out there who hasn’t tried at least once in his or her life to stem the tide of weight gain, or to reduce accumulated extra inches through a “diet”? It is as American as apple pie–and could be a stronger connection than we suspect. Our assumptions about the most effective way to lose weight have been based on the belief that when calories in exceed calories out, weight is gained. Thus the goal of reducing adipose is reached by either reducing the number of calories in, or increasing the number of calories burned, or both. However, a new book by Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, challenges these assumptions. I hesitate to recommend the book, it’s a heavy slog, even for one like me who loves to read about research, but the basic premise can be outlined in fairly straightforward words. Taubes questions the concept that weight gain is a process like physics, a balance of calories. He spends hundreds of pages analyzing studies and illustrating how many of our current beliefs about weight gain are based on false, partial, or biased information.
According to studies Taubes quotes as reliable, this may be one reason people gain weight, but not the only reason. There is substantial evidence that for some people, weight gain is the product of a defect in fat metabolism. Evidence indicates that some people accumulate body fat because of a flaw in the system of hormones and enzymes that regulate the flow into and out of fat cells for storage. Some people store fatter than others, others utilize fat more readily for fuel. If this is true, a low calorie, low fat diet could be a disaster for those people with this fat hoarding metabolism, it would only interfere with the normal function of fat utilization, not change the size of fat cells.
This alternate understanding of weight loss explains why some people can gain or lose weight regardless of calories consumed, or burned. If this is true, the best approach, if you are one who has this metabolic function, is to emphasize protein and fat, and decrease insulin-producing carbohydrate.
So let’s say you have tried a low calorie, low fat diet, with plenty of aerobic activity and it hasn’t resulted in the goal you desire. To take advantage of this latest scientific evidence you may want to experiment with your own alterations of food intake and energy expenditure. Try reducing the carbohydrate in your daily intake. I’d start right off with the unhealthy simple sugars: cut out white sugar, corn syrup, the white flours, rice and pasta which trigger the insulin reaction that may be the reason you fight the battle of the bulge. Be a detective, keep a journal of the foods you eat, and keep track of the quantities and which food category you are favoring. Not losing weight? Try another approach. Many people find success with a Mediterranean style diet–using healthy fats (salmon, avocado, flax, walnuts, olive oil), fruits, and vegetables. Maintain this pattern for at least 3 weeks and observe what happens.
If you are not seeing the loss you desire, you may be a person who fits into the category of insulin sensitive, in which case, carbohydrate selection is crucial; choose limited amounts of whole grain, high fiber carbohydrate, while emphasizing protein, vegetables, and fruits and healthy fats to achieve weight loss.
The bottom line is you are your own best weight loss expert; launch your own experiment, become your own guinea pig, and see what happens as a result of your changed and improved way of eating and exercising. Let me know how it goes. What works for you? Be sure you eat according to the healthiest nutritional standards; lots of fruits, and veggies, adequate protein and healthy fats, and a carbohydrate intake that lets you lose weight, but keeps your energy levels high. You are your own best diet adviser, trust your body to find and maintain its ideal weight by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
By Lynn Difley