Is This Why You Can’t Lose Weight?

Jamie Sukroo - 18 Jan 2022

Weight Loss

Two articles just came out in New Scientist that shed new light on the age old question of why we put on weight.

The first article appears below:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25333682-800-have-we-got-the-science-of-obesity-back-to-front/

Key points from this first article:

  1. The basic assumption that taking in more calories than you burn being the primary cause of obesity is misleading. The article argues that the evidence actually points the other way: we are driven to overeat because we are getting fatter (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi.org/gmtn3z).
  2. When we get fat we start to store energy the body can use away in fat cells – therefore we become hungrier and our desire to eat more (to meet our energy needs) rises dramatically.
  3. The usual approach to weight loss focuses on “how much” to eat (daily calorie intake). The researches opinion is that the emphasis should be placed on “what” to eat. “…Replacing processed carbs with high-fat foods – such as nuts, full-fat dairy, olive oil, avocado and dark chocolate – lowers insulin levels, making more calories from the meal available for the rest of the body. Counter-intuitively, higher-fat foods may help shed body fat, a possibility supported by clinical trials comparing high-fat diets with low-fat ones…”
  4. This might help explain why calorie restriction usually fails – “…A low-calorie, low-fat diet further restricts an already limited supply of energy to the body, exacerbating hunger without addressing the underlying predisposition to store too many calories in body fat…” Most people give up on these diets as they are constantly hungry!

The second article explores the topic of weight loss from a little known angle:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25233660-500-how-shifting-your-expectations-about-food-can-help-you-lose-weight/

Key points from this second article:

  1. There is a definite mind-body connection when it comes to food. If you perceive a meal to be “light”, “low calorie” etc. your mind causes your body to release less of the “feel full / satiated” hormones. Instead of using the saying “You are what you eat”, it would be more apt to say “You are what you think you eat”.
  2. On a personal observation – this may be why cultures like the French who eat rich buttery dishes with heavy sauces, and consume white baguettes regularly are leaner than most of their western counterparts. They truly enjoy their food and thus feel satiated (not eating to absolute excess).
  3. The article states – “…there are many ways to change our food mindsets, and they all centre on the idea that pleasure is an essential ingredient for any weight-loss regime. As paradoxical as it may seem, cultivating an indulgent attitude to food may be the best way to control your waistline…”
  4. The author of the article offers these practical observations when it comes to losing weight:
    1. Avoid liquid calories like smoothies as our brains expect these to be less satisfying. Smoothies also tend to be high in sugar so pack a double blow of spiking blood sugar and also being less satisfying.
    2. Choose foods with intense flavours that you enjoy – “…if you choose foods with more intense flavours and make an effort with the presentation so the meal feels like a treat…the very worst thing you can do is to eat something insipid that leaves you feeling deprived…”
    3. Never eat in front of the TV or whilst looking at your phone. You should focus on the meal you are eating and all the sensations and pleasures contained within it – “…If you watch TV or work during meals, you won’t appreciate the food going into your mouth, and may not even remember how much you have eaten later…eating slowly and taking care to chew each mouthful can improve the orosensory enjoyment of what you are eating, which can in turn trigger a greater hormonal reaction to the food and leave you feeling fuller for longer…”
  5. One last observation I personally took from the article is that it would be easier to restrict empty calories that sit outside of your main meals than focus on cutting back at meal time. For example you could cut back on fizzy drinks, alcohol, snacks etc and instead focus on a slightly more satisfying and enjoyable main meal eating something.
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