Wouldn’t it be great if the secret to successful weight loss didn’t involve starving yourself, limiting your food choices or following a rigid pattern? Well keeping your weight in check is easy when you work with your body’s design not against it.
Each year it happens, summer seems so distant then all of a sudden it’s right upon us. Typically we panic and desperately cling to the idea of a quick fix diet – sure to work this year! You can lose weight with extreme diets but this is not sustainable and the weight inevitably creeps back on.
What do Atkins, 5:2 and Dukan diets have in common? They work on the basis of keeping insulin levels down. The body perceives excess sugar as dangerous so it releases insulin to get rid of it by storing it as fat. That’s the problem with low-fat foods, they bump up the sugar to maintain the taste, but its sugar not fat that makes you fat. We explained this in our recent blog on sugar.
Understanding the glycemic load (GL)
The glycemic load (GL) is the total effect a food has on your blood sugar levels. Low-GL foods release their sugar slowly helping maintain stable energy levels and keeping insulin down. Following a low-GL diet stops you feeling tired, hungry and craving foods or stimulants.
Firstly its a good idea to familiarise yourself with the GL of different foods. It’s not about avoiding carbs, but eating the right ones (ie unrefined). How and when you eat is also important. Mixing carbohydrates with protein is key as it slows the release of sugar into your bloodstream which means no insulin surge.
Here’s a thought, which do you think is more fattening, a slice of white bread or a slice of cheese on toast? (I’m not advocating either, just using this as an example). Well cheese, being high in fat, is obviously far more calorific than bread alone. However, if you eat carbs (especially refined, ‘white’ ones) in isolation the increase in insulin will actually create more fat cells. So, weird as it sounds, bread and cheese is a better option for keeping trim. This is a really common misunderstanding. I know lots of people trying to lose weight who starve themselves, surviving on a few rice cakes or bowl of cereal to keep them going. Not only is this a miserable way of eating, it actually creates more weight problems.
Not all fats are equal
So fat isn’t actually the real culprit when it comes to excess weight, but I’m not suggesting gorging on meat, butter and ice cream. They are damaging in other ways. Good fats are essential to things like health, mood and hormone production. Choosing the right fats can help you lose weight and stop bingeing as fat keeps you fuller. Good fats can also boost your metabolism, helping you burn unwanted fat. The best sources are oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, anchovies), nuts (walnuts) and seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin).
Not forgetting exercise
Unsurprisingly, the final piece in the puzzle is exercise. The new Coke advert blames chairs – tackling obesity is all about standing up and doing some exercise. Nothing to do with the fact that soft drinks cause a huge surge in insulin. Even ‘healthy’ drinks are full of sugar. This liquid sugar is far more dangerous and fattening than biscuits and cakes as they cause a direct sugar ‘hit’.
Tips and tricks
- Water: a new study has found that drinking water before meals can enhance weight loss. Over a 12-week period, dieters drinking two glasses before each meal lost around five pounds more than non-water drinkers. Ensure the water is before the meal, rather than with it, to prevent over-diluting digestive juices. Another trial showed that ‘watery’ foods trick your brain into thinking you’re eating a lot while filling up your stomach. For example, if you have vegetables and a glass of water, you don’t feel as full as if you had made the same ingredients into a soup. “Water in food is chemically different than water taken as a beverage…it leaves the stomach more slowly” point out the researchers.
- Make sure all your foods are balanced with protein, even snacks. Good snack options are things like fruit with nuts or seeds or hummus and oatcakes. A good way of thinking is to ensure half your plate is vegetables (non-starchy ones), a quarter protein (eggs, fish, chicken, beans etc) and a quarter carbohydrate (grains or starchy veg)
- Chromium helps make insulin work properly and is needed for blood sugar control. Refined (‘white’) foods have up to 98 percent of the chromium removed. Stick with wholefoods such as wholewheat flour, bread or pasta. Beans nuts, seeds, asparagus and mushrooms are other good sources.
- Increase the acidity of a meal: recent studies show that consuming lemon juice or vinegar with a meal helps you stay full for longer and lowers the GL of a meal (two tablespoons of vinegar can lower the GL of meals by around 20 percent).The extra acidity slows the delivery of food to the small intestine – the final result is that blood sugar levels are significantly lower.
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