Over the last few decades, the standard prescription for weight loss has been “eat less, move more”. That sounds quite reasonable, but why doesn’t it work in the long run? Why is it that we lose weight and after a while, the weight becomes stagnant and eventually, we gain all the weight that we’ve lost? More often than not, people blame the diet and medical professionals blame the person, quoting that either they did not try enough or lack self-discipline or will power. Sounds quite familiar, right?
It has been repeatedly said eating too many calories causes weight gain or when calorie IN exceeds calorie OUT, weight gain happens. Excess calories may certainly be the immediate cause of weight gain, but it’s not the root cause. Resolving the immediate cause will not eradicate the problem, as the root cause shall still persist. In fact, these make the worst weight loss tips ever. So, what really is the root cause?
The root cause of obesity is a complex hormonal imbalance with high blood insulin as its central feature. As per the calorie-balancing scale, we assume that weight gain and loss is under conscious control. But no system in the body is unregulated; hormones tightly regulate every single system in the body. The human body is a beautifully orchestrated machine, which works on the principle of homeostasis (adaptation to change). Even if there’s any external change, the body makes adjustments to minimise the effects of such changes to return to its original position. Losing weight by calorie reduction triggers two important responses in the body.
1. It reduces the total energy expenditure to conserve the available energy.
2. Ghrelin hormone (hormone that makes us hungry) increases
Clearly, weight loss with calorie reduction results in increased hunger and decreased metabolism. This survival strategy of the human body leads us to regain the lost weight. This has nothing to do with lack of willpower, rather it is a normal hormonal fact of life. Thus, calorie reduction is not the key to lasting weight loss.
There are multiple overlapping pathways that lead to obesity. The common uniting factor is the hormonal imbalance of hyper-insulinemia. Insulin hormone is the major hormone that drives weight gain, thus lowering insulin levels (root cause) would be a much lasting weight loss strategy.
Sugar stimulates insulin secretion, both immediately and in the long term. Along with direct sugar, processed foods which have hidden sugars like ketchup, juices, syrups, bakery foods, desserts etc also cause an increase in insulin levels.
To identify hidden sugar, read the packaged labels carefully. Sugar is not labelled as such. Other names include sucrose, glucose, honey, fructose, maltose, dextrose, molasses, hydrolysed starch, cane sugar, brown sugar, syrup and agave nectar.
Refined grains such as white flour (maida) stimulate the production of insulin. Refined grains have no nutritional benefits, and that’s why deleting them completely from your diet won’t make much of a difference. Consuming whole grains that are rich in vitamins and fibre will inhibit the release of glucose and insulin. That’s exactly why you must include whole grains like dalia, millets, bajra, quinoa, ragi, jowar etc to your diet.
At least 30 percent of your total daily calories should come from protein. Add a good quality protein source like eggs, lean meat (chicken/fish), soya and its products, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses. Each meal should consist of at-least one protein source to be able to meet your daily protein requirement.
Out of the three main macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat), dietary fat is the least likely to stimulate insulin. They are potentially more protective than harmful. Include oils in their unrefined version like extra virgin olive oil, unrefined mustard oil, homemade ghee, nuts, seeds, full fat cow’s milk and its products. Moderation will always be the key.
Fibre can reduce the insulin-stimulating effects of carbohydrates. Whole foods like whole grains, whole pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole fruits, vegetables are a rich source of fibre. Vinegar is helpful in many ways, especially since it helps to reduce insulin spikes. Adding vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, malt etc) to olive oil as a salad dressing can work wonders to reduce insulin spikes.
Fasting has been a part of our ancient healing tradition. It is the most efficient and consistent strategy to decrease insulin levels. Just avoiding foods that increase insulin levels won’t address insulin resistance. Thus, initially you lose weight, but insulin resistance keeps your insulin levels high. Fasting efficiently reduces insulin resistance.
People who have never fasted may be scared to do so, but like everything else, fasting intermittently also becomes easier with practice. Moreover, fasting can be combined with any diet (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan). Intermittent fasting needs to be a way of life, so reach out to your nutritionist to understand how to balance your feeding and fasting periods.
Other factors that affect insulin are high stress hormone levels and sleep deprivation. Include strategies like meditation, yoga, exercise, music therapy, etc. to reduce stress hormones. Incorporating proper sleep hygiene will ensure rejuvenation and balancing of all hormones.
So, stop calorie reduction and follow these weight loss tips to see sustained results.
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