Most diets rely on reducing body fat by restricting the calories we eat and increasing our activity.
Many of us have spent years eating low-fat food, counting calories, going on extreme fitness regimes and testing out our willpower…There’s just one problem with this sort of strategy – it treats the symptoms and not the cause, so people may experience short-term results…until biology kicks in.
Enter the brain.
Our brain is like a supercomputer, processing enormous amounts of information at any given time. The brain, therefore, uses a large percentage of our daily energy expenditure. Restricting calorie intake (dieting) is alarming to the brain, for if there was to be an energy shortage, the result could be catastrophic - seizure, coma and even death. Therefore, we can only restrict calorie intake for a short time before the brain releases the ‘starvation response’. Acutely sensitive to the amount of available calories in the blood, the brain unleashes measures to increase calorie intake (appetite) and conserve energy (lowers metabolism). It’s no wonder people put all the weight back on over time.
What if instead of lowering our calorie intake and increasing our physical activity, we just consume nutritious foods ‘guilt-free’, and until we were satisfied, and maintain activity levels that we enjoy and can sustain?
What if we could lose weight without going hungry? What if we could train our fat cells (fat storage sites) to stop hoarding calories, to share these calories with the rest of the body, including the brain?
Well let me introduce you to a powerful hormone called insulin.
You may already be familiar with some of the actions insulin performs e.g. managing blood glucose levels. However, insulin’s reach goes much further than this. When the pancreas secretes high levels of insulin into the blood stream in response to the digestion of a meal, it not only supports the uptake of glucose by our cells, but also the uptake of fat and protein. Insulin also prevents the release of fat from our fat cells, so that in this environment, the body cannot use this storage fat as energy. How do you think the brain feels about this? With declining access to fuel in the blood stream, the brain unleashes its starvation response – hunger and energy conservation. Eating more food calms the brain’s starvation response in the short-term, but the end result is that we’ve eaten more calories.
So the key to losing weight, naturally, would be to lower the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas, to retrain fat cells to stop hoarding calories and to encourage them to release these calories to be used by the rest of the body.
Our brains would calm down with better access to fuel, our metabolism would start humming, and our cravings would subside. So what causes the pancreas to release the most insulin? Refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar (e.g. sugary drinks, lollies) and starches (e.g. breads, biscuits, refined cereals).
The solution - go for whole, natural, slow-digesting foods that your grandparents would recognise, and eat until you are actually content. Below are my top 3 tips to stop feasting fat cells:
1. Turn the starvation alarm off – help your brain relax by avoiding calorie restriction to lose weight.
2. Get the life stuff in order – perform physical activity you actually enjoy, get a good night's sleep and incorporate stress relief practices into your day.
3. Reduce insulin spiking foods and drinks – go easy on refined sugary and starchy carbohydrates and enjoy a variety of good quality fats, proteins and unrefined carbohydrates in the form of nuts/seeds, oils, oily fish, lean meats, eggs, beans and non-starchy vegetables.