ESTIMATED READING TIME 5 MINUTES
Hands up if you’ve ever heard losing weight is all about cutting calories. After all, it sounds logical, as well as simple. If you want to lose weight, simply reduce the amount of energy going in, and increase the energy you expend.
So how come as a society people are getting fatter? The percentage of the UK adult population considered to be obese – using the definition of a BMI of 30 or above – is currently just over 25%. A further 38% are overweight but not classed as obese.
Read on to discover that weight management is far more complicated than simply counting calories.
So, conventional thinking attributes weight gain to a net surplus of calories. This is known as the ‘energy balance’ model. According to this theory, if the calories you take in equal the calories you expend, your weight should remain the same. If you take in more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight as the extra energy is deposited into your energy stores.
It’s true as a society we are becoming more and more sedentary when compared with our ancestors, at the same time as modern diets have become far more calorie-dense. However, looking at weight management as a simple mathematical formula is very misleading. Anyone who has tried and failed to lose weight will know this all too well.
This theory explains the limitations of the energy balance model by taking into account how quickly foods affect blood sugar levels. Sugary foods and other processed carbohydrates release their energy into your bloodstream very fast, causing a rapid rise in blood glucose. These foods are known as high glycaemic load foods. This rush of sugar causes changes in circulating hormones in your blood. Insulin rises while glucagon falls, creating metabolic changes. These encourage fat to be Iaid down and inhibit the release of your body’s stored energy.
In turn you’ll feel hungrier, meaning more calories in. Plus, to obtain a quick burst of energy, your brain will typically crave the very fast-release carbohydrate foods that created the problem in the first place.
It’s almost like never spending what’s in your bank account but constantly asking your employer for more money.
Carbohydrates have been making up an increasing part of modern diets in the last few decades, partly because fats have received bad press due to a mistaken belief they cause weight gain.
Avoiding processed carbohydrates and decreasing the overall level of starchy foods in your diet does seem to be more effective for weight loss than calorie restriction in many people. This is because eating fewer carbs alters the biological mechanisms driving excess fat storage.
Remember, too, not all calories in food behave equally. A diet high in whole foods containing their natural fibre will take longer to release energy into your bloodstream and so help your body become more insulin sensitive. On the other hand, various components of food have differing thermic effects on your body. This refers to what extent food increases your metabolic rate – and so influences calories burned – after it’s eaten.
Scientists have discovered free radicals may play a role in weight management, too. Some components of modern foods, such as food additives, cause free radicals to be generated in your body. The theory goes that these free radicals then fool your body by creating misinformation about its energy status 1. This then causes insulin to be released, and the end result is you’ll eat more.
Meanwhile, if free radicals damage your mitochondria, the energy-producing unit of each cell, they’ll be less effective at creating energy and your body’s metabolic rate may fall. Free radicals can also interfere with insulin sensitivity.
One other major influence on weight control, perhaps surprisingly, are the bacteria in your gut. The types of bacteria resident there can influence levels of hormones controlling appetite and hunger, as well as improving insulin sensitivity. Obese people have been found to have different amounts of certain types of bacteria living in their guts 2. Some of these bacteria appear to influence the amount of energy the body burns off when at rest.
Would you like to feel more in control of your weight? As you can see there’s no one size fits all model for weight loss. This is because you are a unique individual, so the metabolic processes controlling your weight will be different from the next person. Through a combination of a detailed case history, hormonal and metabolic testing and health history analysis, I will devise an optimum weight strategy for you.
Do you need personalised natural support for weight management? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
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