Many people come to me for weight loss advice. They have already tried all the strategies they can think of. Generally, they try to eat fewer calories and go hungry, which only works for a short while. After losing weight and promptly regaining it on popular diet plans, most people settle for trying to “eat healthy and exercise”: they are watching their fat intake, switching to “diet” soda, and getting out for a walk most days. There are two problems with this approach: the focus is largely on the wrong food group (fats), and the exercise is not nearly vigorous enough.
A recent issue of Time Magazine carried the lead article on why scientists have been wrong in recommending low-fat diets for all these years. There are a whole host of recent reviews which confirm the conclusion that fat is not the culprit it has been made out to be. Instead, the problem with our modern diet is all the refined carbohydrates. A fantastic review of weight loss studies was recently published by the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care. This report is likely to be the basis for future dietary guidelines for obesity treatment within the Swedish health care system. Their conclusion was that low-fat diets do not reduce weight or cardiovascular risk nearly as well as low-carbohydrate diets. People who’s daily carbohydrate intake was less than 30% of their total calories had sustained weight loss at 6 months, better blood sugar levels, lower triglycerides, and lower diastolic blood pressure. Their diet was higher in protein and saturated (animal) fat. Bottom line: Low-carbohydrate high-protein diets show greater weight loss and better health markers than the low-fat, low-calorie diets.
Here’s a summary of the best current advice for sustained weight loss, courtesy of Dr Al Sears, MD:
1. Eat meals based on protein … as many different kinds of protein as you can get. Protein helps you to feel full, so it signals your body to stop eating. Getting enough protein tells your body that times are good, and flips your metabolic switch from “store fat” to “burn fat.” Your body will use the calories as essential fuel to function at its best.
2. Eat low-glycemic-index carbohydrates. High-glycemic-index foods, which are usually the processed ones, are loaded with sugars, starches and grains and cause hormonal hunger. But low-glycemic-index foods – foods that don’t raise your blood sugar – are also the most nutrient-dense. These include seeds, nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables.
3. Eat the right fats. Don’t cut back on fat, either. It is OK to eat animal fat, including high-fat organic dairy products, balanced with plenty of omega-3s from cold-water wild fish. Contrary to popular belief, fats are a healthy source of calories.
4. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. It’s been found to cause hormonal hunger because your pancreas will immediately pump out insulin in response, leading to a drop in blood sugar and more cravings. This is one more reason to stay away from processed foods or anything packed in a box, can or plastic container (even if it’s labeled organic).
5. Don’t skip meals. It’ll only put your body in starvation mode and make you want to binge on carbs that mess with your blood sugar and hunger hormones. Eat three balanced meals a day, especially breakfast, and snack on those nutrient-dense foods in between.
6. Practice short-duration, high-intensity, progressively challenging workouts. Exercise is one of the best ways to shed fat and reset your hormones. But the key to lasting fat loss is to teach your body to burn fat after you exercise – not while you exercise. Walking the dog is not nearly intense enough to accomplish this. In order to progressively ramp up the intensity, you may benefit from the help of a coach or personal trainer.
For a personalized consultation regarding weight management, please contact my office.
Your partner in Living Longer Better,
Dr. Grant Pagdin, MD
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Great article Grant