Finding that our clothes have become tight or that our weight has reached new heights is what motivates many of us to resolve to slim down. But how many of us stop to think that there may be other reasons for losing our surplus weight which are even more deserving of our attention, such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar? The right diet may be all that’s needed to prevent the heart disease and diabetes for which these are warning signs. Sadly, however, this message often fails to get through, doctor and patient alike believing that medications for life are the only answer.
What many of us fail to realize is that high blood pressure and high blood sugar are not the cause of heart disease and diabetes. They are the result of our body’s response when the damage that causes heart disease and diabetes is already being done. Taking blood pressure or blood sugar lowering medications may be better than doing nothing, but they do nothing to stop the underlying damage from continuing. If we wish to escape the long-term complications of these conditions, surely it is better to tackle the diet and lifestyle factors that are causing the damage in the first place? The pills can also have side-effects, and they are expensive. So, if we have been told our blood pressure or blood sugar is edging upwards out of the normal range, then here’s another great motivator for us to change to a healthier diet.
Lose Weight by Choosing a Diet That Works
The big question is, just what is a healthy diet? Most sources of healthy eating advice tell us it means reducing fat and sugar. And if we wish to lose weight, we should strictly limit our calorie intake by basing our diet on carbohydrate foods such as whole grain bread, rice and other cereals, pasta, baked potatoes and fruits, and keeping fats and fatty foods such as meat and cheese as low as possible.
This advice is based on the calorie theory – that to lose weight all we need to do is reduce our calories. However, modern research shows that the so-called calorie theory is a gross oversimplification of how our bodies work. Reducing calories or going ‘low fat’ may work in the short term for some people. But researchers believe that for up to 60 per cent of people a diet based on carbohydrates disrupts their blood sugar and insulin balance, causing them to store calories more easily than burn them off for energy. For those of us who are carbohydrate sensitive in this way, a ‘healthy eating’ weight loss diet based on bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals and fruit juices, even if they are whole grain and high fiber, is entirely the wrong advice.
Researchers are also now beginning to understand that those of us who are constantly dieting by reducing calories risk getting caught in the ‘famine syndrome’ trap. Our metabolism is programmed to become more efficient when calorie intake is low, and our bodies can become so good at running on fewer calories that further weight loss can become almost impossible.
Unfortunately, this new scientific understanding of why many people fail to lose weight permanently on standard low-calorie diets is only just starting to filter down to mainstream medicine and the dieting public. The first sign of this is the suggestion in some sources of dietary advice that we should focus on ‘low GI’ carbohydrates (low glycemic index carbohydrates, or described another way, types of carbohydrates which are less likely to make our blood sugar shoot up rapidly and upset our blood sugar/insulin balance). This is the first acknowledgment in healthy eating advice that losing weight is not just about counting calories, and that the type of carbohydrate matters.
Eating ‘low GI’ is undoubtedly healthier than eating food densely packed with sugars, refined white flour and rice and other highly processed carbohydrates. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help the many people whose tolerance for carbohydrates is lower than the average low GI diet allows for. How do you know if you’re affected in this way? Well, have you have struggled to lose weight in the past on a standard low calorie or ‘healthy eating’ diet? If so, there is a good chance you are one of the 60 per cent of us who cannot handle a diet based on carbohydrate-rich foods, even ‘healthy’ whole grain, high fiber ones. And if a low GI diet hasn’t worked for you either, then it’s more than likely that you are very sensitive to carbohydrates, which makes a low carb diet a more effective (and healthier) diet for you.
This time, then, let’s not to go back to our old diets which have failed to work for us. Let’s give ourselves the best chance of reaching our weight loss goals and reducing our risk of heart disease and diabetes into the bargain by getting informed and making smart choices. Let’s not continue to be fooled by the diet food industry, whose products cater almost exclusively to the ‘low calorie’ theory (and very profitable it is for them, too, as we fail to lose our weight permanently and keep coming back for more).
There is another way that we can lose weight permanently.
• We can avoid the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
• It is possible to improve our long-term health.
• We can avoid the need to take prescription medications for the rest of our lives.
• Best of all, by cleaning up our own diets and providing a good example of eating healthily, we can avoid inflicting the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease that our generation has created on our children.