Monday, 4 June 2012

Why do I put on weight?

A lot of people I speak with seem genuinely confused as to why they put on weight.  If I ask them what they eat normally, they'll tell me what a balanced diet they have; generally a healthy breakfast, a salad for lunch and a healthy dinner.  Never any mention of snacks or treats.

If you were to survive on the above day-in, day-out, you would lose weight, not gain weight.

The fact of the mater is that we lie to ourselves exceptionally well about a raft of things not least what we consume on a daily basis.

Keeping an honest food diary for a week is a really good way to assess our eating habits. It makes us aware of what we are consuming by having to write them down.  It's unbelievably easy to consume double the amount of calories we think we are consuming without even realising it.

A lot of people with whom I speak about nutrition tell me they really don't snack.  They eat breakfast and then they might or might not have lunch and then they have dinner.  What this tells me more than anything is the lack of planning and the irregularity of their eating.  This is a major cause of overeating or choosing highly calorific foods to eat when you do eat.

Let me explain.

If you eat little and often, your blood glucose levels remain pretty static.  You rarely experience that blood sugar crash which is when you crave highly calorific foods for an instant energy hit.  You need an instant energy hit when your blood glucose levels crash because glucose is the only fuel your brain can use.  So if you are suffering from low blood sugar, your brain is under-fuelled; you know you need food but you can't think straight so you make poor choices (hence my suggestion for not having the poor choices in your house to start with).  And the cycle continues because you choose food that leaves your system quickly leaving you with another sugar crash that needs rectifying with yet more inappropriate calories!

It's a vicious cycle!

If you eat clean, little and often, you avoid this situation.  It means that when meal times come along, you are less tempted to overeat. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that it is full so if you are so hungry that you are eating a larger amount than you need in under 20 minutes, your brain will not stop you!

It is all about eating enough, bizarrely.  If you don't eat enough and regularly, you cannot control your eating.

You gain weight because you eat the wrong things.  You eat the wrong things for two reasons.  1: it's in the house. 2: you let your blood sugar drop low enough for you to panic eat.

You gain weight because you eat too much.  You eat too much because you let your blood sugar drop low enough so you eat large amounts quickly before your brain has time to register you are full.

If you want to stop gaining weight, if you want to lose fat, you HAVE to avoid those blood glucose highs and lows, so do these things:

1     You have to make sure you have a non-sugary breakfast EVERY SINGLE DAY.
2     You have to make sure you have a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat snack between breakfast and lunch.
3     You have to make sure you have a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat lunch.
4     You have to make sure you have at least on other healthy snack between lunch and dinner (I have 2)
5     You have to make sure you have a healthy dinner - I like to limit starch carbs for this meal.
6     You have to cut the processed food.
7     You have to be honest with yourself. 
8     Don't have unhealthy choices in the house.
9     Plan your meals carefully.
10   Accept that you are going to have to make changes to how you approach your nutrition.  Some of them are going to take willpower but that is OK!

One last word.  A balanced diet does not mean salad AND cake. And you know it.

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