7 Steps to a Steady Weight!

All calories are not equal and ‘calories in, calories out’ is not the only metric!
Different foods and macronutrients have different effects on hormones and brain chemicals that control hunger and eating behaviour. We can’t just say that ‘a calorie is a calorie’ or that it’s as simple as ‘calories in calories out’.
For example, 100g white rice contains 242 kcal and 53.2g of carbohydrates, while 100g broccoli contains 35 kcal and 3.2g carbs. So the white rice not only contains more calories per 100 grams but it also contains almost twice as many carbs per 100 grams. Not only this, but we need to be mindful of the extent that foods are spiking our blood sugar. This is arguably one of the most important factors impacting weight and health management, as well as the others listed below.

Glycaemic Index
One of the biggest “triggers” for weight gain is eating high carb foods that are high in the glycemic index. When you consume those types of carbs, the sugars cause your body to produce insulin. If you aren’t using up the energy, insulin tells your body to store that sugar as fat in your cells. It’s a self perpetuating cycle, because lowering body weight may also decrease insulin resistance, and as mentioned high levels of glucose cause insulin resistance and also fat storage. Fat also stores hormones, which further drives weight gain. In addition, cortisol from stress will encourage the brain to seek more calorie-dense foods, while the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin play a balancing act in appetite regulation. Disrupting this loop by orchestrating better blood glucose control may be the key to kick starting weight loss.

Processed Foods/Ingredients
When you look at an ingredients list, the longer the list gets the more possible it is that chemicals have been put into the food. If an ingredients list has more than 5 ingredients, reconsider whether it is going to be good for your metabolic health. It may also be worth asking yourself whether you recognise the ingredients because the quality of food really does matter greatly. If you have never heard of the ingredient there’s a good chance it’s synthetic and has the potential to dysregulate your health goals. It’s also worth considering what the first three ingredients are. If one of them is sugar then you might want to put the item back on the shelf.

Having an Eating Window
The science behind the benefits of time-restricted eating cannot be ignored. The practice of intermittent fasting involves limiting your intake of foods and calorie-containing beverages to a set window of 8-12 hours per day. You abstain from food for the remaining 16-12 hours, though you’re still allowed to drink water and other no-calorie beverages, like plain coffee or tea.
You can repeat this cycle as frequently as you’d like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your preference. The benefits of this include:

  • Increasing ketones
  • Increasing mitochondrial health and stress resistance
  • Increasing antioxidant profile
  • Increasing autophagy (cell clearance)
  • Increasing DNA repair
  • Decreasing glycogen (glucose stores)
  • Decreasing insulin
  • Decreasing mTOR
  • Decreasing protein synthesis

Note: If you want to create muscle synthesis then it may be more beneficial to include high amounts of protein before exercise, so this would mean consuming between 40-50 g of high-quality protein, and including l-lysine which is essential for muscle growth. Protein stimulates cellular healing pathways called mTOR, while fasting will stimulate autophagy (cell clean up) which is the opposite. We want to work in both of these states because they can create a beautiful combination, but it is important to know which state is best for us on a case-by-case basis.

Hormones and Obesogens
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are greatly influenced by what we eat. Oestrogen thrives on keeping glucose and insulin low and things such as bread will spike blood sugar which in turn may dysregulate oestrogen, so a low-carbohydrate diet around a woman’s ovulation is optimal. Good fats, specifically those that are naturally high in cholesterol, are a precursor for making oestrogen and so you need more of the good cholesterol in order to make oestrogen. Oestrogen also loves healthy phytoestrogens from plant chemicals which can be sourced from tofu, for example. Progesterone is another hormone that is highly influenced by your food choices, as progesterone would prefer blood sugar to be slightly higher and so if you track your cycle then you may want to consider increasing carbohydrates around this time as foods that support progesterone production will naturally be higher on the glycaemic index.

Obesogens are defined as compounds which may cause weight gain. They may act directly to increase the number of fat cells or the storage of fat within the cells as a protecive mechanism by the body to protect our organs from these chemicals. They may also act less directly through altering appetite, metabolic rate, or energy balance. Examples include organotins, which are fungicides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, parabens, pesticides and BPA.

Polyphenols, Probiotics and Prebiotics
There is a link between what we eat and the role it plays in our gut microbiota, not only in terms of our overall wellbeing but also our metabolic function.

Beneficial gut bacteria will thrive when we feed them prebiotics and polyphenols. Prebiotics are the non-digestible parts of fruit and vegetables and polyphenols are essentially the antioxidants within fruits and vegetables. The more of these we eat, the better our gut flora will be in favour of beneficial bacteria. In addition to this, fermented foods contain probiotics which will further help to populate our gut bacteria with beneficial microbes.

These beneficial microbes in turn then produce short chain fatty acids which strengthen the lining of the colon and also produce certain vitamins which enhance our health. In addition to this, beneficial bacteria may communicate with our satiety hormone leptin, which tells us that we’re full. Unbeneficial microbes, on the other hand, may communicate with our hunger hormone ghrelin which encourages us to eat. Not only this, but the more unbeneficial microbes that are allowed to prevail, the higher the chance of there being inflammation within the gut which may lower the chances of a healthy digestive system.

Metabolic Flexibility
This is the ability of our mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells) to efficiently use varied fuel sources. Being able to adapt our fuel sources between predominantly fat and protein with ‘some’ carbs gives our mitochondria their best chance at producing the cleanest and most efficient energy for our cells.

Tips and outcomes when eating a healthy balanced plate:

  • Increase high quality protein, good fats and fibre.
  • Fat lost by this and time-restricted eating may include abdominal fat.
  • You may also lower your triglycerides, lower your LDL and increase your HDL.
  • You may improve your LDL particle size.
  • Decreasing blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity.
  • May also help to improve metabolic syndrome markers.

The Mediterranean Diet
Inflammatory foods include sugar, wheat, some dairy, fried fats, cereals and all low quality refined and highly processed food-like substances. Our own fat cells create inflammation when they become enlarged. To avoid these food items, steer towards an anti-inflammatory diet which includes the fundamentals of the ‘true’ Mediterranean Diet.

Final Tips and Guides:

  • A calorie is not just a calorie. For example, calories from fat will keep us fuller for longer.
  • Fasting ‘with intention’ has been shown to be more beneficial then simply skipping a meal.
  • Avoid ‘starvation mode’ and getting into a ‘food emergency’ by planning ahead, being prepared and also eating within a window rather than skipping meals and going without unintentionally.
  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is key to blood sugar balance and digestion.
  • Alcohol and fizzy drinks are ’empty’ calories, and best limited.
  • Ensure you are drinking plenty of water, as hunger can mask dehydration.
  • Eat as close to nature as possible for optimal digestion and micronutrient abundance.
  • Consider whether your gut microbiome is in balance, as your microbiome may either inhibit or enhance your digestion and insulin sensitivity.
  • Consider ways to limit stress levels as this can impact the gut-brain axis interplay.
  • Limit high sugar, refined and processed foods such as white bread which has a glycemic index of 100!
  • Make your starches more resistant. The more you keep a plant in its natural form, the more usable it becomes to your gut microbiome. These microbes make essential minerals for our gut lining, colon and overall health.
  • Eat foods that promote post-biotic production e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks and chives which produce indole, improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing fatty liver disease.
  • Eat fruit in season and in moderation. Fruit is high in sugar, and also fruit juices are pure fructose!
  • Limit gluten as it can cause micro-damage to our gut lining. Some people may need to exclude gluten altogether, and it is wise that we all try to limit its consumption.
  • Protein should be in fist-sized portions. Excessive protein can spike insulin and unused protein can convert into glucose.
  • Remove or reduce milk from conventional US/European cows as it contains A1 casein, which is inflammatory.
  • Eating clean (organic, free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught) will help minimise toxin and hormone exposure from conventionally raised animals.