So let’s get one thing out there- putting yourself on a calorie reduced diet will not lead to long lasting, sustainable weight loss. We have been led to believe for far too long that a calorie is just a calorie and the way to lose weight is “simply” through calories in vs calories out (aka burn more calories than you consume). Not so simple. Our bodies are dynamic and complex and impacted by things like genetics and strong hormonal forces.
This archaic form of thinking has led many of us down the dieting rabbit hole, basically starving our bodies in an attempt to lose weight and then blaming ourselves when we regain the weight lost since we must have done something wrong or lacked willpower.
I have seen so many women (and men) struggle with weight loss through my private practice and years working in clinical research. We have been fed the lie that the quality of calories don’t matter and that 100 calories of cookies is the same as 100 calories of fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat etc… And that is NOT the case. From a nutritional point of view we may have known that those two things were not equivalent but folks seem to still struggle with the weight loss piece since we are so hyper focused on HOW MUCH we eat vs WHAT we actually eat. You see when we go on a calorie reduced diet our body (amazing that it is) works so hard for us. They see us as starving and in an effort to keep us alive they lower our metabolism, meaning we burn fewer calories at rest. The second we eat more than what we prescribed for ourselves on our diet we gain weight because our body got so much more efficient. In order to keep the weight off you would have to keep reducing calories again and again until your body and hormones would FORCE you to eat and then because you wreaked havoc on your metabolism you regain weight (this is biology NOT a lack of willpower people).
A new research study was just published in the BMJ earlier this month and it connects quality of your diet to energy expenditure and hunger and satiety hormones. This means that certain foods and ways of eating actually caused participants to burn more calories and suppress hunger hormones. The study was conducted by a team out of Boston Children’s Hospital led by Cara Ebbeling and David Ludwig, who I both had the honour of working with for several years when I was in Boston.
The study specifically looked at individuals who had lost weight and then were placed on either a high, moderate or low carbohydrate (glycemic load) diet and the effects on their energy expenditure and hunger/satiety hormones.
Participants on the lowest glycemic load diet burned the most calories and had lowest levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger. This is relevant since we know that those who lose weight have a hard time keeping the weight off. This diet could help those struggling.
In all honesty I actually don’t focus on weight in my practice because I find it to not be the best marker of health, fitness and quality of life, however I do follow closely to the tenets of this diet and that is that blood sugar control is important for so many things and that managing insulin secretion by consuming lower glycemic foods (which include healthful carbs like whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit) is a good starting place for most people looking to improve their health and wellness. While a diet should always be customized and very personal based on medical history, cultural and personal preferences and goals (and never so rigid as to make it unsustainable), I do appreciate research done in this area to help us understand more about how the body works, how it responds to food and how we can optimize health. I view weight loss as a possible side effect of a healthy lifestyle. You may lose weight following a low glycemic load diet or you may not (kind of irrelevant, to me at least). However, in making some lifestyle shifts that include blood sugar control you may see inflammation go down, hormones balanced, sugar cravings reduced, skin cleared, energy boosted and gut health improved…now I’m listening.
Nutrition science can seem daunting at times or overwhelming. Have questions? Send them my way! Also, remember to always tap into your own self awareness and eat the way that feels best for YOU.