It’s been 22 years since I started helping people lose weight. It’s been about 30 years since I made a personal decision to make health and prevention of disease a personal priority. But it has only been a few years since I’ve come across powerful research regarding health and disease prevention. One of the things I have discovered – and tried out on myself – is stopping to count calories to lose weight.
Here’s how it’s been working for most people:
Alex wants to lose weight, so he creates a calorie deficit. That means, Alex simply needs to consume less calories than he needs to support calorie usage. Alex also wants to be healthy, so he includes a lot of vegetables and some fruits in his diet and tries to eat whole grains. He also exercises.
The problem with all this method? The rates of obesity continue to rise, as does the rates of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So, after years of research and investigation of existing studies, it’s time to shift this paradigm and move onto something that works a lot better. The quality of the food we eat is more significant than the amount. When the body functions correctly, weight gain will be minimal, and over time, you will lose the extra weight, too.
Stop thinking Macro-Nutrients
Our society has become macro-nutrient obsessed. We don’t even know the names of foods anymore, we just call them “a carb”, “a protein”, or “a fat.” How unfortunate that it’s come down to this! We need to be a little more obsessed with is micro-nutrition.
We’ve been accepting “facts” that aren’t facts at all. We think carbs are bad, protein is good, and fats can go either way depending on which book you read yesterday. SURPRISE! There are carbs, proteins, and fats in almost all foods! We should be interested more in eating a wide variety of whole foods and benefiting from all their different vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory nutrition.
Someone told you not to eat starchy vegetables because they raise blood sugar? Actually, what they raise is the amounts of wonderful nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, and B vitamins. Starchy vegetables are also are low in fat and calories. Did a dietician somewhere tell you to limit fruits because of sugars? Well, here’s some news- your body knows exactly what to do with the natural sugars found in fruit, and fruits contain potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate.
Both fruits and starchy vegetables are essential to good heart health, preventing type 2 diabetes, and preventing cancer. And, by the way, there can be as much protein from plant-based sources, if not more, than from animal proteins.
Learn what hunger is again
We have not known what feeling full and feeling hungry is for many decades. The overabundance of processed food that our society has been consuming has caused our hormones Leptin and Ghrelin to malfunction.
Eating a standard American diet (SAD) doesn’t allow the stretch receptors in our stomachs to read fullness and activate the Leptin hormone. Leptin is a hormone that is produced by your body’s fat cells and is also referred to as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.” Leptin is supposed to tell your brain that — when you have enough fat stored — you don’t need to eat and you can burn calories at a normal rate. The problem is, it has been taking us about 20 minutes after “full” to feel full.
When we eat unprocessed, whole foods, we regain our stretch receptors and Leptin begins to work again. In place of weighing, measuring, or portioning food, eat the right kinds of foods and stop eating when you are full.
Criteria for food
Instead of calories and portions, I look at the quality of the food I am eating. Here are a few helpful thoughts to keep in mind when you choose what to eat:
- Every bite you take is either fighting disease or feeding disease. Make sure you understand which foods are “fighters” and which are “feeders.”
- The best food choices are nutrient dense, meaning they contain are lots of micronutrients – like the minerals and vitamins found in fruits and vegetables.
- Stay away from foods that are calorie dense, like processed foods and animal protein.
- The more fiber in your food choice the better.
Where does portion control come into play? Portions are important with animal proteins and fatty plant-based foods (avocados, nuts, nut butters). Those are the only times I insist on watching portions with my clients.
As long as most of your foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains (especially intact grains), beans and lentils, eat away and you’ll know when you’re full. In the end you will be more likely to lose weight, be healthy and “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”