Nov 1, 2010 11:39 AM | By Nicole Sparrow, Longevity Magazine
You’ve tried every diet in the book and failed. What’s stopping you from dropping the superfluous kilos?
It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new diet on the block. Low fat, low carbs, low GL. Baffled? We don’t blame you. As it turns out, weight loss is a complex science and there’s a lot we still don’t know. But, the good news is scientists are definitely getting better at cracking the fat riddle.
‘HEALTHY’ DOESN’T MEAN LOW-KJ
You think you’re a healthy eater. Your morning meal is a healthy fruit and yoghurt smoothie followed by oats and honey with wholewheat toast. So how come you’re still putting on weight? You could be falling for the “healthy food” trap. You pop into a local healthy fast-food chain. You opt for the healthy sarmie with hummus on low-GI bread, you not only eat the whole sandwich, but decide to have a smoothie, too. Unfortunately, while this is a nutritious choice it’s still a whopper when it comes to your waistline. Ultimately a kilojoule is still a kilojoule and if you eat too much, regardless of whether it’s healthy, you’ll gain weight.
THE SLOW METABOLISM MYTH
Loads of people complain that they can’t lose weight because of a slow metabolism. There’s no easy way to break this to you so we’re just going to be blunt: there’s a good chance you don’t. Dr Donald Hensrud from The Mayo Clinic in the US, says that yes, there is such a thing as a slow metabolism, but “it’s rare, and it’s usually not what’s behind being overweight”. In fact, he notes that overweight people are likely to have a higher metabolism than their thinner counterparts because bigger people burn more kilojoules, even at rest. If you are convinced you have a slow metabolism, he advises you talk to your doctor about doing medical tests to establish whether this is the case. Certain medication or rare conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and hypothyroidism can slow down your metabolic rate.
UNDERESTIMATING YOUR KILOJOULE CONSUMPTION
“Researchers have observed that overweight people underestimate how much they eat by twice as much as normal-weight people do,” say experts at Cornell University in the US. “It is because everyone consistently underestimates size as things get larger – distance, weight, height of buildings and loudness. And that applies to estimating how many calories [kilojoules] we eat.” The answer then, is to eat smaller meals. And while we hear a collective “duh” from your direction, Cornell University experts maintain that the smaller your meal, the better you become at accurately predicting its kilojoule content.
Top tips on getting the upper hand
You know how you’ve been advised to drink a glass of water before a meal, the idea being that you’ll feel fuller quicker and therefore eat less? This is only right in part. Taking in liquid with your food will make you full faster, but it won’t last for very long, unless you blend it all together. If you eat soup, your stomach stays distended for longer (i.e. you feel full) and keeps a dieter’s enemy – those frustrating hunger pangs – at bay. A great tip is to opt for low-kilojoule, veggie-based soups as these are also a good source of fibre and nutrients.
GET ENOUGH CALCIUM
For ages people watching their weight were encouraged to avoid dairy based on the fear that it would make them gain weight. However, in 2000, findings from the University of Tennessee’s Nutrition Institute suggested that eating calcium could make your body better at burning fat. In a study of overweight lab mice, the team found that those who ate dairy calcium lost more weight. Later studies have confirmed these findings in humans and have also established that while calcium supplements also work, for some reason dairy calcium is more effective.
WATCH YOUR PORTION SIZE
Remember the popcorn containers at the movies when you were a kid? They didn’t just seem smaller – they were. Over the years portion sizes have become bigger and so have our waistlines. Even food portions in Da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, have been super-sized over the years. And when it comes to that primitive, Homer Simpsonesque “must eat food” part of our brains, we simply haven’t figured this out, so portions get bigger and we continue to eat more. To lose weight and keep it off, you need to wise up to this and opt for smaller portions or plates.
Advocates of diets like Atkins maintain eating protein helps you feel full for longer and we’ve now established why: it’s all down to peptide YY (PYY), a hungerfighting hormone. Protein is better than other foods at triggering the release of PYY. Eating protein at meals will help keep those gnawing hunger pangs at bay for longer. Not only that, but other research has found that if weight loss is your goal, eating protein helps you lose more weight and keep it off longer.