Having difficulty losing weight? Not sure why? Read on.

I have talked with several people in the past few weeks who were frustrated that they were not able to lose any weight. They have been watching what they eat very closely. They have been exercising frequently. But still the scale still has not budged. They were becoming discouraged. I asked each of them to keep a food diary. I wanted to know their daily carb intake. Some used online counters; others found apps on their phones or I pads to help analyze their daily carb intake. They brought in the results for me to review. What we discovered is that each person was consuming a lot more grams of daily carbs than each realized. All were above 100 grams of carbs a day. Some were above 200grams a day and one was above 300grams a day. It was no wonder they could not lose weight. With their elevated daily carb intake levels, their insulin levels were also surely sky-high. Elevated insulin levels make weight loss very difficult if not impossible. We looked at the foods they were consuming including large amounts of whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice. Most were consuming large amounts of fruit, including daily bananas. We looked at ways to cut their daily intake below 100 grams a day to promote weight loss. Some people may need to cut down their daily carb intake to 50 grams a day. Everyone is different. If you are having trouble losing weight, count your daily carb intake. If you are not losing weight at your current carb intake level, cut down until the weight starts coming off. You need a low enough daily carb intake level to decrease your insulin levels low enough to promote weight loss. Once it does, be patient. Eating healthy is a lifestyle change, not a diet.

Are all calories equal?

Since we were children, we’ve been taught that weight loss comes down to the simple idea of “calories in versus calories out.” This equation is simple and easy to understand. If you want to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you consume. This can be achieved by creating a calorie deficit via a reduced-calorie diet, an increase in physical activity, or a combination of both. The weight-loss industry makes billions of dollars each year trying to cash in our desperate attempts to curb this obesity epidemic that has plagued America, but is it possible that it’s more complicated than the old adage, “eat less and exercise more”?

Employing simple, basic strategies to reduce total calories has been a common method used to lose weight. The strategies include watching portion sizes, limiting high-calorie foods, and increasing exercise. While it’s still true that a calorie is a calorie regardless of what food it came from, not all calories are created equal in the sense that foods will have different effects on your body – even if two foods are identical in their calorie contents.

For example, compare 500 calories from gummy candy and 500 calories from broccoli. When you eat the candy, your gut quickly absorbs the fiber-free sugars in the candy. The sugars spike your blood sugar, starting a domino effect of high insulin and a cascade of hormonal responses that kicks bad biochemistry into gear. The high insulin increases storage of belly fat, increases inflammation, raises triglycerides, lowers HDL, and raises blood pressure.

Your appetite is increased because of insulin’s effect on your brain chemistry. The insulin blocks your appetite-control hormone leptin. You become more leptin resistant, so the brain never gets the “I’m full” signal. Instead, it thinks you are starving. Furthermore, your pleasure-based reward center is triggered, driving you to consume more sugar and fueling your addiction.

You can see just how easily 500 calories of candy can create chaos in your body. In addition, the candy contains no fiber, vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients to help you process the calories you are consuming. These are “empty” calories, devoid of any nutritional value. Your body doesn’t register candy as food, so you eat more all day long.

Now let’s look at the 500 calories of broccoli. As with the candy, these calories are made up primarily (although not entirely) of carbohydrates — but let’s clarify just what that means, because the varying characteristics of carbohydrates will factor significantly into the contrast I’m about to illustrate.

Carbohydrates are plant-based compounds comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They come in many varieties, but they are all technically sugars or starches, which convert to sugar in the body. The important difference is in how they affect your blood sugar. High-fiber, low-sugar carbohydrates such as broccoli are slowly digested and don’t lead to blood sugar and insulin spikes, while table sugar and bread are quickly digested carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar. Therein lies the difference. Slow carbohydrates like broccoli heal rather than harm.

Those 500 calories of broccoli make up 14 cups and contain 44 grams of fiber (the average American consumes less than15 grams of fiber a day). Broccoli is 23 percent protein, 9 percent fat, and 68 percent carbohydrate, or 340 calories from carbs. The “sugar” in 14 cups of broccoli is the equivalent of only one teaspoon; the rest of the carbohydrates are the low-glycemic type found in all non-starchy vegetables, which are very slowly absorbed.

What happens when you eat broccoli? Broccoli contains so much fiber that very few of the calories would actually get absorbed. Those that did would get absorbed very slowly. There would be no blood sugar or insulin spike. Your stomach would distend (which it doesn’t with candy), sending signals to your brain that you were full. There would be no triggering of the addiction reward center in the brain. You’d also get many extra benefits including lower cholesterol and reduced inflammation. The phytonutrients in broccoli are anti-inflammatory and protect against cancer and heart disease.

The key is that all calories are NOT created equal. The same number of calories from different types of food can have very different biological effects.

Some calories are addictive while others are healing. When thinking about calories, think more about the quality of the calories versus the quantity. Consider what other nutrients are you getting besides just calories. Are there vitamins, phytonutrients, or fiber? Your goal with every bite is to get the most nutrition possible.

Calorie density concept key to long-term healthy weight loss

Every year new fad diets come along. The grapefruit diet, cookie diet, low carb diet, diets using shakes, and hormone injection diets have all come and gone. Many people are able to lose some weight on these diets, unfortunately most eventually put it all back on. Diets do not work. Most are too restrictive. Many leave you hungry or tired. So is weight loss hopeless? Should we all give up and have a triple scoop ice cream sundae instead? No!! Your goal should be a healthy lifestyle. Being healthy includes keeping your weight down, but should also reduce your chances of chronic diseases including heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Losing weight should not mean risking your health at the same time. The key to a healthy lifestyle and sustained weight loss is the concept of calorie density. Calorie density refers to the amount of calories in a set amount of food, usually per gram. Some foods have a low calorie density (for example, 1 calorie per gram) and other have a high calorie density (for example, 10 calories per gram). Your goal is to eat as many foods every meal with the lowest calorie densities. Therefore, you end up getting full on less calories. You do not want to be hungry – which is a critical point. Hunger always eventually leads to binge eating. For example, think of your stomach as a round fish bowl. If you fill it with peanuts, you will have eaten approximately 2500 calories. If instead, you fill it with bananas, you will have eaten only about 500 calories. In both instances you are full and cannot eat anymore. By eating bananas instead of peanuts you have received 5x less calories. By choosing foods that are lower in calorie density you fill up with less calories which will lead to weight loss. So which foods have the lowest calorie density? Those that are filled with water and fiber. Fruits and vegetables top the list. You can eat vegetables all day long and lose weight. You get filled up way before over-eating too many calories. The same goes for fruit. Every meal should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Your snacks should involve fruits and vegetables. It is impossible to get fat on carrots or peppers. On the other hand fats, oils, and processed foods are quite calorie dense. You get a lot of calories for a small amount of food. Oils, for example have 120 calories per tablespoon. Processed foods are highly calorie dense. When food manufactures process foods they remove the water and fiber. This creates foods that are loaded with calories in a small amount of food. Corn has few calories. Corn chips are loaded with calories. Potatoes are lower in calories. Potato chips are loaded with calories. Processed foods are unhealthy and calorie dense. Many vitamins and nutrients are also removed when foods are processed. The more you avoid them the better off you will be. The more your food looks like when it came out of the ground the better. Your daily goal should be 10 servings of fruits and vegetables. Your stomach has only so much room. Fill it up with healthy fruits and vegetables and there will be little room for the highly processed, calorie dense foods. Start to think about this concept at every meal. Your daily calorie intake will decline as will your weight. We will be discussing this concept of calorie density further in later posts including discussing other foods that are low in calorie density. We will also be exploring a closely related topic – nutrient density. Remember, fill up on healthy low calorie foods and the weight will start to come off and stay off.

What is One Thing I Can I do Today to Start?

One thing you can do today to start is to get rid of all the junk food in your house. Throw it all away or give it away. Anything that is high in calories, high in fat, loaded with sugar, or highly processed just throw away. Get rid of food that has little nutritional value. Do not bring it into your home. Avoid temptation. It is too easy to give into temptation when it is lying around the house. Make it as difficult as possible to eat junk food. Make it necessary to go out of the house to get junk food. Make it easy to do the right thing. Keep healthy food available. Have fresh fruit available. Cut up vegetables so they are ready to eat when hunger hits. This is an easy step that is highly effective to help you do the right thing. Do it today!

How Much Sugar is too Much?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found naturally in many foods, including fruits and grains. If the only sugar we consumed were in natural, whole foods, we’d all be okay. Unfortunately, the average American diet is full of refined, nutrient-depleted foods and contains an average of 20 teaspoons of added, refined sugar every day. Refined sugar overworks the pancreas and adrenal glands to keep the blood sugar levels in balance. When you eat sugar, it is quickly absorbed into your blood stream in the form of glucose. This puts your pancreas into overdrive, making insulin (which carries glucose to your cells to be used for energy) to normalize blood sugar levels. But this rapid release of insulin causes a sudden drop in blood sugar. In reaction to the falling blood sugar, excess adrenal cortisone is stimulated to raise blood sugar back to normal. A constantly high intake of simple dietary sugar keeps this roller coaster going and eventually overworks or “burns out” normal pancreas and adrenal function leading to adult-onset diabetes, hypoglycemia, and chronic fatigue. I hear all the time from patients that they do not eat junk food. They wonder why they should be concerned about sugar consumption. Unless you’re eating a diet entirely made of whole, unprocessed foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and grains), you’re probably eating more sugar than you think. Usually, much  more. Sugar, in its many forms, is added to virtually every packaged food product you’ll find at the supermarket – not just the sweet stuff.  Don’t be fooled by the ingredients list. Sugar has hundreds of pseudonyms and manufacturers have gotten very good at hiding them from consumers. (See below for list.) Because ingredients are listed from most to least amount, often several different types of sugars will be in the middle of the list. If all sugars were required to be listed together, sugar would be the first ingredient. To find out how much sugar you’re actually taking in, check the labels of the foods you eat. Make sure you look at serving sizes and multiply appropriately. 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar for women a day and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar a day for men.Many people ask about “natural” sweeteners. Don’t be fooled, these “natural” sweeteners are only marginally better than plain white table sugar and dietary intake of them should be limited. I have enclosed below a list of names that sugar goes by on labels. Look for these names when looking at labels. Manufacturers try to be tricky. Do not be fooled. Take control of your weight and health!

 

Agave nectar
Barbados Sugar
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Blackstrap molasses
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane crystals
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Caramel
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalline fructose
Date sugar
Demerara Sugar
Dextrin
Dextran
Dextrose
Diastatic malt
Diatase
D-mannose
Evaporated cane juice
Ethyl maltol
Florida Chrystals
Free Flowing
Fructose
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Galactose
Glucose
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Granulated sugar
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
HFCS
High-fructose corn Syrup
Honey
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Lactose
Malt syrup
Maltodextrin
Maltose
Mannitol
Maple syrup
Molasses
Muscovado sugar
Organic raw sugar
Panocha
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice Syrup
Sorbitol
Sorghum syrup
Sucrose
Sugar
Syrup Syrup
Table sugar
Treacle
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Sugar – As Addicting as Drugs

Sugar is highly addictive. It can be as addictive as illegal drugs for many people. The average American has 140 to 150 pounds of sugar per person of sugar added to their diets each year. Another 20 percent of our calories come from white flour, a simple carbohydrate, which acts a lot like sugar in our bodies. Eating almost twice our weight in sugar and white flour each year, it’s not surprising that we have become a nation of sugar addicts. Like many other addictive substances, sugar may leave you feeling a bit better for a few hours, but then wreaks havoc on your body. For thousands of years, humans ate sugar found naturally in their food. Sugar was not a problem; it was a treat. But now many of the calories we consume come from sugar and white flour added by food processing. Our bodies simply were not designed to handle this massive load. The more food is processed, the less healthy it becomes. Processing food removes nutrients, minerals, and fiber. Sugar gives you an initial high and then you crash several hours later, leaving you wanting more sugar. In fact, sugar acts as an energy loan shark, taking away more energy than it gives. Eventually, your “credit line” runs out and you find yourself exhausted, anxious, and moody.In addition to the immediate fatigue and emotional problems, sugar also causes many long-term health problems.  Our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has risen 250 percent in the past fifteen years, and our rate of diabetes has increased approximately 45 percent during the same time period. Although the sugar industry sometimes tries to confuse the public by claiming that corn syrup is not sugar, it is a form of sugar as far as your body is concerned, and more toxic. There are several chronic medical problems associated with excess sugar in our diet including: weight gain, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, chronic sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon, cancer, metabolic syndrome with high cholesterol and hypertension, heart disease and stroke, ADHD, and anxiety/depression.  Sugar is a mood-altering substance, which is no surprise to anyone with a sweet tooth. But the fact is that sugar is everywhere in our diet, and it is dumped into what we eat and drink during food processing. With one-third of our calories coming from sugar and white flour, and the stress of modern life increasing, we are seeing the makings of the perfect storm of medical problems. Eating sugar causes blood sugar to surge, insulin levels to spike, and fat to get deposited throughout your body. Obesity, often accompanied by diabetes and heart disease, is just one more consequence of our high-sugar diet. Your long-term goal should be to slowly decrease the sugar and simple carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, ect.) in your diet. Do not try to stop cold turkey as you may get withdrawal symptoms, just like stopping other drugs. Replace simple sugars with whole grains. You know a whole grain because it will contain a fair amount of fiber. The more fiber the better. Eat more fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Artificial sweeteners are just as bad and can have many side effects. Try Stevia instead. Stevia is a South American herb which has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zerocalories and zerocarbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar, and far more healthy. There have not been any reports of toxicity with Stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily.