Skip to main content

More on the scientific 'secret' behind weight-loss

Published December 05. 2009 09:00AM

You've heard the saying before: Just because something is simple doesn't make it easy which is the case with last week's surefire way to manage body weight.

On paper, eating more protein and complex carbohydrates and less simple carbohydrates looks to be a simple substitution. But if you don't control all the ingredients in your foods by preparing your own meals even if you eat only the "best" pre-made foods and meals found in the health-food aisle of your local grocery store the task goes from a swap meet to a scavenger hunt.

And because so many readers don't have the time to make meals from scratch though it takes less time than you'd expect if you designate one weekend morning or afternoon to do a week's worth of cooking this column needs to provide clear-cut clues.

Those are coming. After a related comment about last week's column.

Not only was the simple suggestion in it less-than-easy, but because the final anecdote is a secondhand story, it also made me a bit uneasy.

While I've read enough about Tom Danielson's dilemma he's so carb-sensitive that he needs to limit his ingestion of them or he gains weight even in the midst of a 20-day stage race! to know it's a legitimate problem, it is far from typical.

So let me share a more moderate, firsthand account. Once, a teaching colleague asked me to construct a two-week diet for his son so he could make weight for a national wrestling competition. Though I'm opposed to wrestlers not yet in their teens "sucking weight," when my fellow teacher told me his son actually enjoyed eating raw vegetables, I realized there was a way to do this safely.

The diet would not limit the little guy's amount of food, just the types.

So for two weeks the kid ate as much cut-up cauliflower and broccoli as he wanted along with a small amount of chicken or fish at lunch and dinner. His nightly snack was unlimited amounts of air-popped popcorn.

His parents never weighed his food, and the kid never counted a calorie. He never felt hungry either, yet he dropped the weight comfortably.

This happened because the types of foods entering his body relatively low-fat meats and fibrous, complex carbs do not break down easily into energy to fuel the muscles. As a result, he secreted less insulin, the hormone that escorts and stores the energy to either the muscles or fat stores, than normal.

While less insulin secreted may lead to less energy being supplied to the muscles and create a lethargic feeling, that generally occurs when you first make the decision to limit overly processed or "bad" carbs. But this boy was already limiting them to some degree on a typical wrestling diet, and he normally ate mostly "good" foods even outside of the season.

Therefore, his body was already accustomed to this and increased its secretion of insulin's opposite: glucagon. Glucagon breaks down stored fat for energy.

This break down created a loss of weight.

It's simple science and not really a secret: bodies that secrete more glucagon and less insulin than normal lose weight.

Now the question is, how can you structure your diet to have this happen?

Obviously, you don't need to be as extreme as the little wrestler and limit yourself to five healthy but potentially bland foods, but you can use his diet as a blueprint.

Write down a week's worth of typical eating for you. Types more so than amounts in this case matter.

After you do this, decide the composition of the meals or, if you want to really get detailed, the individual foods that constitute the meals.

Your categories should be as follows: 1.) lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and egg whites; 2.) complex carbs like oatmeal, whole wheat breads and pastas, and any fibrous vegetables; 3.) processed carbs like typically made pizza, typical pasta, white bread, cereals that contain added sugar, chips, pretzels, and obviously soda; and 4.) neutral foods, simple carbs like fruits and dairy products.

Now cross out any meals or foods that are number threes. Once you begin the diet, replace them with ones and twos.

If you don't mind eating this way or if you want the weight to come off a bit faster, replace some, most, or all of the fours with ones and twos.

And, as always, keep exercising during any diet. If you do not, about half the weight you lose will be muscle mass, which defeats the purpose.

That's because muscle needs calories. Fat does not. If you lose muscle along with fat during a diet, your basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy you need for sedentary activities as well as the amount of calories you burn during exercise goes down.

When both of these drop, it becomes that much harder to keep the unwanted pounds that you have just dropped from appearing again.

Classified Ads

Event Calendar


November 2017


Upcoming Events

Twitter Feed

Reader Photo Galleries