Dr Suzie Edge on 21st century nutrition and health

Why you won’t lose weight trying to balance with will power.

Why you won’t lose weight trying to balance with will power.

Go find yourself a beam, a branch or one of those slack-lines and try balancing for a bit. How long can you last? Probably not as long as you’d like because chance are, like me, you are not an Olympic gymnast. Sure, you can engage your core and last a bit longer but you’re going to fall off. Do you think your falling off is due to your lack of will power or could there be other factors at play?

The concept of trying to balance anything will set you up for failure. No more so than the concept of a balanced diet, where you want to lose weight. Take a look at the “eat well” plate. I am reluctantly calling it by it’s name here but I don’t think it represents eating well at all.

If you follow this “eat well” plan, with its huge proportion of carbohydrates, by trying the balance macros, no matter how much you restrict calories, you will struggle to lose weight in the long term. Sure, calorie restriction and moderation of all these foods can lead to short term weight loss and you can quote the names of many CICO friends to me if you like but have we not grown out of the miserable self-loathing calorie restriction by now?

Look at the beige block of carbohydrates on that plate (the breads, cereals, pastas and biscuits). That’s a big chunk of stuff that there is actually no essential requirement for in our bodies. There is no disease of carbohydrate deficiency. The tiny amount of glucose that the body does need (in the blood represented by the blood sugar measurement) is used only by mitochondria-free red blood cells and can be manufactured by the body from other nutrients when it is needed. You don’t need to add extra, you don’t need this stuff, yet you keep coming back for more. Why is that?

Every food item that you choose to eat will set off a hormonal response within your body. So when you start your day with Special K, or dare I say it, “healthy” low-fat yogurt with bananas and raisins you will stimulate a big insulin response. Increases in insulin will, amongst other functions, signal to the fat cells around your body to keep hold of their fat. There’s no need to give up ANY precious fat stores when there’s carbohydrates about and winter is just around the corner when fruit might be scarce! When the job is done and the insulin levels drop and you run out of high levels of glucose (and all those carbs become glucose, even the whole grains) the response from your body is to find yourself some more of that feel-good stuff. Your body will make you need more of the feel-good stuff. If you ignore or fight those signals, you’ll feel hungry and miserable. Does this sound familiar?

What I am trying to say, is that this is not about any lack of will power. It is not a lack of will power that leads to your mid morning cheeky snack, it is your hormonal response to what you ate for breakfast and what you always eat, if you are following the recommended “healthy eat well plate”. That snack, even if it is a bunch of fruit (especially if it is a bunch of fruit) will set off the whole process again.

Finding a balance is hard and miserable and if you want to lose weight, it is nonsensical. Doing so by trying to moderate a carbohydrate-heavy insulin-inducing “eat-well” plate is nuts. You should eat more nuts.

If you are shaking your head and telling me that you couldn’t possibly give up bread or pasta (or those sugar filled bananas and raisins) then maybe you just don’t want to lose weight? Then again, maybe that’s not will power, maybe that’s a reliance on a food stuff that has no essential requirement by our bodies but we really like how it makes us feel. If this conversation was about cocaine, you’d be shocked.


Some resources:

Low Carb diets lower insulin from Diet Doctor.com

Jason Fung on physiology, satiety and hormones.

Some more on insulin in this video by Dr Eric Berg:


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