Weight Management – Why the Solution is Simple Yet the Reality is Difficult
Temptations are everywhere: the office candy dish, catered business meetings, and divine dining when travelling. As if that isn’t challenging enough, now the holiday foods creep up on us! How is someone ever able to get ahead when it comes to gaining control of their health?
We’ve all heard so-called experts explain that portion control, lack of exercise, stress, and genes are to blame for excess weight gain over the years. And yet there are people who gain five pounds just thinking about chocolate while others appear to consume endless amounts of food without budging the needle on the scale. What gives?
This phenomenon is explained in Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, a lecture given by Dr. Douglas Lisle. Dr. Lisle is a clinical psychologist and Director of Research at TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California.
The concept of weight management can be explained between two topics: Stomach Sensors and Calorie Density.
Your Super Stomach Sensors
Much like everything with mass must obey the law of gravity, all animals obey the law of satiety. This states that animals will eat to full satisfaction in their natural habitat, not eating too much nor too little – perfectly meeting individual needs for ideal health and survival. The key word is natural habitat.
Have you ever seen an obese giraffe? An overweight antelope? A pear-shaped lion or an apple-shaped bear? Humans, cats, and dogs – the only three species that have weight problems.
So why do so many struggle with weight? And why do some people struggle more than others?
To explain why weight gain is so pervasive, part of the reason lies in the fact that we are no longer living in a “natural environment”. Modern-day food engineering strips food of its fiber, makes carbohydrates taste sweeter, and results in food that is incredibly concentrated with calories (typically calories coming from fat). These highly processed, fiber-deficient foods prevent us from becoming full, and we end up consuming more calories than we realize as a result.
There are two types of receptors that line our stomach that help to explain variation of weight struggles from one person to the next. These stomach receptors basically send “fullness signals” to the brain. One type of sensor, the stretch receptor, tells your brain when the bulk food in your stomach has stretched the stomach to capacity. Fill the stomach up with food, it expands, and the stretch receptors yell “for the love of God, please stop”! You may also know this feeling as “foodbaby”.
The other sensors are nutrient receptors, which gauge how many calories you’ve consumed. Once someone has consumed enough calories, the nutrient recipes tell the brain, “Hey, I have enough calories to make it to the next meal -you are full and satiated”.
Some individuals (the eat-anything-you-want-and-don’t-gain-weight people) have many receptors and/or highly sensitive receptors. This means receptors will tell the brain they are full sooner than someone who has less receptors or less sensitive receptors. The sensor variations is definitely a genetic difference from one person to the next and may be the reason why some folks can eat and eat, yet not gain weight.
So, does that mean someone who is receptor-poor is screwed? Not exactly. This is where calorie density comes in.
Calorie density describes the calories contained in a certain amount of food. There are certain foods that have a tremendous number of calories, yet don’t take up much space in the stomach. By the time the stretch receptors tell the brain max capacity has been reached, a person may have consumed more calories than the body needs at that time.
So, what foods are low in calories but provide substantial bulk? Which foods are high in fiber, low in calories, and naturally keep weight in check? Turns out filling our plate with mostly plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains) and minimizing oil (yes, even olive oil) is an incredibly efficient and effective dietary strategy for maintaining a healthy weight. If you happen to be someone who seems to “eat healthy” and still can’t get the weight off, you just need to add more lower-calorie, fiber-rich foods. This means more fruits, vegetables (especially starchy ones), and beans.
For those of you who prefer numbers, the chart below describes food in terms of calorie density. Research has shown that eating a calorie density around 500-600 calories per pound is ideal for maintaining a healthy weight. Focusing at least 70% of every meal on whole, unprocessed, oil-free plant-based foods will help you move closer to your health goals, regardless of your genetic makeup and sensor status!
Strategies for Reaching a Healthy Weight
- Increase fiber and lower-concentrated calorie foods
- Eat to satiety with these fibrous, whole foods
- Avoid overly processed, refined carbohydrates, and oils
- Eat low- calorie foods first (i.e. salad, veggies, soups) and eat high-calorie foods last
The thought of dietary modifications is overwhelming.
To learn more about reading nutrition facts labels, how to make the most of your grocery store visit, attend the next Native Sun Holiday Culinary Nutrition tour.
To learn how to reduce overeating and top strategies for how to prepare familiar holiday comfort food in innovatively healthy ways, attend the Holiday Culinary Nutrition & Demonstration class at Mind, Body, & Beyond.
Written by Registered Dietitian, Heather Borders, of Kailo Nutrition and University of North Florida graduate student and dietetic intern, Karen Chaska
Reference: Esteem Dynamics, Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind. 2016. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.