by Heather Campbell, MS, RD
With 65% of Americans being overweight, it’s a well-documented fact that the U.S. has a problem. Many people will start the New Year by setting weight loss goals. Sadly, most people will fail because diets don’t work. The problems I frequently see are that people focus on the scale instead of healthy behaviors, and they eat processed foods instead of REAL foods.
Obesity Related to Processed Food
The obesity epidemic has mirrored the rise in consumption of processed foods. Years ago, when we grew, gathered, and prepared our own foods, obesity was rare. Today, obesity is rampant as most of our society eats on the run without thought to where their food comes from. When we eat processed foods we get calories, but miss out on all the health promoting nutrients, like enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. When these nutrients are missing, the body continues to cry out for more food like it’s starving.
Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can be as easy as eliminating processed/refined foods, eating plenty of whole foods, and being active. Whole foods are unprocessed, unrefined and free from genetic modification. Whole foods don’t come from a can or box. They are nutrient dense and satisfying.
Counting Calories Is An Ineffective Weight Loss Tool
Stop worrying about calories. All calories are NOT equal. The same number of calories in an apple vs. candy are not the same. An apple nourishes us, whereas candy depletes us. When the body doesn’t receive the micronutrients it needs to do so many incredibly complicated biochemical processes, it craves more food. Unfortunately, most Americans end up eating more of the nutrient deficient processed foods, leading to further weight gain.
Read Ingredient Labels
One of the most important things I teach is to read the ingredients on food labels. Avoid foods that have a long list of ingredients or contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, or things you can’t pronounce. I also encourage clients to eliminate vegetable oils because they are high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. Healthy fats include coconut oil, butter, and extra virgin olive oil.
Drink Less Alcohol, Lose Weight
Many people experience significant weight loss when they stop drinking alcohol or limit their alcohol intake. Alcohol is loaded with empty calories. Drink it sparingly and only with a meal.
Humans Did Not Evolve on Sugar and Carbohydrates
We should recognize that humans survived on a diet of animals and vegetation for millions of years. It was only with the advent of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago, a fraction in evolutionary time, that humans began ingesting large amounts of sugar and starch in the form of grains and potatoes in their diets. The human race developed as hunter-gatherers. We ate when we could, not knowing when our next meal would be. We evolved to store excess fat to be used in times of need. Until about the last 100 years, we did not have access very often to large quantities of concentrated carbohydrates. It’s estimated that a typical American consumes over 200 pounds of sugar per year.
Insulin Levels are Key to Weight Control
The best predictor of obesity is your insulin secretion. Individuals with the highest insulin secretion gain the most weight and most of it as belly fat. Insulin stimulates hunger and is a fat storage hormone, which makes you store fat in the abdomen. You can have your insulin level tested by a laboratory, but the easiest way to know if you are secreting too much insulin is to measure your waist and hips. If your waist is bigger than your hips, then you are most likely secreting too much insulin. The insulin problem results because of too much sugar.
Focus on How You Feel, Not How Much You Weigh
Don’t be obsessed with the bathroom scale. Instead see how your clothes fit and evaluate how you feel. Be realistic about your weight. What you weighed in high school is not realistic for most people. Instead, get in touch with yourself and find the place where you feel your best. Most of us have to develop a healthy relationship with food.
So this year instead of setting a weight loss or diet goal, come up with a few ways to nourish yourself. You may be surprised by how your weight takes care of itself when you eat whole foods and get active.
Heather Campbell has been a registered dietitian for 21 years. She works at Whole Health in Traverse City where she specializes in healing with whole foods. She has worked with people from all walks of life and seen countless disorders disappear when modern, refined foods were replaced with traditional, whole foods.