In my previous column, we examined the science of weight loss. While conventional wisdom states that eating too many calories will cause us to gain weight, the science supporting this idea doesn’t always hold up.
As we continue to investigate, we find that the current obesity epidemic is a complicated problem, with multiple causes and individual differences in susceptibility. In other words: What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
However, there are a few simple principles of health and nutrition that may be true for the majority of people seeking to lose weight.
The first and most important step a person can take is to begin by eating natural, real foods. This would include foods found on the periphery of the grocery store – vegetables, fruits, nuts, lean proteins – and not the packaged and canned foods down the aisles.
Packaged foods contain high amounts of sugar, salt and hydrogenated fats, all of which have been shown to contribute to the obesity epidemic by stimulating pleasure centres in the brain.
In his book, “Salt, Sugar and Fat,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Moss investigated the practice of the packaged food industry to chemically engineer addictive food products.
“The optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the “bliss point.” Food inventors and scientists spend a huge amount of time formulating the perfect amount of sugar that will send us over the moon,” he said.
Avoiding foods that are chemically engineered to make us eat more of them would be a good starting point.
The second most important factor, when it comes to weight loss, is understanding that the problem goes beyond food. Frequent movement and exercise may be just as important as what we eat.
For example, a recent study of 800,000 people found that sitting and inactivity increased the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and all-cause mortality. The interesting thing about these results is that they were independent of any exercise session. In other words: An hour of exercise a few days a week, was not as effective as shorter duration movements throughout the day.
Considering the fact that only 15% of all Canadians meet the required amount of daily exercise, it is clear there are other factors at play in the obesity epidemic.
Take time for 15-minute fitness breaks throughout the day. Exercise does not have to be difficult or painful. It could be as simple as a walk around the block, playing with your kids, taking the stairs instead or playing sports. The key is to move frequently.
Finally, a discussion of weight loss would be incomplete without acknowledging the role that stress and sleep deprivation play in weight gain.
The fact is, most Canadians are stressed and sleep deprived. The average person gets only 6.9 hours of sleep a night. This is simply not enough for proper rest and recovery from a stressful day.
Chronic sleep deprivation changes affect how hormones like leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and insulin store fat. Fortunately, getting eight hours of sleep, proper nutrition and exercise can reset these hormones over time.
Weight loss fads may come and go over the years, but basic principles of health and wellness such as proper nutrition, exercise and sleep, will always withstand the test of time.
Remember that healthy weight loss should always be a product of a healthy lifestyle and not necessarily the main objective.