Every year we make a resolution to shed our extra weight. We make diet plans and follow a strict regimen for a few months and then gradually we lose steam. Why is it so? Why is it so hard to lose and maintain weight?

Conventional Calorie Counting Approach 

It is because the conventional method of losing weight focusing on calorie counting and calorie-in and calorie-out does not work in the long run. Sooner or later, pent-up hunger flares up and the person reverts to the older ways of eating with a vengeance. The most important aspect of sustainable weight loss is to understand the biology of weight gain.

Biology of Weight Gain

Hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Disease, Cushing  Syndrome and certain genetic mutations are traditionally known to cause large weight gain. What is not widely known is the role of hyperinsulinemia( High Insulin) in weight gain. In most cases of large weight gain, insulin is the main culprit. Insulin is the master hormone that controls the fat cells. Fat cells take in and release calories only when instructed to do so by the insulin. In hyperinsulinemia, the fat cells go into an overdrive and sweep too many calories from the blood.  As the fat cells suck up more calories, fewer are available to fuel the energy needs of the body. The brain responds to such a situation by triggering hunger pangs and conserving energy by reducing the metabolic rate. This creates a vicious cycle of large food intake and lower metabolic rate. According to Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School,Overeating doesn’t make us fat. The process of becoming fat makes us overeat. Understanding the biology of weight gain is the half battle won. The other half depends on the way we can regain control over our body.

Ten Weight Loss Principles

1. Diet that keeps insulin in check

To work on a diet that lowers the insulin levels and reduces inflammation. Processed carbohydrates and refined sugar cause a sharp surge in insulin. These food items need to be completely avoided for weight loss. While protein causes a  moderate increase in insulin, fat has minimal effect on the insulin. A diet rich in fiber, slow-moving carbohydrates, digestible proteins and high-quality fat can go a long way in sustaining weight loss. The right proportion of each nutrient needs to be worked out based on individual body type.

2. Body has immense flexibility to shift from one major nutrient to another

To understand that our body has an enormous biological flexibility to switch from one major nutrient to another for its energy needs. That is the reason there exist immense diversity in food habits across the world. Though the main energy currency for the body is glucose, fats can also be used as a source of energy. While carbohydrates and protein breakdown to glucose, fat is metabolized as a ketone. A healthy diet should have a right mix of these three nutrients. 

3. Calorie restriction has limited benefits

To forget about calorie restriction. Instead, work on a diet that decreases hunger and provides longer satiety after eating. A hungry body cannot lose weight. Sooner or later hunger would catch up. Right diet would not only turn off the starvation response of the body but also reprogram the fat cells for permanent weight loss.

4. Fat is not the villain as made out to be

To understand that fat is not the problem. Good quality fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are required for cell membrane and cell to cell communication. Fat cushions the vital tissues and protects us from starvation. It regulates metabolism and the rate of growth of brain cells. Thus it is important to incorporate healthy fats into our diets. Healthy fats also help to control food cravings by providing longer satiety value. Saturated fats such as ghee, butter, cheese and coconut oil in moderation promote health and vitality

5. Regain equilibrium between eating and fasting

To maintain optimal health our body maintains a fine balance between different hormones. Our body is fine-tuned to the alternate cycle of eating and fasting. When we eat insulin comes into action. In between eating glucagon plays an important role by signaling liver to release stored glucose to meet body’s energy needs. This fine balance between eating and fasting gets interrupted when one hormone is over secreted because of a faulty diet. This also leads to a surge of adrenaline, the stress hormone.

6. Spacing between meals

To keep healthy gaps between meals. Unless you are suffering from hypoglycemia or other medical condition, eating every two hours is not recommended. Constant eating keeps the insulin high and directs all the body resources towards digestion process and the body does not get enough time for essential functions of repair and regeneration.  A spacing of 3 to 4 hours between meals is recommended. Also, try going for intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting of 12 to 16 hours is very effective in weight loss.

7.Some calories are better at weight loss

To understand that all calories are not alike and some are better at reducing weight than the others. Dietary guidelines that specify calorie limits unwittingly assume that all calories are equal, but one hundred calories of a green salad does not have the fattening effects as one hundred calories of potato chips. In a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association 2012, 30 of (10) 981-982, authors have shown that type of calorie we eat affects the number we burn. Certain calories are more fattening than others. A Mediterranean diet is better at losing weight than a high carbohydrate diet.

8. Improve lifestyle for sustainable weight loss

To work on improving lifestyle for a long-term sustainable weight loss. Physical activities, sound sleep and stress reduction help in improving metabolism. Physical exercises boost energy, improve metabolism and keep you upbeat. Sleep helps to regain balance and reduction of chronic stress is vital in keeping stress hormones under check.

9. Genetics and weight loss

To understand that genetics has a minor role to play as 99.9 percent of our genes are same. Except for a gene mutation that causes no secretion of leptin making a person feel incessantly hungry, most cases of obesity have no direct correlation to genes. There are cases where obesity run in families but genes alone cannot explain the current epidemic of obesity. Our genes take centuries to change while obesity epidemic is of recent origin.

10.Willpower ain’t enough

To understand that willpower has limited impact on weight loss. What is more important is to understand the biology of weight gain. A right diet and healthy lifestyle can go a long way in ensuring sustainable weight loss.