Struggling with weight and counting calories? Losing weight consists of understanding what foods instruct your body to pack on pounds and why.
Knowing what foods are causing you to gain weight have helped thousands of people like you to lose weight effectively.
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Have you gained some extra pounds over the years and can’t figure out why?
And you’ve been told that it is because you eat too many calories or points and exercise too little?
Or maybe you have tried a low-calorie diet, lost some weight, plateaued, and regained all those pounds back and more?
The story is always the same. All diets seem to work at the beginning but after six to twelve months you can’t lose any more weight.
The question is WHY?
By the end of this article, you will understand why you gain weight and what to do about it. And, I’m going to give you the best recommendations that will target the problem.
Are you ready? Here we go.
- What causes weight gain?
- What else can you eat?
- When to eat?
- Final Thoughts
What Causes Weight Gain?
The first thing you need to understand is that, contrary to common belief, “obesity” is NOT the real problem. Obesity is actually the result of the problem.
Let me explain.
The insulin hormone sets your body’s weight in your brain’s hypothalamus area.
Too much insulin signals your body that it wants to become fat; therefore, higher levels of insulin raise your body’s weight setpoint, and vice versa.
Due to an increase in caloric consumption, if your body gains weight past that weight setpoint “controlled by your insulin levels,” your body will try to bring its weight back down by increasing its own internal energy expenditure.
In other words, the body itself tries to burn more calories to compensate!
Likewise, if the body loses weight under that weight setpoint, the body attempts to regain its lost weight.
If you cut down in calories to lose weight, you will lose weight in the short term; however, your body, to compensate for the weight lost, will burn less calories/energy and also will increase hunger to force you to eat more. The body will try to get you to gain the weight you lost because your insulin levels indicate that your weight should be higher.
So, because your body is receiving less calories, it tries to compensate for the deficit by slowing down its metabolism (metabolic rate) and making you hungrier.
In fact, even a year later after losing weight, the body will still actively signal that it needs to regain that lost weight by increasing its appetite and the desire to eat via higher levels of the hunger hormone (Ghrelin).
This is why after cutting down on calories you regain your lost weight AND MORE!
Simply put, the body knows its weight and how many calories it needs. If you increase your calories, the body increases its metabolism to burn more calories. Likewise, if you decrease your caloric intake, your body slows down its metabolism to burn less calories.
The body compensates for the overage or deficit in calories. Smart…huh!
Now, here’s the shocker: Calories aren’t really the reason why you’re overweight.
Your insulin levels actually dictate what your weight should be.
Insulin is your fat storing hormone.
So the question is, what raises insulin levels, and as a result, your body’s weight setpoint?
The “constant” consumption of “fattening carbohydrates” like sweets, sugary foods like cereals, desserts, sodas, anything with added sugar, pasta, anything made with wheat flour, etc.
The consumption of carbohydrates raises insulin, but insulin comes back down. Hormones, like insulin, are secreted as needed, in a pulsatile manner, and then removed from the system.
Keep in mind that Asian cultures have eaten a high percentage of carbohydrates without becoming obese.
However, the everyday consumption of fattening carbohydrates, several times a day, and throughout time, keeps your insulin levels high for too long to the point that your cells develop a “resistance to insulin.”
Too much insulin for too long!
Insulin resistance is the state in which cells become less sensitive to insulin, and as a result, cells can’t drive in enough glucose causing it to pile up in the blood and the secretion of MORE INSULIN.
Is this good? No. Cells are not taking up enough glucose and because having more than about 1 teaspoon of sugar in your blood becomes toxic, MORE insulin needs to be secreted.
This exposure to constant high levels of insulin, over time, causes cells to reduce the number of insulin receptors.
Cells actually want to avoid the over exposure to insulin.
Otherwise, in the presence of too much insulin, if the number of insulin receptors remained the same, blood glucose levels could go down low enough to cause seizures and ultimately, death.
Therefore, insulin resistance develops as protective mechanism – the body is actually protecting itself.
Again. Over time, the exposure to constant and high insulin levels drives insulin resistance. This is the key!
Now, as we become insulin resistant, when we eat, glucose levels go up but because insulin resistant cells aren’t allowing enough glucose in, glucose accumulates in the blood requiring more insulin to be secreted. (4)
At this point, this situation becomes a vicious cycle! Insulin resistance can drive high insulin levels, and likewise, high insulin levels can drive insulin resistance (3).
So, what changed that insulin resistance has become a problem now?
In 1977, we transitioned to a high carbohydrate diet because low fat was advised…what a big mistake! High carbs were fine as long as it was low in fat content.
Carbohydrates, as you know, raise insulin levels high. And, the frequency of carbohydrate intake was increased. Instead of eating three meals a day, we’re eating closer to six high-carbohydrate meals a day (three meals and three snacks) (5).
Even the After-School Snacks program from the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service recommends snacking!
These dietary changes of more frequent refined carbohydrate consumption translate into insulin resistance.
Refined carbohydrates raise insulin levels VERY high.
And the frequency of these meals maintains high insulin levels for a longer time.
So, we have the deadly combination to develop resistance: high quantities and high frequency. The periods of fasting between meals have been greatly reduced.
There should be a balance between the insulin-dominant states (when we eat) and fasting states (between meals). In other words, every time we eat, insulin is secreted and between meals, insulin levels go down. We don’t want high insulin levels all the time. Only as needed.
Remember that hormones are released in a pulsatile manner.
With this craze for eating refined carbs many times a day, we have increased the daily insulin-dominant window too much and reduced the fasting periods between meals.
Can you see it?
For a long time, part of the focus on beating obesity has been on what to eat and not on what NOT to eat.
And guess what? Food companies don’t make any money when you don’t eat. This is why you can’t let TV commercials teach you what to eat.
Now that you know what causes weight gain, the questions is, how can you lose weight? Here’s a list you can follow to lose weight from multiple angles.
First, let’s focus on what to eat and not to eat, and then we’ll talk about timing of meals.
1. Avoid Sugars like the Plague
We all know that sugar increases insulin.
Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose…
…and fructose contributes to insulin resistance in the liver.
As you already know, insulin resistance induces more insulin…and more insulin sets your normal weight higher making you gain weight. We don’t want that!
Keep in mind these simple recommendations:
- Read the labels and make sure there are NO ADDED SUGARS!
- Watch for sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, molasses, hydrolyzed starch, honey, invert sugar, cane sugar, glucose-fructose, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, rice/corn/cane/maple/malt/golden/palm syrup, and agave nectar.
- The worst of all are sucrose and high fructose corn syrup!
- Sauces like ketchup, relish, BBQ, plum, honey garlic, hoisin, sweet and sour, and other dipping sauces are loaded with sugar.
- Do not add sugar yourself to anything: no coffee with sugar, no sweet tea, no sweet drinks, etc.
- Do not buy snacks – if you buy a snack, you’re going to eat it – snacks are loaded with sugar – humans are not meant to graze like cows.
- Not hungry? Don’t eat anything.
You should also know that sugar depletes potassium, calcium, and B vitamins. When you deplete potassium, your sodium-potassium ratio changes in favor of sodium. As a result, after eating sugar you can retain fluids making you gain weight.
I hear you asking…
But, what desserts can I eat then???
- Fruits are awesome and from local farmers are even better.
- Berries or cherries with full-fat whipped cream.
- Dark chocolate with more than 70% cacao is a healthy treat.
- Nuts such as macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios are good choices as you can enjoy their high fiber content, minerals, and antioxidants.
2. Avoid Refined Grains
Anything made with white flour should be avoided as much as possible. Period.
White flour has been stripped out of wheat’s original nutrients and fiber and has also been milled to very small particles that easily penetrate into the blood stream amplifying insulin’s effect. Not good!
Fiber is a natural protective mechanism against insulin spikes because it slows down the release of carbohydrates. In nature, carbohydrates and fiber are found together.
The more refined the grain is, the more toxic it is. Keep this in mind!
3. Eat Protein in Moderation
We humans are made of protein, fat, and water. We need protein! In nature, protein and fat are normally found together.
Protein triggers the fat burning hormones!
Protein is the only food that the body can use to make muscle.
Muscle is made from protein, not broccoli, bananas, or bagels!
It is interesting to know that:
- Different proteins sources have different effects. Out of eggs, turkey, fish, and whey protein, whey seems to have the strongest effect on insulin levels.
- In a study, a group of 24 8-year-old boys was split and asked to take milk or meat daily for 7 days. The final results showed that the insulin and the insulin resistance were much higher on the milk group than the meat group.
- In another study that looked at differences in dairy and meet, they found the same. Insulin response was much higher for milk and cheese than, for instance, cod.
- A study conducted in Europe concluded that diets high in animal protein are associated with an increased risk of diabetes (insulin resistance). There’s a steady rise in the incidence of diabetes as more animal protein was consumed although this is not the same for vegetable protein consumption.
Although protein rich foods don’t raise your blood glucose, they raise your insulin, and dairy protein is particularly a big offender.
Replace those cookie snacks with protein and fat snacks, i.e. cheese and nuts.
You need enough protein to repair and for daily maintenance. Excess protein causes fat accumulation in your body tissues.
In other words, too much protein makes you gain weight.
Find your protein source based on your blood type and listed below you will find the most beneficial sources although not the only ones.
Type Os should obtain their protein preferably from beef, buffalo, lamb, liver, mutton, veal, venison, sea bass, cod, halibut, perch, and others. Chicken, duck, goat, and turkey are ok too. No dairy. No eggs. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and black and English walnuts are very good for type Os.
Type As should obtain their protein from cod, grouper, mackerel, monkfish, red snapper, salmon, chicken, turkey, and others. Notice no red meat. Raw goat milk and cheeses, and organic eggs are ok. Peanuts and pumpkin seeds are also beneficial.
Type Bs should obtain their protein from goat, lamb, mutton, rabbit, venison, cod, flounder, grouper, halibut, mackerel, salmon, and others. Dairy is actually beneficial for Type Bs. Eggs are ok. Black walnuts are also beneficial.
Type ABs should obtain their protein from lamb, mutton, rabbit, and turkey. Seafood includes albacore tuna, cod, grouper, mackerel, red snapper, salmon, and others. No straight milk but cheeses like cottage, farmer, feta, and mozzarella are good. Chestnuts, peanuts, and walnuts are beneficial.
For all blood types, avoid American cheese!
Eat between 80 to 120 grams of protein a day to prevent your body from breaking down muscle mass.
3 to 6 ounces of meat, or a piece of meat of the size of a deck of cards, gives you between 21 to 24 grams of protein.
A nice 12-ounce T-bone steak will give you a large insulin spike.
Lean protein triggers insulin higher. The fat in protein, like egg white with yolk or chicken with skin, helps lower the insulin spike.
Now, you should know that adding sugar to meat as in BBQ sauce and/or ketchup, or carbohydrates as in bread buns and/or fries will spike your insulin even higher.
Breaded chicken fingers and eating dessert after eating a steak are bad combinations. These staples foods are silent killers. Avoid them!
4. Increase Your Intake of Natural Fats
Out of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein, fat raises your insulin levels the least.
Muscle and good fat are the only things that can burn stored fat.
We’re talking about natural, unprocessed fat like fish oil, flax seed oil extra-virgin olive oil, butter from grass-fed cows, coconut oil, lard, etc.
Olive oil contains big amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components and…
- can also lower cholesterol.
- can decrease blood clotting.
- can reduce blood pressure.
- can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).
Another source of healthy fats is nuts, such as walnuts, particularly because of their high omega 3 fatty acid content…yum!
Full-fat dairy! No fat-free. No 2%. No 5%. FULL FAT!
We couldn’t finish this section without talking about avocados! High potassium. High fat. High in soluble and insoluble fiber.
Avocados are AWESOME!
5. Increase Consumption of Protective Factors
What are the protective factors? Fiber and Vinegar!
Fiber is a structural component of plant foods. Fiber is indigestible inside the human body, so it is carbohydrate and calorie-free!
It is also bulky, which makes you feel full with less!
As mentioned before, fiber reduces the speed in which carbohydrates are released; therefore, fiber prevents insulin spikes.
Refined carbohydrates have been stripped off of nutrients and fiber. This is why you don’t want them “refined.” You want whole foods with their original nutrients and fiber.
Fiber from different types of fruits and vegetables feed different types of gut bacteria. This is very important!
The bigger the variety of fruits and vegetables, the better.
Beware of “bran fiber.” Bran fiber is very harsh to your intestines, something like mini razor blades. Avoid it. There are so many other insoluble fiber options that are much more beneficial to your gut.
When taken before a meal, Apple Cider Vinegar helps to avoid insulin spikes and increase satiety.
What Else Can You Eat?
Eat whole, unprocessed foods at all meals, including breakfast.
Carbohydrates should be eaten in their natural, whole, unprocessed form! Vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, watercress, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, etc. are all nutritious carbohydrate-containing foods.
Remember that the toxicity of Western foods relies in the processing. The more processed the food is, the more toxic it becomes.
One to two cups of red wine a day is/are ok as wine is not associated with major weight gain and may improve insulin sensitivity.
Just drink plain or sparkling water in limited amounts during meals. Be aware that drinking lots of water with meals dilutes your stomach acid and you want a strong acid to break down your food.
Coffee, even decaf, is fine. No sugar! I use xylotol as a sweetener.
Green tea is awesome as it contains high quantities of powerful antioxidants called catechins.
BONE BROTH! Simmered animal bones with vegetables, herbs, and spices are loaded with amino acids, minerals, gelatin, and other nutrients.
Quinoa is very high in fiber, protein, vitamins, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants (quercetin and kaempferol). It also has a low glycemic index.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, omega 3, proteins, and antioxidants.
Bottomline, eat whole, unprocessed foods, such as organic vegetables for fiber and vitamins and minerals and free-range eggs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, etc., for protein.
When to Eat to Lose Weight?
I’m glad you asked!
So far, we have focused on half of the problem – what to eat helps short-term weight loss.
However, long-term weight loss is a two-step process. The second half of the problem is when to eat!
We have learned about insulin and its role on setting your weight.
Insulin resistance keeps your insulin levels high. And high insulin sets your body weight high. When the weight is set to higher than normal, you feel hungrier because the body wants you eat more in an effort to gain weight. And at the same time, the body slows down its metabolism to burn less energy, so the caloric balance stays positive.
People with insulin resistance have a higher level of insulin circulating in their blood between meals, and their insulin response to a meal is higher than people without insulin resistance.
All foods raise our insulin. Some foods more than others.
We need to stay with the foods that will not raise your insulin so much. However, eating food will not lower your insulin levels.
When you are insulin resistant, you need more insulin to gain the same effect as if you were not insulin resistant. Remember that what made you become insulin resistant to begin with was the high and constant levels of insulin triggered by the foods you ate and their frequency. This now became a self-feeding cycle that we need to break!
If all foods raise our insulin, the only way to lower it is to avoid food.
In other words, INTERMITTENT FASTING is the answer. Fasting will break that vicious cycle!
The body has two main sources of energy: glucose for the short term and fat for the long term.
When food is scarce, the body innately burns fat for energy. That’s why fat is there!
The purpose of fat is to serve as a survival mechanism for when sugar/glucose is scarce.
When you’re not eating, you’re fasting.
The body does not burn muscle until all fat stores are depleted.
When the body switches to burn fat for energy, blood sugar levels remain in the normal range due to gluconeogenesis.
The video below explains what Gluconeogensis is in simple terms. Duration: 1 minute and 19 seconds. Check it out.
Here are some interesting facts about fasting:
- Fasting has been around for many years and it is even part of religions that you are familiar with. For instance, Ramadan for Muslims, Lent for Christians, and others. It was adopted as something deeply beneficial to the human body and spirit.
- We do it every day. We break our daily fast with “breakfast.”
- Hippocrates of Kos, the father of modern medicine, prescribed fasting and apple cider vinegar.
- Instinctively, we fast when we are sick – we do not feel hungry.
- One of America’s founding father, Benjamin Franklin, wrote, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”
The world record for the longest fasting recorded lasted 382 days and was broken by a 27-year-old man who at the time weighted 456 lbs. His final weight was 180 lbs. He was monitored medically throughout his fasting. No medical issues.
The human body has built-in mechanisms to deal with prolonged periods without food.
Something we need to be aware of is that the food industry doesn’t make money when we don’t eat, so we have been brainwashed to believe that constant eating is good for us. Not only acceptable, but healthy! BS!!!
When we eat, glucose levels go up in the blood, and insulin is then secreted to signal cells that they can allow glucose in for energy.
Insulin is a key regulator of energy metabolism, and it is one of the fundamental hormones that promotes fat accumulation and storage.
Under normal conditions, a high insulin level encourage sugar and fat storage. A low insulin level encourages glycogen (glucose stored in the liver) and fat (glucose stored in the tissues) burning.
Sustained levels of excessive insulin will tend to increase fat storage. An imbalance between the feeding and fasting states will lead to increased insulin, which causes increased fat storage.
Weight Gain in the form of Obesity is a hormonal disorder that affects fat regulation. Insulin is the MAJOR hormone that drives weight gain, so a rational approach would to LOWER INSULIN LEVELS.
High and constant insulin levels lead to insulin resistance as the body’s protective mechanism.
Insulin resistance leads to more insulin secretion to obtain the same effect. And because high levels of insulin leads to insulin resistance, this self-feeding cycle worsens overtime.
In addition to changing what we eat to whole foods, preferably low glycemic foods, to break the vicious cycle, we need to also change the timing of our meals.
You can let go off of that weight loss calculator. No need to count calories or points. It’s all about the insulin.
And cortisol to some extent.
If you want to expand on the topics discussed in this post and want to know more about Losing Weight, I strongly recommend you read The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung, and The Healthy Keto Plan, by Dr. Eric Berg.