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Healthy "Artful Living" Moment #17: Weight Loss

Posted on May 06 2018

Losing weight is an issue for many of us. I have struggled with the issue for decades. I tried various diets, like low fat and low carb diets, along with some "trendy" diets (remember the grapefruit diet?). Having gone through the cycle of losing weight on a diet, and then gradually gaining it back no matter which diet I tried, I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to change my lifestyle, not go on a "diet". I needed to change the way I eat, and what I eat, not for a period of time, but forever. That approach has worked, and it is an approach that is supported by some recent research results from Stanford University.

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight. Carrying excess body fat is the number-one risk factor for type 2 diabetes (see Healthy Moment #7 on diabetes for more info on this disease). As adults become overweight they do not actually add more individual fat cells in their bodies, because the number of fat cells in your body doesn't change much, no matter how much weight you put on. What happens is that more fat is crammed into your existing fat cells, becoming so bloated with fat that the cells begin to spill fat into the bloodstream. And as fat levels rise in the bloodstream, your body's ability to clear sugar from the blood drops due to insulin resistance, which is the cause of type 2 diabetes.

In a study of 600 overweight adults, Stanford University researchers tried to figure out whether genetic makeup influenced the effectiveness of a low fat vs. a low carb diet. Each participant underwent genetic and insulin testing before being randomly assigned to reduce fat or carbohydrate intake. The genetic analyses identified variations presumably linked with how the body processes fats or carbohydrates, which the researchers thought would make one or the other diet more effective depending upon the genetic makeup of the participant.

However, what the researchers found was that there was no pattern to the weight loss based upon genetic makeup. Weight loss averaged about 13 pounds over a year regardless of genes, insulin levels, or diet types. Some people lost as much as 60 pounds, while others gained 15 pounds, and these outlier results weren't correlated with any of the experimental variables either. 

What did seem to make a difference was healthy eating. Whatever the genetic makeup of the individual participants, those who consumed the fewest processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats, and who ate the most vegetables lost the most weight.

To me, that indicates that a change in life style is the key to weight loss. Unhealthy fats are largely animal fats. For example, palmitate, the kind of saturated fat found mostly in meat, dairy, and eggs, causes insulin resistance. On the other hand, oleate, the monounsaturated fat found mostly in nuts, olives, and avocados, may actually protect against the detrimental effects of the saturated fat. So, the Stanford research findings suggest that a key part of this lifestyle change is reducing consumption of meat, dairy and eggs while increasing consumption of plant-based foods.

Forget about dieting and begin thinking about a change in your lifestyle. The key to weight loss is a permanent change in what you eat, not a temporary "diet". Just saying. If you want the weight to stay off, then it makes sense that you must permanently change the way you eat. So, spend more time in the produce section of the grocery store and not of the aisles of processed foods, and spend more time preparing your own meals and avoid fast food. Eat more fruit, salads and vegetables (8 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day) and reduce the portion size of your meat serving. You will feel better, look better, and be better in terms of measures of health. It's worth it, believe me.


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