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Stop Counting Calories

Updated: Apr 1

Weight loss is so much more than calories in and calories out.

It is okay to stop counting calories. Most would agree that over-eating is a cause of weight gain; when you consume more than you are using for energy your body stores that energy and you pack on pounds. BUT, what about when you are not over-eating, exercising regularly, and you continue to gain weight despite your best efforts?

The answer to weight loss is more complex than telling someone to eat less and move more. If you have struggled with weight gain, I can bet you have experienced this frustration after being told this by someone like your doctor or trainer. Weight loss has more to do with our metabolic health than calories. Specifically for this post, I am going to talk about insulin resistance. Two thirds of Americans have it and don’t even know it. This concept is misunderstood by many, but what is clearly understood is that many people are growing more tired, hungry, depressed and continue to gain weight and body fat.

To understand how insulin resistance happens lets talk about how insulin works. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to the food we eat; this happens so that our cells can use glucose to create energy in the form of ATP. When we have excessive sugar in the blood repeatedly, our pancreas has to produce more and more insulin to respond and the cells get jaded to that signal. Essentially our cells need more insulin to utilize glucose, and over time insulin resistance develops. This is a problem that develops over years, long before it shows up on standard blood tests and bio markers that are typically used to diagnose type 2 diabetes. By the time these labs reflect insulin resistance, you are already struggling metabolically and dealing with the unwanted symptoms (weight gain, fatigue, hormonal disruption). With insulin resistance, sugar remains in the blood wreaking havoc among your organs and tissues by damaging cells and vessels. The body goes through great lengths to remove sugar out of the blood stream because it is so damaging. The higher your blood sugar, the more insulin is needed to get it out of circulation. Insulin is a powerful FAT storing hormone. Starting to make sense?

So, when you diligently count your calories and that number seems sensible to you, but the nutrient density of that number is not (think highly refined carbohydrates, processed seed oils, sugar) then you will still be contributing to insulin resistance and the advice you’ve been given to just eat less, move more will continue to piss you off.

What you need to understand

Calories are important; but WHAT kind of calorie you eat, WHEN you eat it, and HOW you eat it is equally if not more important than the number of calories assigned to it.

For example, 150 calories of an apple does very different things in the body than 150 calories of apple juice. Both carbohydrates, with the same amount of calories, but with a very different hormonal reaction in the body after it is consumed. We are a complex biologic eco-system that responds to the food we eat on a bio-chemical level involving so much more than just the number of calories assigned to it. The difference is in the way your blood sugar responds and the hormonal cascade that ensues as a result and how that food is interacting with your gut microbiome.

Keep It Even

The goal is to keep your blood sugar variability low; meaning you don’t want huge spikes in your blood sugar or very low dips in blood sugar. When you do this, you set yourself up for a blood sugar roller coaster and with that comes hunger and mood swings. So how can you improve insulin resistance?

Eat protein, fiber and healthy fats first when you eat your first meal AND at each meal thereafter. At each meal start with protein, fiber and fats first. The worst thing you could do for your blood sugar if you are insulin resistant is to start your day with a low-fiber carbohydrate alone (bagel, donut, toast, cereal, sugar). Sounds like a very typical American breakfast, right? This is wrecking the metabolic health of many, leaving only hunger, perpetual cravings and eventually diabetes and a bigger waist line. When you do eat carbohydrates (yes, this carbs are an essential macronutrient) avoid eating them alone without a fat or protein to reduce the spike in your blood sugar and insulin.

Move your body after a meal

Our muscles are the biggest reservoir for glucose, and they are extremely efficient at using glucose for energy, BUT you have to use them! After eating a meal, it has been shown that even ten minutes of movement will lower your glucose spike about 30% post-meal! This is significant when it comes to the amount of insulin your pancreas is pumping out over a lifetime.

Weight loss is not about “sticking to a diet”

It is about changing habits and the way you eat.

What you eat, when you eat, and what you eat it with matters more than the caloric value.

Weight gain happens when our cells become resistant to the hormones designed to keep energy in balance and used efficiently. Insulin, Leptin, Ghrelin, Cortisol, are a few of these hormones.

If this is something you think you may struggle with, schedule a consultation with Halo Health & Wellness to better understand your metabolism. Empower yourself with knowledge, and understand how your biology can be used to help you lose weight and keep it off. Be your own health pioneer. Halo Health can help you improve your metabolic health, lose unhealthy pounds, restore your glucose, hormones and overall health and wellbeing.

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