Eat more and get thin

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Eating more to lose weight may sound like a contradiction in terms, but Aspria’s Health and Wellbeing Manager Richard Earney explains how regular meals and a balanced diet will help melt excess body fat

I am sure the title to this article has grabbed the attention of many: eat yourself slim – how could this be? It is the opposite of what can be read in many magazines encouraging short-term weight loss programmes and diets.

First, I want to point out that I strongly dislike the word ‘diet’: a lifestyle change is needed to lose weight and keep it off, not a short-term fix.

The first step many people take when they start a traditional diet is to drastically restrict the amount of calories or meals they eat per day. More often than not, this starts with skipping breakfast, often the easiest meal to go without. However, this meal is one of the most important, providing the body with the nutrients and calories it needs to deal with the day’s activities and tasks.

METABOLISM

“THE BODY IS INCREDIBLY SMART”

Restricting calories drastically slows down the metabolism and, if anything, forces our bodies to hold on to unwanted body fat. Yes, you will notice a sharp decline in weight, but this usually in the form of body water, not body fat, the opposite of the intended outcome. This is a primal response; although lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last few centuries, the body’s responses – structurally, chemically and hormonally – have not. The body is incredibly smart, and when it feels it is not getting the nutrients and energy it needs to function correctly, it will start to store body fat. Basically, you have forced it into starvation mode, slowed down a burning furnace – your metabolism – to a smoulder.

On top of this, restrictive diets may limit the nutrients the body needs to function and this leads to bingeing, often late in the evening and usually on sugary carbohydrate (energy) foods. Coupled with a slower metabolism, this leads to yo-yo weight shifts and drastic energy fluctuations. You have basically confused your body.

Metabolism is therefore vital to sustained body fat loss. It is important to eat small, well balanced meals every three to four hours and focus on the following:

• low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates (energy foods) to keep blood sugar levels balanced. This is imperative to maintain good energy levels throughout the day, ultimately encouraging weight loss (www.glycemicindex.com);

• quality sources of protein to build and repair tissue – if this comes from meat, ensure it’s lean and preferably organic;

• fats: the body craves quality fats, but needs the right types of fats to feed the brain, lubricate joints, improve memory, concentration, rejuvenate the skin and maximize energy. Look for unprocessed polyunsaturated (essential) fats and Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA’s);

• water: 75% of your body is made up of water and almost half of the brain. Water is a key ingredient in keeping the metabolic processes of the body ticking over, like oiling a rusty machine. Ideal daily intake is two litres, more if you exercise;

• portion size is also important. Keep it small – think of the size of a clenched fist for protein and carbohydrates. If you eat frequently, you won’t feel hungry.

Overall, it is about making the best choices. You will be surprised at how much energy you have during the day, and as your metabolism starts to tick over, faster and faster, coupled with some exercise, the body fat will simply melt away.