Calories Are Just A Small Piece In Your Weight Loss Goals. Get The Full Story.
Jan 7, 2016 @ 8:53 EDT
By Christina Najjar
One of the most commonly used weight loss techniques is calorie restriction and exercise for a determined and/or limited period of time. However, the majority of people who lose weight through this method end up gaining that weight back. By sticking to a model of calorie in versus calorie out, we give calories more credit than they deserve, while overlooking the impact of hormone balance and inflammation.
Calories are not all created equal
A calorie is a calorie is a calorie? Maybe not. From a theoretical point of view, a calorie (or kilocalorie, by its proper name) is just an energy measure. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, as does protein. Fats contain 9 calories per gram, and alcohol 7 calories per gram (though this last one is not absorbed by the body). According to these measures, it is easy to assume that fats will lead to the most weight gain. However, their functions in the body should be considered.
For example, let us have a showdown between a gram of omega-3 fatty acids (9 calories) and a gram of white sugar (4 calories). The omega-3 is used in the body for oxygen transfer from lungs to blood, health of cell components and cell receptors, recovery after exercise, growth, cell division, skin health, brain development, and its anti-inflammatory properties. Only once all of these roles have been filled will the body store it as fat in the tissues. On the other hand, instead of being stored as fat, white sugar can only maintain the minimum blood sugar level and fill glycogen stores (sugar chains in the muscle), which is usually easily achieved without having to consume white sugar. So while your calorie intake is higher with the fat, the sugar is more likely to lead to weight gain.
The effect of hormones
Hormones work together in the body in a complex manner to carry out a ton of functions. There are many hormones which need to be in balance in order to achieve a healthy weight. A few hormones particularly stand out, however. For instance, fat cells produce a hormone called “leptin” that informs the brain of satiety by telling it that there is enough fat in the body. In an obese person, so much leptin is being produced that eventually the brain becomes desensitized and no longer responds to leptin’s signals. As a result, an obese individual may continue eating beyond the body’s needs.
You have probably already heard of insulin, the hormone which tells cells to take sugar out of the blood by storing it as fat. When someone consumes a lot of sugar for long periods of time, their body stops responding to insulin as efficiently, and the body ends up having to secrete more insulin to keep up with the high sugar supply. Insulin increases inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is a form of stress in the body. When there is inflammation, as with any other kind of stress, cortisol is secreted. It is a hormone which has also been associated with weight gain, especially around the abdomen, as well as with increased food intake and leptin resistance. Additionally, cortisol leads to a breakdown in muscle tissue, impacting metabolism and glycogen storage capacity.
Food sensitivities are often an overlooked factor in weight gain. Because food sensitivity can have such a wide variety of symptoms and can take days to manifest itself, it can easily go undetected. However, food sensitivity is a type of inflammation and can throw off hormonal balance in the body.
The good news
Thankfully, inflammation and hormonal imbalance do not have to be permanent. Reducing consumption of sugar alone can make a world of difference in terms of inflammation. As previously mentioned, consuming omega 3 can reduce inflammation, in addition to increasing the sensitivity of cell receptors to make hormones like insulin and leptin more effective. By working with a naturopath or a nutritionist, you could take the necessary steps to bring back balance in your body to make a lasting change in weight.
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About the Author
Christina Najjar, RHN, NNCP, BA, is a recent graduate from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She now works out of the Hampton Wellness Centre. After taking a personal journey through the world of food allergies, she started a food blog in 2013 to post recipes, articles, and tips and tricks for others who were struggling with dietary restrictions. She enjoys the challenge of modifying any meal to accommodate any dietary need. Christina’s mission is to educate and empower others to make healthy and natural choices. She revels in all fitness activities but especially loves doing yoga and playing dodgeball.
For recipes, check out her website thatglutenfreegirl.com!