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Lessons Learned From Decades of Diets

The last few decades can be characterised by their overriding theories and beliefs surrounding weight loss. We had the fat phobic, calorie counting 1970-80’s, the carb controlled Atkins/Dukan/Zone throughout the 1990-00’s and more recently we’ve HIIT the fasting, gluten free, bootcamp #everydamnday era! It seems every week there is a new villain unveiled, we all sit up to pay attention for five minutes, apply it for a week at best to unleash its revolutionary powers, before returning to the old habits and comfort zone we know and love dearly.

Keris Marsden Fitter FoodThe problem with these ‘solutions’ is that they don’t account for the multiple causes of body composition issues. A lot of time is wasted trying to single-handedly blame a food group, lifestyle habit or nutritional deficiency for our escalating crisis. In the webinar we outline the train of thought that has been pursued by the diet industry and governments worldwide, yet many obesity researchers have highlighted these hypotheses do not make sense when you look at some modern day hunter gatherer populations with significantly leaner body compositions and fewer incidents of chronic disease. Some of these populations thrive on high fat diets, as much as 70% of their total calories maybe sourced from saturated fats! Others consume diets rich in carbohydrates and spend most of their days munching on tropical fruit and potatoes, remarkably there are no spinning classes, half marathons or body pump going on either, so how do they do it?

There is No Single Solution

PastedGraphic-1There is no single “diet” or fat loss solution because there is not a single cause. A healthy body composition is governed by our genes, environment and lifestyle. We are born with a specific somatotype that we can manipulate with nutrition and training. To some degree you maybe predisposed to a specific body composition, however, the macronutrient profile of your calories, nutrient timing and nature of exercise can all be adapted to work in your favour.

For example, an endomorph is characterised as someone who is small in stature and tends to gain weight easily, especially around the middle, suggesting blood sugar management is a priority. Their build may hamper their performance when it comes to agility and speed but prove beneficial in strength training or powerlifting.

Thus, high fat, lower carbohydrate diets with a comprehensive strength programme may prove more effective to an endomorph yet this could be a body composition disaster for an endomorph who struggles to keep hold of lean tissue and healthy amounts of body fat.  Establishing a nutrition model that works for you often involves a process of trial and experiment and that’s after we’ve got your gut, hormone and immune function in check so don’t feel bad if you fell off the 5:2 wagon or any diet our there, none of them offer a personalised approach to sustainable health so chances are they were bound to fail at some point!

Optimise Cellular Communication For Fat Loss

LeptinWe talk a lot about insulin across our blogs but there are many other hormones involved in body fat regulation. In a healthy person our metabolism respond to signals from the environment and our own body fat cells.

A conversation is often going on between our fat cells and our brain deciding whether we need to burn or store fat. Our hormones are largely responsible for relaying these messages including “There’s plenty of food available in the environment so keep burning calories” or “You have adequate fat stores don’t store any more” encouraging an effective metabolic rate, appetite control and a healthy body composition. However, many lifestyle habits disrupt these control mechanisms leading to hormone resistance, if this happens our bodies can then be transformed into fat storing machines. A few factors that may contribute to this include:

  • Inflammation
  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating too frequently
  • Eating foods that override satiety signals (i.e. processed foods)
  • Overexercising
  • Lack of sleep
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Stress

Cook Your Own Real Food

Tandoori Chicken SkewersWe can’t stress this enough – the emphasis here is to cook your own real food using real ingredients (we go on about real food all the time). If you are preparing your own meals several things happen. Firstly, YOU decide what goes into them – when you eat out or buy a ready meal there is always a hidden profit agenda. The food industry need to make a lot from a little (and make it last) which means they add thickeners, sweeteners, preservatives and cheap ingredients to create taste and add shelf life in ingredients that essentially lack quality and freshness. These often disrupt hormonal balance, cause digestive issues and lower immune function, they also mean you don’t get to experience an essential life skill; cooking.

Cooking is a mindful activity that can help you wind down and relax after a stressful day at work. The generosity of cooking and the experience of eating together meets our human need for nourishment in a social and interactive sense too. Cooking for friends and family can be hugely rewarding for you and those who get to enjoy the results of your efforts.

Finally, cooking is also part of the cephalic phase of digestion, as you see and smell your food prior to eating it. This causes your mouth to water with increased saliva production, your stomach rumbles as it knows food is coming and all of the the digestive juices get flowing. If you then take time to savour your meal by eating slowly and chatting (rather than shovelling food down in front of the TV) all the satiety hormones can kick in and lower your appetite, preventing you from overeating at mealtimes and ensuring your metabolise food effectively. All you need is a decent healthy cookbook.

Exercise For Prevention

6180_124595387154_520392154_2933659_8316078_nToo many people are guilty of believing the calories in/calories out formula. Whilst this has some relevance, it’s pretty clear as a fat loss solution it has proved ineffectual – too many other factors contribute to how our metabolism functions and you CANNOT out train a bad diet. One thing the fitness industry is certainly to blame for is encouraging everyone to see exercise as a solution, when in fact exercise is just a basic human need that we need to fulfil on a daily basis.

All the traditional tribes studied did not attend bootcamp every morning, many of them just led highly active lifestyles and didn’t have many of the labour saving devices most of us rely upon today. Some engaged in more intense forms of activity as their employment involved a high degree of physical labour (though if you’ve ever come across a builders cleavage I’m sure you’ll agree that even a highly active profession needs to be complimented with healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits!). Exercise, in a sensible dose, improves hormone sensitivity and body composition of course, and this is achieved via frequent, low level exercise throughout the day and a couple of bursts of more intense, weight bearing activity that increases lean muscle mass.

However, if increased in excess a number of studies illustrate the benefits are compromised by the fact people compensate by eating extra calories, get complacent about their diet and make less healthy choices. Too much exercise may also make appetite harder to control and the extra pressure on adrenal function and increased circulation of stress hormones and adrenaline can actually encourage fat storage, not to mention lower immune function. This can lead to chronic inflammation which = weight gain.