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Weight-Loss Rules to Rethink

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Old rule: A calorie is a calorie.
New rule: All calories are not created equal.

It is true that if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. But it’s also true that the nutritional quality of those calories plays a big role in how many calories your body burns. So if you’re simply counting calories without looking at the nutritional value of what you’re eating, you’re asking for trouble.

Why? Because our bodies require a consistent balance of healthy macronutrients (complex carbs, high-quality proteins and healthy fats), as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals), plus adequate enzymes, fiber, water, and so on in order to function optimally. When we don’t get these things, our energy levels drop, our hormones and neurotransmitters get imbalanced, and our metabolism stops working efficiently. We simply aren’t as healthy as we should be, and our bodies don’t regulate much of anything (including our weight and body composition) as well as they are designed to.

The health of our metabolism – the machinery that dictates how we burn fat and produce muscle — requires whole, “real” foods and the complex, synergistic blend of nutrients they contain in order to function properly.

A healthy whole-foods diet (one that includes a balance of unprocessed carbs, fats and proteins) will also naturally tend to offer a relatively low glycemic load (GL) and a high phytonutrient index (PI) -  including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, teas, herbs and spices. Say no to diet plans that put concerns with caloric intake above concerns for whole-body health and vitality.

A low-GL meal slows the rate at which carbs turn to sugar in the bloodstream. And this “slow burn” allows your body to digest sugars, says Hyman, “without triggering the metabolic signals that promote hunger and weight gain.” Phytonutrients, meanwhile, act as powerful healing agents and metabolic regulators in the body.

Old rule: To lose weight, go on a diet.
New rule: To lose weight, choose to eat healthy.

Many weight-loss diets call for a dramatic reduction in daily caloric intake, which tends to deprive the body of the very nutrients it needs to effectively release and process unwanted fat. But eating too little or skipping meals has another extreme downside: It puts the body in a starvation-like “fat-conservation” mode.

When you take in fewer calories than are necessary to fuel your resting metabolic rate (the base amount of caloric energy your body requires while at rest), your body simply compensates by reducing your metabolic rate. Goodbye, caloric burn.

“Your body thinks it’s starving to death,” explains Hyman. As a result, it not only cuts back on the energy you need to exercise and move about, it also “sets off chemical processes inside you that force you to eat more.” Net result: weight gain.

You can get a very rough estimate of your resting metabolic rate, says Hyman, by multiplying your weight in pounds by 10 (if you weigh 150 pounds, for example, your resting metabolic rate would be approximately 1,500 calories per day). “If you eat less than that amount, your body will instantly perceive danger and turn on the alarm system that protects you from starvation and slows your metabolism,” says Hyman.

A better approach: Decide to eat healthy for life. Enjoy delicious, high-quality foods in ways that nurture your body and your senses for the long haul.

Next: Eat More Fat to Lose Fat?

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

25 comments

+ add your own
7:12AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

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11:43PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

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9:43AM PST on Nov 30, 2009

This is a great article. I especially like the last tip.

2:58AM PDT on Oct 14, 2009

Obesity comes from the need to fill in some kind of gap.
If you eat low quality fats, your body will ask for more fats because it didn't get the EFAs it needs.
If you are bored or sad or mad or just plain stressed out and turnto the fridge for compensation, you'll get fat.
If you eat to fast and don't chew, you're likely to get fat.
If you eat refined carbs and don't get enough fibers, you might get fat and/or constipated and/or diabetic etc.
If you eat the healthiest diet but are toatlly inactive physically, you might not lose the weight you should.
The secret is to eat a balanced diet according to what feels right for your body (usually extreme diets don't work on the long term, so find what's right for you) but make sure its based only on high quality products, combined with enough excercise and mental/spiritual/emotional work to control stress levels.

10:28PM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

Whoa, David Harmon, chill out...you're going to explode.

5:49PM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

So true hope more people realize it

3:47PM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

Great article, I like the undisputable logic and clarity and down-to-earth approach. And in particular how it empowers people to take control of their own life and health. Keep on good work.
BTW, I can see a point to David's post. It's the first time I read his post and am not inclined to judge him on second-hand reports of his previous activity. He's clearly angry about what many thinking people (also on Care2) are also concerned about: that modern societies are being DUMBED up by those in power (i.e. with money) who set up fairy-flossy trends and 'proven rules' which sound benevolent, hopeful and healthy but actually degrade us mentally and physically. The sad thing is that lots of people, instead of thinking, look upto some authority to give them prescriptions on how to live, what to eat and how to protect ourselves (and especially the children) from normal social interactions with peers and neighbours. That's how I see it, in relation to the article.

3:19PM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

David Harmon you are acting just like those spoiled little brats you're always complaining about. Jumping into a discussion that's not even vaguely about your usual rant and throwing a hissy fit to get attention.
To those who are not familier with David H., He does this all over the Care2 sights. He hates over protective MOMMYS, children he asumes are spoiled little whimps, thin people, probably vegitarians and any one else he thinks he can bully or intimidate. He appearently thinks that 'free speech' means he doesn't have to have any consideration for appropriateness and that he can just jump in and start spewing. David, you need help. Normal adults do not act like you do.Lots of people don't have much time for kids but they don't actively hate them and their mothers.And even if they did, they wouldn't go around puking it all over an international petition site for all the world to see.Usually under anger, there is a lot of fear and grief.. Go do a sweat lodge. Peace be with you.

10:09AM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

The ultimate formula to keeping your weight balanced is to:

1. Know how many calories you are eating.
2. Know what you are going to be doing after you eat. Ask yourself: how many calories will I be burning?

Only eat the amount of calories you need to do whatever you are going to do.

9:57AM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

continued -

we all must do what is right for ourselves, using practical comon sense - avoid junk foods, cruel factory farmed foods, and empty calories.

i think this article gives a good overview of making healthy choices to create a healthy lifestyle.

i also appreciate seeing grass-fed meats mentioned in the article as an occasional source of good nutrition on this primarily vegetarian leaning website.

:)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Yes, Birgit. Ants are better than stevia.

Thanks for sharing.

I'm so glad Daisy survived, and that these two have been reunited!

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