Updated: Aug 8
You are bombarded by messages about body shape and size which can create feelings of inadequacy. What to do? One option is to ignore these completely and be yourself so long as your health is not being compromised. However, if 2x your waist size is a number that exceeds your height then prioritizing your health might be a good move.
If you listen to the so-called “experts” parroting the standard advice, they will likely be telling you to eat less, get more exercise and avoid dietary fat. They might even have gone as far as suggesting a plant-based diet. While they will all firmly believe they are giving you great advice, unfortunately it is well meaning but can be very misguided.
Modern science has uncovered lots of new information about what is healthy and unfortunately much of this does little to sell more food, drugs or supplements and because of this is ignored or lost amongst the thousands of articles, podcasts and medical reports that are newly published every day. Because of what is known as “confirmation bias”, published articles are often only printed when they agree with the majority of readers views and therefore the conventional, out of date even discredited information is reprinted over and over despite the fact that we can all clearly see the advice is not working.
Here are some things that you need to know:
1. Exercise is good for you and it can help build strength and flexibility which is very valuable, but it is unlikely to help much to lose fat. Muscle weighs more than fat so it may even put weight on. The tape measure can show you if it is working for you.
2. If you decide to just eat less, your body will adjust for a lower level of available energy and it does so by restricting the amount of energy you use internally for body repair and maintenance until it matches the level available. Your metabolism slows down. Thus, vital body management functions are minimized, body temperature may reduce in your extremities, and you will feel lethargic because there is less energy available. Your body will adapt to this lower energy level over time (weeks), and once adapted, any loss of fat will stop. This can happen with a relatively modest fat loss. It also signals to your brain to get more food on board urgently making you feel very very hungry. The result can be stiffness, brittle nails, hair loss, slower healing of wounds, more sickness etc. This is usually unsustainable for very long and is one reason why calorie counting fails so many people..
3. A danger is that the quality of your nutrition will also fall. You don’t just eat to fill your tummy; you need to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition including the vitamins and minerals you need to remain healthy. Although you may be getting food, the nutrition level may not be high enough. Your immune system can become weaker, your body will get even less value from food due to poor digestion and you may find you have more brain fog, headaches, gastro intestinal problems, tiredness and many other issues. If you avoid eating animal foods then this can be even more extreme because the level of nutrition from plants is often lower due to the impact of anti-nutrients. (For example: 100gm spinach has a little more iron than 100gm of steak, but with only a 1.7% absorption rate results in 0.044mg vs 0.5mg for the steak). Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 need fat with the food for absorption and vitamin B12 and Zinc come primarily from animal foods and a low level of these will definitely impact your health. Poor nutrition can have a devastating impact on a baby’s growth and development, particularly brain development and some of this can be irreversible, whether still in the womb or a toddler.
4. To reduce body fat, you need to put your body in a state where it will use up some of your existing body fat stores every day. This is surprisingly simple once you understand what is happening. First you need to adjust your diet so that the level of dietary glucose goes low regularly and when this happens it will switch over to consuming body fat. By eating more protein, up to 1.5 grams for each Kg of body weight, a little more fat, and cutting down (a lot) on carbohydrates from processed foods, sugar and grains you will train your body to use up stored fat reserves. It is primarily the carbohydrates you eat that convert to fat in your body. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25415333)
5. While you are making these changes, a very healthy change is to minimize the use of vegetable oils and replace these with olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil, animal fats, or avocado oils. If you are happy to eat animal sourced food then eggs, liver, chicken, red meat etc. are all excellent sources of nutrients. Most food outlets fry in vegetable oils so best to avoid these if you can. If you thought that meat could increase your risk of cancer then be aware that this is another myth spread by people who want to change your diet for their benefit, not for your health.
6. Over time you will find that you no longer feel hungry between meals. You should adapt to this by only eating when you are hungry and stop once you feel full. At this stage you might like to consider intermittent fasting with my recommendation being to give up breakfast and switch to only 2 meals a day and don’t have any snacks in between the meals. This can result in you eating lunch and dinner then having about 18 hours of evening, night and morning when you only drink water or similar. This is an excellent way to reduce insulin resistance.
7. You don’t need to really change much about your diet except to avoid those sugars, grains and processed food. A good meal might consist of a steak, some vegetables and a small piece of fruit for dessert. Don’t have fruit juices or smoothies as they push up the sugar, but one whole piece of fruit each day should be OK. A glass of orange juice has the almost identical nutritional profile to a glass of soda.
8. Only check the scales occasionally as they are more impacted short term by the level of liquids in your body which is heavily influenced by the level of carbohydrates in your meals. Stay hydrated preferably with water.
If you want a name for eating this way you can call it Low-Carb, Atkins, Keto or Paleo as they all have very similar approaches. A cookbook or two can help with planning your new meals.
This is not medical advice. Seek professional medical advice before changing your diet, particularly if you are on medication.
George Elder, Author, Diploma in Nutrition,
Book: “Take Back Your Health”, Available on Amazon