Article By Louisa Koh, AMFPT Certified Fitness Coach
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Dieting Myths Debunked!! (Part I)
Do you feel that losing fat is almost an impossible task for you? Do you give up before you even start, thinking the entire process will be misery and sheer deprivation, requiring nothing short of steely willpower?
You are not alone. And the trick or rather the truth is, you could not be further from the truth. Typical to Singaporeans, most if not all of us have been weaned on a traditional Asian diet of white rice, noodles, and copious amounts of bread in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Just look at the Roti-boy queue on a regular day and you will know what I mean. Bread is everywhere. White rice is everywhere. So are noodles.
Isn't it a wonder so many of us complain about packing on the pounds and cannot seem to shed them off no matter how hard we try? Or are we trying the right way?
Now I will debunk some myths about eating and share with you some tricks which will help you lose fat effortlessly. Well, maybe not so effortlessly, for the first 3 days to a week or so. Especially the first three days.
- It has never been a matter of willpower, sweetie
Some of us are reluctant to embark on a program to lose that excess baggage (fat) because we think it is an exercise in sheer willpower (and futility). Which is why some of us give up before we even start. " You are asking me not to eat bread/rice/noodles/chocolate/ice-cream my whole life? No way I'm gonna do that!" Sounds familiar? For those who incessantly snack on biscuits and chocolates between meals to stave off hunger while working at the office, here's good news.
You unwittingly reach for such snacks because of the foods you chose to eat at lunch, or breakfast earlier. If you started the day with three or four slices of white bread spread with fruit jam or margarine, topped with coffee and sugar, you can be sure you will be craving for snacks by mid-morning. Why does this happen even though you had a "filling" meal?
When your food is primarily made up of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread and noodles, with little protein or fat, not to mention high in sugar, your blood glucose surges like crazy following your meal. This is the reason why you feel drowsy after lunch at work. To deal with this blood glucose surge, your pancreas will pump more insulin to bring your blood glucose levels down. The result? Your blood glucose surges, then dips to even lower than your pre-meal levels. When this happens, you start to feel hungry, and crave sweets, sugar and coffee. This is why you reach for sweet things without even realizing why, conceding that you probably have an incurable sweet tooth and just cannot help feeling hungry. The truth is, you chose the wrong foods to help you stay satiated and prevent the urge to snack!
You may be surprised to learn that a piece of white bread hits your bloodstream
with the same jolt you would get by eating a tablespoon of sugar on its own! This has to do with the glycemic index or (GI) of the carbohydrate. Please refer to point 2 on Glycemic Index.
Insulin is a storage hormone. Its job is to shuttle blood glucose to cells which need energy. Any excess blood glucose will be stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles, and once those stores are filled, they will be.horrors. converted
to fat!! So now you also know where the extra calories of your snacks go! Straight to the fat bins on your hips, thighs, buttocks (for women) and abs.
So what should you do? If you must have white bread, two slices will be more than enough and you will do better with butter or all-natural peanut butter (the normal ones are full of bad trans fatty acids which are bad news for your heart and cholesterol levels!), or melted cheese! Yum!
If you must have your rice for lunch, all you need to do is eat half of what you normally do, and order some chicken from the chicken rice stall (no oily rice please), with the green leafy vegetables (preferably no oyster sauce as well).
Or go to the Western food stall, order a steak or chicken chop (no cutlets which are marinated in flour and deep-fried), with the sauce on the side so you can dip a little, change the french fries to green lettuce.
Why do you do this to help stave off cravings and make you "fuller" longer? The answer: Proteins and fats. Check out point 3.
- Glycemic index (GI)- complex carbohydrates vs. simple carbohydrates
Did you actually think that all complex carbohydrates are okay for a diet, as long as you avoid the simple carbohydrates like sugar? Did you think snacking on carrots mid-day were the healthiest thing to do?
With the glycemic index tool, you will quickly realize this is not true. Glycemic index is a scale from 0 - 100 that tells you how quickly glucose enters the bloodstream after eating the food. This is comparing to pure glucose which is assigned the value 100. From many versions of the GI, you will see that white rice ranks high, together with white bread and baked potatoes. These are complex carbs aren't they? This explains why after a big meal of rice/bread/noodles, you almost always feel sleepy, and then feel hungry not very long afterwards.
Check the GI of carrots. They are also high. Thus, carrots eaten on their own will guarantee a blood sugar surge and slump, causing unstable energy levels, cravings and hunger, through no real fault of your own. (See, it's really not about willpower but actually biochemistry)
The only drawback about using just the GI alone is that you do not know how much carbohydrate you are consuming, whether it's a low-GI or high-GI food. This is why another concept, the glycemic load is used more frequently now. This is a product of both the GI and the amount of that carbohydrate consumed, which is a more accurate reflection of the effect on the blood sugar levels, and therefore insulin levels.
- Proteins and Fats - How they help to make you feel fuller and curb cravings
Proteins and fats actually slow the rate of entry of glucose from your intestines into your bloodstream. That is why it is so important to balance the three - carbohydrates, proteins and fats, or macronutrients, in every meal and snack. When glucose does not hit the bloodstream following your meal like a released dam, your pancreas will not pump excess insulin into your bloodstream like crazy. Remember excess insulin wreaks havoc on your mental alertness and causes the false hunger pangs to strike soon after.
The idea is to stabilize blood glucose levels, and thus keep insulin levels low. Did you know proteins and fats have very little effect on insulin levels (although excess protein will convert to glucose which will cause insulin levels to rise)? Fats have no effect on insulin at all, which make it perfect for those who want to lose fat to use.
Wait.this sounds counter-intuitive, you say. Use fat to lose fat? What about all the low-fat diets that have been touted so much in the media? Here, I debunk another popular dieting myth: You must avoid all fat, to lose fat. In fact, I say, You need fat to burn fat! There are two important reasons why I say this: EFAs (Essential fatty acids) and a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). Research has shown that supplementing your diet with good fats like Omega-3 (fish oils) and Omega-6 (borage/evening primrose oil) will actually speed up fat loss opposed to individuals who do not.
As for cholecystokinin (CCK), this is the intestinal hormone responsible for the feeling of "fullness" or satiety after you have eaten for sometime, usually around 20 minutes. Now you know why people tell you to eat slowly when you want to lose weight. By eating slowly, CCK is released and sends a signal to your brain to stop eating, and you wind up eating less! What is especially effective in triggering the release of CCK? Consuming fat! Yes. A meal higher in fat leaves you feeling fuller and more satiated than a low-fat meal because of this hormone.
Now you know why low-fat foods almost always disappoint because they leave you hungry and make you consume more! Moreover, being low in fat means flavour is made up for by pumping in sugar! Low-fat = High-carbs = Disaster for a person who wants to lose fat!! Remember this equation and you will not go wrong. But remember, eat only good fats. Avoid saturated fats and transfats.
How do you know if you have not consumed enough protein and/or fats relative to the amount of carbohydrates in that meal?
Just by how you feel.
- If you are drowsy, sleepy after the meal, you have eaten too many carbohydrates.
- If you feel hungry in less than three hours you most definitely had an imbalanced meal.
That will be all for now. We have just but skimmed the surface of the effects of excess insulin. We have yet to talk about the real health problems that excess insulin cause (high blood pressure, undesirable levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, heart disease etc.) But I have not reached the bottom of my bag of tricks yet! I will return with Part II and debunk more myths and reveal more tricks (and treats) to you so watch this space! SFO
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