This week for the Aspire & Inspire team we were asked to blog about National Cat day or about stretching and relaxing or a topic of our own choosing.
I was really tempted to blog about stretching and relaxing but in the end I decided to blog about something completely different. I subscribe to the Harvard Medical School health news emails. I've heard something similar to what the article talks about but it's good to hear it from someone in the medical field. Here is a link to the article in case you are interested in reading it www.health.harva
In case you don't have time or don't want to read the article the title of the article says - Stop Counting Calories.
Not all calories are the same
There are three main factors that affect how your body processes calories.
1. Your gut microbiome. "Researchers have found that people who are naturally thin have different types of organisms living inside them than those who are overweight." They say that if you were to take the gut microbia out of someone who is thin and place them into someone that is overweight or obese it would result in weight shifts. They think this occurs because "some types of organisms in the gut are able to break down and use more calories from certain foods than other types of organisms."
2. Your metabolism. Each person has a "set point" that dictates what you weigh. This set point is based on several factors, including your genes, your environment and your behaviors. "Your hypothalamus, a region at the base of your brain that also regulates things like your body temperature, stands guard to keep your body weight from dipping below that set point—which is not really a bonus if you're trying to lose weight. This is why you might find your weight plateauing even if you are diligently dieting and exercising, and also why a majority — 96% — of people who lose a large amount of weight regain it, says Dr. Stanford."
"Researchers studying the show The Biggest Loser, which helps contestants lose large amounts of weight through a stringent plan of diet and exercise, found that after weight loss, contestants' bodies would fight back in an attempt to regain the weight," she says. The resting metabolic rate for contestants, which measures the number of calories the body uses just running its everyday functions, plummeted after their dramatic weight loss. This means it became very challenging to avoid regaining some weight because of "metabolic adaptation," says Dr. Stanford.
3. The type of food you eat. The food you eat might also influence your calorie intake, and not just because of their specific calorie content. A 2019 study published in Cell Metabolism found that eating processed foods seemed to stimulate people to eat more calories compared to those who ate unprocessed foods. The study had 20 people (10 men and 10 women) split into two groups. People in both groups were offered meals with the same number of calories, as well as similar amounts of sugar, sodium, fat, fiber, and micronutrients. However, there was one crucial difference: one group was given unprocessed foods, and the other got ultra-processed options. After two weeks, the groups switched and ate the other type of diet for the following two weeks.
"People who ate the ultra-processed food gained weight," says Dr. Stanford. Participants in each group were given meals with the same number of calories and instructed to eat as much as they wanted, but when participants ate the processed foods, they ate 500 calories more each day on average. The same people's calorie intake was smaller when they ate the unprocessed foods.
What's the lesson? Not all food is created equal. "The brain likes foods that are healthy, that are in their natural form," says Dr. Stanford.
Successful weight management
f counting calories isn't a dependable way to manage your weight, what can you do to shed extra pounds? Dr. Stanford recommends the following:
Focus on diet quality. When planning your meals, do your best to reduce or eliminate processed foods, which can propel your body to consume more. Instead, focus on choosing unprocessed foods, including lean meats, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables in their natural form.
Exercise regularly (as well as vigorously). Do your best to shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Moderate exercise is done at a level where you can talk, but not sing. "A lot of people think moderate exercise is a casual walk to the garden, but it's more like walking up a large hill," she says. Whereas any movement at all is better than nothing, work toward attaining a more vigorous level of exercise when you can.
Sleep soundly. Bad sleep quality can lead to weight gain, as well as a sleep schedule that is out of sync with your body's natural daily pattern, known as circadian rhythm. Your body wants to sleep at night and be awake during the day. "The Nurses' Health Study, which followed nurses for 20 years, found that those who worked the night shift gained more weight over time," says Dr. Stanford. The body gets perturbed when you disrupt its natural rhythm. I've heard the same thing about people who work mornings one week, afternoons the next and nights the week after that. The same is true if you are getting low-quality sleep or not enough. A lack of sleep affects your weight in much the same way as hormonal shifts, making you want to eat more. So, be sure to talk to your doctor about any sleep problems with you have.
Check your medications. Some medications can cause weight gain. Be cognizant if you start a new medication and you notice you're gaining weight. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication that doesn't have the same side effect.
Reduce your stress levels. Stress, like low-quality sleep, can lead to weight gain. Managing stress can help you keep excess weight at bay.
Consult a professional. "A lot of people believe it's a moral failing if they are unable to lose weight," says Dr. Stanford. But it's not. As with other medical conditions, a lot people will need help from a doctor. Successful weight loss may require more than just diet and exercise. "You may never have thought about using medications to lose weight. Only 2% of people who meet the criteria for the use of anti-obesity medications actually get them. This means that 98% of people who could be treated, aren't," she says. Some people may also need surgery to lose weight, she says. Don't be afraid to seek help if you need it.
For me, the takeaway is that there are so many things that dictate what we weigh. Eating a healthy, balanced diet where you avoid processed foods is just one part of how you can shed the extra weight.