I work out and eat well but can’t lose weight! What can I do? Well, some information in this piece will help.
- Eliminate added sugar from your diet: The first thing you need to do is to stay away from too much sugar and processed foods. Also, you need to remove fruit juice or soft drinks from your fridge. If you need a sugar fix, eat fruits. Make it a point to know the amount of sugar you are eating especially hidden sugar in foods.
- Eat healthy balanced diet. A good balance of protein, healthy fats, carbs, fiber – from natural sources and water will benefit your health.
- Exercise regularly: Ensure you are physically active. This will help to burn off excess fat.
- Practice portion control: Don’t overeat. It is best to wait 15-20 minutes before going for another portion. Remember that you cannot out-exercise what you eat.
- Sweet treats are only for special occasions.
However, what if you’re already limiting your calories, and exercising regularly but, did not lose any weight? Perhaps, you thought that you’d hit a wall. So, you are now considering abandoning the “working out, eat healthy and lose weight” bandwagon completely? But before getting off the wagon completely, try to heed the advice above.
It’s not willpower, it’s about reachable goals and be informed!
It’s not laziness – it’s lethargy!
Read further: You’ll appreciate and understand the reasons why you are not losing weight.
Table of Contents:
An effective weight loss program consists of 2 key components – clean well-balanced nutrition plan and an effective exercise regimen.
Most people are unaware of that excess sugar can dampen weight loss goals and may send us 2 steps backward. More so, if there is hidden sugar in the food that is chosen.
Remember, you cannot out-exercise bad diet choices!
Over consumption of too much sugar is one of the main reasons for obesity. Lack of physical activity is the other.
Our North American diet has way too much sugar! There is too much sugar in almost every food item on your supermarket shelves. Scientific studies have informed us about the detriments of excess sugar consumption to our health. The result is obesity. Obesity is a pandemic that is sweeping across the globe. StatsCan data, as reported in Maclean’s article titled Death by Sugar, revealed that Canadians consume 110 grams of sugar daily. That’s equivalent to 26 teaspoons of sugar daily.
On average Canadians consume about 88 lbs of sugar a year – that’s 20 bags of sugar yearly.
The numbers are higher for children and teens. Children and teens consume more – quantities ranging from 103 lbs to 138 lbs! (50 to 70 bags of sugar). Most of the sugar intake are in the form sugar-added beverages (soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks).
Hidden sugar in food
If you look at the nutrition label on a bottle of orange juice at your local supermarket, you will see that it contains almost as much sugar as the same serving of Coke.
Also, most of the processed foods which are branded as healthy are laden or laced with sugar. About 80% of food items on supermarket shelves such as cereals, yogurt, salad dressing, ketchup, cream cheese, bread, etc. contain sugar.
A meal that you think is healthy – hamburger with a side of salad with vinaigrette dressing and a glass of orange juice – hold the fries. To an unsuspecting family, it’s 100% healthy. However, there are hidden sugar in the food. Let’s look at the level of sugar in the following meal:
vinaigrette salad dressing – 2 grams ( 2 tablespoons serving)
ketchup – 1 gram (1 tablespoon serving)
hamburger meat – 0 grams
1 glass of orange juice (8 oz.) – 24 grams
1 the hamburger bun (2 slices) – 2 grams
Now, let’s do the calculation. The total sugar intake in the meal is 29 grams (7 teaspoons of sugar), that’s already 60% of the recommended daily intake of 12 teaspoons in just one meal.
Be aware of the hidden sugar in your diet!
If you see dextrose on the ingredients list of the packaged food, know it’s a hidden sugar. Food labeling provides you sugar content information in many different names, and you’ll be surprised with the nouns used. There are 61 different names of sugar:
|Agave nectar||Barbados sugar||Barley malt|
|Barley malt syrup||Beet sugar||Brown sugar|
|Buttered syrup||Cane juice||Cane juice crystals|
|Cane sugar||Caramel||Carob syrup|
|Castor sugar||Coconut palm sugar||Coconut sugar|
|Confectioner’s sugar||Corn sweetener||Corn syrup|
|Corn syrup solids||Date sugar||Dehydrated cane juice|
|Evaporated cane juice||Evaporated cane juice||Free-flowing brown sugars|
|Fructose||Fruit juice||Fruit juice concentrate|
|Glucose||Glucose solids||Golden sugar|
|Golden syrup||Grape sugar||HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)|
|Honey||Icing sugar||Invert sugar|
|Panocha||Powdered sugar||Raw sugar|
|Refiner’s syrup||Rice syrup||Saccharose|
|Sorghum Syrup||Sucrose||Sugar (granulated)|
|Turbinado sugar||Yellow sugar|
Eat your fruits vs. drinking your fruits
Fruits are healthy choices for natural sugar, water, and fiber. But, does this means that orange juice is natural and healthy. By no means! It’s not the same. Most orange juices have too much sugar. The only way you will know there’s no added sugar in your juice is when your local restaurant provides freshly squeezed orange juice without adding sugar. However, you are still missing one nutrient – fiber!
Fiber in fruits slows down the metabolism of sugar. Our body has to break down the fiber to access the sugar in fresh fruit. Nature has already pre-programmed a fail-safe switch in our body to regulate blood sugar levels so that there will be no blood sugar spikes, and fat storage will not be triggered.
Additionally, it is harder to overeat fruits because the fiber is filling.
High sugar diet is actually high-fat diet.
Years ago your doctor would have told you to lose the fat in your diet if you want to lose weight.
Science has shown that constant over-indulgence in sugar leads to fat accumulation, especially in the waist. Unused sugar converts to fat in the body. Scientists have long known the data from research on sugar science, as early as 1861 by William Banting and later Dr. Adkins in 1972.
The low-fat high-carb mantra was propagated by sugar lobbyists to protect their sugar and corn industries.
Food industry politics
McGovern Report’s low-fat high-carb diet
Why did this happen? It was all about food politics.
In 1965, the sugar industry defended itself by influencing scientists to manipulate scientific evidence about the negative effects of excess sugar intake to health. Coincidentally, heart disease was rampant back then. There were cases when American men would drop dead due to heart attacks. At the heels of several cases of US senators dying in office of heart attacks, the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans was created under the McGovern Report.
During that time some of the scientific community linked foods with saturated fat such as eggs, meat to the rise in LDL cholesterol levels. Then, there was limited data and a lot of complexities that scientists did not understand yet. Scientists who challenged the McGovern Report’s stance were ignored.
In 1976 the first American official dietary guideline recommended reducing dietary fats intake for health.
Side Note: In addition, smoking was a prevalent habit amongst Americans. As a way to protect the tobacco industry, the major cigarette companies launched public relations diversion campaigns to confuse the public and cast doubts on medical research methodologies that linked severe health issues to smoking. It was many years later that tobacco was officially recognized as the cause of heart disease and lung cancer.
As recent as Sep 2016, University of California scientists discovered internal documents that suggest the sugar industry had paid Harvard scientists to shift blame to fat. The sugar industry used the same tactical diversion campaigns used by the tobacco industry back in the 1950s to confuse the public and sponsored some medical researches to invalidate the credibility of other unfavorable research.
Here’s the UCSF researchers’ revelation as published in JAMA
Every chef will tell you that food without fat tastes like cardboard. For palatability reasons, the food industry added sugar to all processed foods. So if we remove fat from food, we have to add sugar so that the food tastes good!
Today, there are a lot of conflicting information about healthy nutrition and how to lose weight. Although more news and publications are admonishing the ills of too much sugar, some people are failing to change their diets. They are addicted to the substance.
Sugar is addictive
Yes, sugar is addictive! When we eat food with high amounts of sugar, it triggers the release of massive amounts of dopamine. Dopamine binds to dopamine receptors in the reward centers of the brain. The effect is pleasurable feeling.
When we frequently feed ourselves high sugar diet, it lowers the number of dopamine receptors in our brain. This is known as down regulate. So, the pleasure feeling will be blunted. The brain will signal us to eat more high sugar diet to gain the same level of pleasurable feeling.
So adults’ palates, who around 30 years ago were kids growing up in the low-fat high-carb era, are now hooked on foods with added sugar – They are addicted to sugar.
More sugar – more metabolic syndrome
Too much sugar in the form of refined sugar and refined carbs are to be blamed for the rise of metabolic syndrome.
What is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that raise the chance of getting heart disease, diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure.
The 5 metabolic risk factors of excess sugar intake are:
- A large waistline – Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
- High triglyceride level – Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
- Low HDL cholesterol level or good cholesterol – HDL helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
- High blood pressure or hypertension – If blood pressure rises and stays high over long periods of time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup – causing heart attack and stroke.
- High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.
Currently, scientists are conducting further research to study possible links of too much sugar consumption to cancer, Alzheimer’s, aging.
Why is too much sugar damaging to our health?
Here’s why too much sugar is unhealthy.
Table sugar or sucrose that you put in your morning coffee is made up 2 simple sugars: glucose and fructose.
Glucose is a simple sugar which useful to our body. Every cell in our body including, our brain needs glucose to survive. Our body metabolizes glucose for energy. Our body converts excess sugar to non-toxic form called glycogen. Glycogen is then stored in the liver and muscles. When all the glycogen storage sites are filled up, remaining excess glucose are stored away as fat in the fat tissues (adipose tissues).
Fructose is another simple sugar that is present in our foods. It is also found naturally in fruits. Unlike glucose, fructose can be metabolized only by the liver. Fructose does not convert to glycogen. Any excess fructose is converted directly to fat storage – so, more fat is made from fructose. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, fructose metabolism produces uric acid (which causes gout and hypertension), VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein – a form of cholesterol associated with plaque buildup), triglyceride – storage form of free fatty acids.
Hunger, satiety impulses – insulin, leptin, ghrelin
There are hormones in our body that regulate energy balance. It will give feedback to the brain to signal hunger or satiety.
Insulin hormone has 2 types of energy balance controls:
- It signals the body to absorb glucose into muscles, liver and convert into energy or store excess glucose.
- It signals the brain (hypothalamus) to curb appetite.
When blood glucose concentration rises, it triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin then causes muscles, liver, and fat tissues to take up glucose from the bloodstream and converts any unused glucose into glycogen for storage. When glycogen stores are completely filled up, the liver converts the remaining excess glucose into fat for storage.
Insulin is one part of the mechanism that regulates our body’s energy balance. The presence of insulin tells our brain to curb appetite when we are well-fed.
Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain to curb your appetite while ghrelin is a hormone that drives us to eat. When we are full, our body releases leptin. When we need food, ghrelin hormone will relay a HUNGRY message to our brain, so we will eat.
Why does high carb diets or processed foods make one crave for more carbs?
Fructose and insulin signaling
Fructose does not trigger insulin feedback. So, it does not signal the brain to stop consume food. So we will continue to eat even though we have enough body fat in our body.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells are no longer sensitive to effects of insulin. So, cells in our body are unable to absorb or uptake glucose, lipids (fats), amino acids (protein). Since high blood glucose concentration in the bloodstream is toxic, through the biofeedback loop, our body will signal our pancreas to secrete insulin.
The chronic elevated blood glucose exhausts the pancreas’ insulin production capacity. When the pancreas is unable to supply insulin effectively, the result is type Ⅱ diabetes – one of the metabolic syndrome diseases.
Low energy and insulin resistant
As insulin promotes fat storage, the body is not releasing energy, so you will always experience low energy when you are expriencing insulin resistant. You’ll always feel tired and lethargic!
What causes insulin resistance?
The most prevalent root cause of insulin resistance is a cluster of lifestyle factors – lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet i.e. high sugar content, processed food in North American diet, and portion control.
At the cellular level, according to Dr. Stephan Guyenet, insulin resistance is a protective mechanism. When we chronically overfeed ourselves with food – carbs, fats, protein; the cell will try to protect itself from having excess energy. So, the cell desensitizes its insulin receptors to inhibit glucose uptake in muscles, and glucose, fat, protein uptake in the liver.
Leptin resistance is a condition in which the brain’s hypothalamus is no longer sensitive to leptin signaling. So when the leptin “I am full” signal doesn’t reach the brain, you’ll feel hungry although you know you’re overeating. Inhibited leptin signals the primal body responses – to eat, lower metabolism, conserve energy, and store fat.
What causes leptin resistance?
The definite cause of leptin resistance is still unknown. However, according to Dr. Richard Johnson, University of Colorado, fructose impedes leptin signaling – leptin resistance (video interview: discussion about leptin resistance and low energy – from 46:55 to 51:18).
What about fruits containing fructose? Are they good for health?
Fructose found in fruits are healthier choice compared to fructose found in high fructose corn syrup.
Dr. Robert Lustig stated that the fibre in fruits slows down the release of fructose into the bloodstream. You most likely will not overeat fruits because the fibre will fill you up. In addition, fruits have many beneficial nutrients that offset the negative effects of fructose.
People who are obese and want to lose weight should be careful with eating fruits with high fructose content. Strawberries, blueberries, are some of the fruits with low fructose content. Avoid drinking fruit juices and eating dried fruits too.
Eat fructose with fiber.
Why food industry use fructose and high fructose corn syrup?
The simple answer is: It’s sweet and cheap!
Fructose is sweet. Food companies add fructose in processed foods to raise food palatability. Fructose is one of the sweetest sugars. It is 1.6 to 1.7 times sweeter than table sugar or sucrose.
Fructose in processed foods and soft drinks are derived from high fructose corn syrup HFCS. Like the table sugar or sucrose, HFCS has 2 simple sugars: glucose and fructose. HFCS is 1 to 1.2 times the sweetness factor of sugar (sucrose).
Sucrose has a chemical bond that connects both the glucose and fructose molecules. However, enzymes in our body break that chemical bond. It’s worthy of note that the glucose and fructose not connected in HFCS. So, the simple sugars in HFCS are readily absorbed into our bloodstream without any further enzymatic processing – higher tendencies for fat storage.
HFCS is the preferred ingredient in food due to its low cost (because corn is a subsidized and tariff protected commodity in the US ∼ US is Canada’s biggest trading partner).
The 2 most common forms of HFCS used commercially in food and beverage industries are HFCS42 (42% fructose content) and HFCS55 (55% fructose content).
HFCS42 is used mainly in cereals, baked goods, some beverages while HFCS55 is found in soft drinks.
Other benefits of HFCS to food processors are: it prolongs shelf life, feeds yeasts which aids in the dough rising in baked goods, browns easy with heat – great browning agent, stabilizes and thickens processed foods.
Too much sugar in our diet is contributing to our weight gain. The excess sugars are converted to fat in our body. Most of the fat gained in the belly region is visceral fat. Since sugar is addictive, it is difficult to abstain from sugar. Also, most of us are unaware that, there are added sugar in most processed foods such as canned soup, TV dinners, salad dressing, bread, condiments, flavored yogurt, chocolate milk, iodized salt (sugar stabilizes iodide compound in salt), etc. Besides, fruit juices, sports drinks, and the like have as much sugar content as soft drinks. Most of us are unaware that we usually exceed our sugar recommended daily intake. The often confusing nutritional label also makes it difficult for most of us to track our sugar intake.
Low-carb high-fat diet
Weight loss experts are now prescribing high-fat low-carb diet and regular exercise in order to lose weight.
Some may say eat fat to lose weight, but don’t fat and cholesterol block arteries cause heart attacks?
It is not surprising that low carb high fat diet has seen many successful results in helping people lose weight – see Miranda Burrell’s weight loss story
Fat cannot be easily converted back to sugar. When sugar converts to fat, it is not reversible.
Carbs/Glucose is a more preferred source of energy. Our body can break down carbs/glucose easier and faster compared to breaking down fat. In the presence of carbs, the body will not metabolize stored fat.
Only when carbs supplies run out, our body will tap into fat storage for energy via ketosis.
Moreover, high-fat diet is more satisfying and feel fuller faster.
Cholesterol in high-fat diet
The truth is cholesterol is important to health. Cholesterol is essential in repairing damaged cells. Our body needs cholesterol to produce hormones, and it helps our body to synthesize vitamin D. On the other hand, low cholesterol affects proper functions of the brain. It is associated with depression, aggressive behavior, and suicidal tendencies. Bile salts are also made from cholesterol. Bile is critical to digestive process and absorption of dietary fats.
High-density lipoprotein HDL and low-density lipoprotein LDL are transporters of cholesterol.
The bad press about LDL causing plaque buildup in arteries is symptomatic. According to Dr. Axe, the real cause is the free radicals that cause inflammation in our bodies. Our body’s protective mechanism to attack is inflammation. As the tissue reddens and swells, it supplies more fluids and blood to the inflamed area. This is when tissue begins to repair itself.
LDL are the soldiers of tissue or cell repairs. Their involvement in the cell repairs process is crucial. When free radicals attack the cells in the blood vessel, the blood vessel becomes inflamed. The blood vessel’s wall will thicken while the body’s natural inflammatory response will constrict blood flow. LDL also rushes and binds to the inflamed area to facilitate cell repairs and block off further attacks. All these – the swelling of blood vessels and binding of LDL – is what is known to us as plaque. Further free radical attacks can potentially cause clotting in the blood vessels.
This means we need to reduce the levels of free radicals and oxidative stress elements in our body. What are the sources of the cause? Sources of free radicals are processed foods, refined sugar, pasteurized dairy, oxidized cholesterol in foods, alcohol, smoking, and stress.
The “good cholesterol” high-density lipoprotein HDL such as omega-3 transports the cholesterol to and from the liver.
The sources of fats should come natural. Fats as such animal fats, nuts, eggs, milk fats i.e. butter, cheese, fish, seafood are all natural. You should avoid fats from processed foods i.e. margarine, processed canola hydrogenated oil, etc.
Therefore, the low-carb, high-fat, high protein diet is preferred for fat burning and help to lose weight.
Exercise – the important element in any plans to lose weight
Exercise is important in any plans to lose weight. Exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity and leptin sensitivity (video presentation: from 24:58 to 26:03) plus increase muscle mass. When your body have more muscle mass, the muscles needs more energy for its sustenance. Exercise also helps in reducing chances of sustaining injuries as it increases bone density, improves joint stability strength and better flexibility.
Stress relief is another benefit of exercise. Since stress is linked to weight gain and emotional eating, lifting weights, participating in boot camp and kickboxing classes will definitely help you release bunched up stress in your body.
So, if you are wondering why you are not losing weight although you have been exercising, we hope you are now enlightened with the information presented in this blog. Take it with you and craft a new healthy diet and exercise plan that is sensible and sustainable. Minimize sugar intake, replace the sugar with fats and exercise regularly.
Cut out the sugar, control your portions, and exercise regularly. Above all, take note of hidden sugar in processed foods.
Personal Trainer Toronto provides in-home personal training to clients in Toronto and GTA neighborhoods. Contact us now to find a personal trainer near you.
- Skerret, Patrick J., Is fructose bad for you? Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School APRIL 26, 2011, available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-fructose-bad-for-you-201104262425
- The McGovern Report, FatHead youtube video channel, Nov. 2007, available at: https://youtu.be/xbFQc2kxm9c?list=PL1F21EC227A640CC5
- Norris Jeffrey, Sugar Is a Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert, UCSF News Center, University of California San Francisco, June 2009, available at: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2009/06/8187/obesity-and-metabolic-syndrome-driven-fructose-sugar-diet
- Lustig, Robert, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, University of California Television (UCTV) YouTube channel, July 2009 available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM&t=96s
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- Axe, Joshua, Low Cholesterol Levels Are Worse Than High? Dr Axe.com, available at: https://www.google.ca/amp/s/draxe.com/low-cholesterol-levels-are-worse-than-high/
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