June 25, 2014

The times they are a-changing! You may find interesting this week’s TIME magazine, with the very appealing cover showing an image of a curl of butter.

For years, health authorities have cautioned us to reduce the amount of fat we consume. Despite adherence to this advice, Western society’s waistlines have been steadily growing. In response to this, we were told to eat less and exercise more.

We know that weight loss is not about the simplistic idea of “calories in and out” or “eat less and exercise more”. These ideas assume your body is like a bank balance that responds to deposits and withdrawals.

Actually, your body is more like a computer that responds to instructions. These “instructions” affect how each person’s body stores fat and releases fat. Starving your body gives an instruction to slow your metabolism. Too much exercise (high volume) robs your body of lean tissue and brings about a slower metabolism. And so, “eating less and exercising more” often does not result in weight loss or feeling better. It results in guilt and self-blame: “I’m doing everything I’m meant to do but haven’t lost any weight.”

Each person’s body responds differently to the “instructions” from various foods and drinks. Knowing what works best for your body is the key.

The TIME article raises important questions about many long-held dietary beliefs. Many people avoid butter and meats containing saturated fats, in the belief that “fat makes us fat” and “saturated fat leads to heart attack death”. The article questions the voracity of these beliefs.

It’s a pity that we use the same word “fat” to describe a dietary macronutrient and the triglycerides we store as body fat.

So, what’s one to do? If you assume that your body is not a “bank responding to deposits and withdrawals” but a “computer responding to instructions”, then you can make three choices to “instruct” your body to utilise its own body fat stores:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. This instructs your hormones to burn fat not store fat or stimulate hunger. Plus, being well rested allows you to make better decisions and you’ll have more energy for daily tasks – like cooking a healthy meal.
  2. Cook your own food. You’ll eat healthier fresh food. Eat with utensils and not fingers. A little butter is OK for cooking and on non-starchy veggies, but not if you only use it to slather on a food made by others. As a bonus, butter does not stimulate fat storage.
  3. Increase your exercise intensity, not volume. Intensity stimulates muscle tone and metabolism. Go hard twice a week. High volume (endless hours in the gym, on the treadmill, or jogging) depletes your muscles and metabolism. Of course a daily walk or swim is good for your heart, health and head.

Grab this week’s TIME and let us know your thoughts.