Weight gain is not an inevitability of ageing – although, for many people, as they accumulate years under their belt, they also gain kilos.
A big part of this is down to the modern dietary environment, which encourages gradual weight gain over time. Over the last 10-20 years, we have started to eat more often, adding between-meals snacking to the traditional regime of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The problem is that every time we have that mid-morning slice of cake, our blood sugar levels spike, which causes the hormone insulin to be released.
Insulin is fundamentally a good thing – it helps our bodies to extract energy from the sugar we eat. However, if you don't work this energy off, insulin promotes the body to store the excess as fat. And you're much less likely to work off a slice of cake, which spikes your blood sugar high into the sky, than, say, a sweet potato salad, which takes longer to be broken down.
There's another danger associated with frequent insulin spikes: you become 'insulin resistant', which means that your pancreas needs to produce even more to get rid of the excess sugar in your blood. Long term, this rise in the body's insulin production can lead to a condition known as metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body (visceral) fat around the waist, inflammation and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome happen very gradually over time. Normally, people start to notice visual symptoms – fat around the waist – in their 40s.
Some genes can predispose you to obesity, type 2 diabetes or heart disease. But the relatively new science of epigenetics tells us that despite the genes that you were dealt with at birth, at least 70-80pc of these genes are triggered by lifestyle/environmental factors. You can influence them through your sleep, the food you eat, the amount you exercise and the environmental toxins you are exposed to.
In short: you can fix it if you want to.
Why burning stored body fat is the answer
Resetting your body to burn fat instead of being dependent on sugars and carbohydrates can potentially reverse all the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. It can lead to weight loss, the stabilisation of insulin and blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, give you more energy throughout the day, and it can bring you back in control of hunger by resetting your hunger hormones.
Here's how to do it...
How do you tell your body to burn fat?
Our bodies are naturally fat burning machines, but for a number of reasons (chief among them probably the of clever marketing and processed food manufacturing techniques), we have become dependent on sugar and carbs in food to supply us with energy.
We have only been eating like this for the last 50 years or so – and since then, the rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have grown at an alarming rate.
Successful weight loss requires something that creates the right environment for your body to use its stored energy – body fat. This is a completely natural process, called ketosis, when your body starts converting stored fat into ketones to use as fuel for your cells. If you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates or eat regularly throughout the day, you will never enter into ketosis. Instead, your body will simply use all the glucose from the carbohydrates as a fuel and you not end up using stored body fat at all. (Ketosis is not to be confused with ketoacidosis, a dangerous state in which the body not only becomes ketogenic, but also causes the blood to become too acidic).
You can "reset" your body to use fat for fuel by incorporating certain lifestyle habits:
1. Get quality sleep
Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, depression, pain and inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and many other health issues. Getting at least seven hours of sleep is vital to optimal health. Avoid exposure to artificial light from smart phones, television and other electronics too close to bedtime.
2. Focus on eating real, whole foods
Eat plenty of the following:
• Non-starchy vegetables, like spinach, kale, bell peppers, tomatoes, courgettes.
• Some lower-sugar fruits (if you can tolerate them), like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries.
• Grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs and wild-caught fish.
3. Eat plenty of healthy fats
We're talking avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, and some grass-fed butter. These will help your body reduce its level of 'bad' cholesterol.
Yes, you have to eat fat to burn fat.
4. Avoid processed sugars and refined carbohydrates
Limit your intake of white breads, cereals, crisps, biscuits, and cakes.
Be careful with your alcohol intake.
5. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting retrains your body to burn fat. It's simple too: all you have to do is limit your eating to an eight hour window in every 24-hour day. This gives the body time to digest the nutrients you eat, and then use them, rather than continually supplying it with an excess of food. In those 16 hours of fast, your body will probably exhaust its short-term supply of carbs and turn to burning fat for energy instead.
This is the fundamental principle behind The 2 Meal Day Intermittent Fasting Fat Loss Plan and why so many people have had success with IF, reporting weight loss, muscle gain, stabilisation of energy levels and controlled hunger hormones.
Intermittent Fasting has also been shown to make you more insulin sensitive, which is the opposite of insulin resistance.
6. Move more!
You can't exercise your way out of a bad diet, but exercise does make your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin, so you don't need as much to deal with sugar spikes. If all you are able to do is walk, that's fine. Just try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily.
So, what are you waiting for? If you are looking to lose weight, have more energy, feel less hungry or you want to optimise your health, while reducing the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome – adopting these lifestyle habits could make all the difference and they could give you the tools to understand your body better.