You’ve probably heard the long standing formula for weight loss – calories in, calories out. When you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose weight. Theoretically.
But that’s not all you need to know. It’s a little more involved than that.
Harvard Health Blog, posted an article last week: “There’s no sugar coating it: All calories are not created equal” that addresses the topic.
Author Celia Smoak Spell begins the article:
Burning more calories each day than you consume may have been the diet advice from the past, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, the focus should be on eating whole foods and avoiding processed carbohydrates — like crackers, cookies, or white bread.
She explains a 1960s nutritional study that started the calorie-focused, low-fat, high-carb trend.
As a result of that [flawed] study, she explains, the food industry began removing fats from processed foods. They still needed the food to taste good so when they removed the fat, they added sugar.
Rather than counting calories alone, the article recommends choosing food with a low glycemic index, which rates food 1 – 100 based on the spike of insulin and blood sugar levels after eating a particular food. Healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and olive oil, are good choices, even though they’re high in calories.
The article concludes:
“Counting calories alone doesn’t work because ultimately it matters where those calories come from; this matters more than the number of calories ingested….Dr. Ludwig, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says, ‘It was this calorie-focus that got us into trouble with the low-fat diet in the first place.'”
My experience with low glycemic
This article caught my attention because the low glycemic approach helped me take control of my health and weight about 4 years ago.
I had struggled with my weight for years, pretty much all of my adult life. Diets and programs didn’t seem to help much, but sometimes I would lose weight, then slowly gain it all back. My goal was to reach and maintain a healthy weight, not to be skinny. Even though I worked out and ran regularly, I was pre-diabetic and so frustrated that I couldn’t keep the weight off. I started thinking there was something wrong with me.
As I approached 50, I was ready to give up and accept what I heard over and over: It’s just part of getting older.
Then I heard about low glycemic and I was amazed that it was so simple to integrate into my lifestyle. I was able to use the low glycemic approach to lose weight and keep it off.
In the end, it’s really about choosing nutritious food and when you think about making good food choices for a healthy body, it makes sense to look at the nutritional value of the food, not just the calories.
For example, compare a 100 calorie chocolate bar with a medium apple, which is also about 100 calories. If you only look at calories in, calories out, they’re the same.
But when you look at the nutritional value of a chocolate bar and an apple, it’s pretty obvious which will be better for your body. No, not the chocolate bar! The apple : )
Apples are a good source of fiber, vitamins, etc.
The choices aren’t always that obvious.
While you’re considering the glycemic index
- Choose foods in their natural form or minimally processed foods when you can
- Read food labels when choosing processed foods
- Be aware that food labels can be confusing
- Anything labeled “Low Fat” may have lots of added sugar. Read How to Read a Food Label for food label basics.
Portion control is still important, so be mindful of portions, eat mindfully and eat to feel satisfied, not full. Eat more veggies, choose whole grain, and limit the sugar.
You can check out Glycemic Index of 100 Foods and there are Glycemic Index apps available for download as well.
Every body is different
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor for overall good health. If you’re ready to commit to taking steps toward losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, sticking to low glycemic foods most of the time may work for you. It worked for me.
I’d love to hear from you. What are some strategies you use to maintain a healthy weight? What are your thoughts about choosing low glycemic foods?