Part II: 3 Reasons You Are Overweight & How To Prevent It
With the new year approaching I figured it would be the perfect time to arm you with three tips on preventing weight gain in the new year. If you missed out on Part I, click here.
1. You Consume Too Much Processed Food
As a Rokiskyfitness reader you know that exercise, community and sleep play a huge role in body composition. But our nutrition and what we consume is still the most important factor. Granted, if you sleep and exercise well you will be able to get away with a mediocre diet. However, if you don’t sleep well and exercise regularly then you must follow a healthy diet 90 percent of the time i.e 9 out of 10 meals. The best way to eat healthy is through the consumption of nutrient dense food instead of empty calories like processed food. Pasture raised eggs, beef, chicken, turkey and wild caught fish are excellent choices. And of course fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients with minimal calories, including starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash (Read More). In addition to these foods, legumes like lentils and beans are good choices too. When it comes to grains I recommend sprouted grains, oats, rice and quinoa.
Now it is time to turn your brain on and answer the following question, What do all these foods share in common?
All of the foods above are real, non-processed food. These are the types of food you need to include in your diet because they naturally reduce your hunger and help you consume less calories. Processed foods do the complete opposite and make you consume more calories then you need. Since we are human, we are wired to eat and feel pleasure when we consume food. The food companies took advantage of this innate behavior through the creation of processed foods. These types of foods have never existed in nature before. They are calorie dense and lack the nutrients that the body needs to be healthy. This lacking of nutrients forces the body to continue to eat more without realizing it is full. Overtime this mechanism leads to a surplus calorie intake resulting in poor health and weight gain.
I understand that eating real food instead of processed food can be challenging, especially in our current environment where we have access to food 24/7. However, you must take responsibility for your actions and realize that no one is forcing you to eat processed food, you are the one making the decision. So if you want to be healthier than you must set yourself up for success. The best way to do this is by cleaning out your pantry and getting rid of all the processed food in your house. But Erik, I spent my hard earned money on those snacks, I can’t just throw them away! Incorrect. You can just throw them away because they are doing you more harm than good and will cost you more money in the long run. Once you have cleaned out your house the next step is filling your house up with real nutrient, dense food. To do that, I created you a complete guide to healthy food shopping. Click the button below to download and print it out.
2. You Consume Too Much Vegetable Oil
If I had to pick a culprit for the current obesity epidemic I wouldn’t blame it on the consumption of red meat, grains, or any other real food. Rather, I would blame it on the food industry and their creation of vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated fats that are found in chips, nuts, butters, cookies, candy and fried foods. Put simply, they make up the majority of processed food. Here’s a challenge, go to the food store and try to find a snack that doesn’t contain one of the following oils:
Each one of the oils mentioned above is a vegetable oil, which means it contains polyunsaturated fats, also known as omega 6 fatty acids. These types of fatty acids help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system (1). But it's very rare for someone to be deficient in omega 6s if you are eating a normal, whole food diet. The real problem lies in the over consumption of this fat, which leads to a caloric surplus. In addition, the over consumption of vegetable oil leads to a poor ration of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fatty acids. When you have a poor ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s, the body becomes inflamed due to the inflammation promoting effects of the omega 6s (1). And guess what, the typical American diet consumes 14 to 25 times more omega 6 fatty acids versus omega 3 fatty acids! (1) Granted, this does have a much more profound effect when in a caloric surplus versus a deficit.
In addition to the inflammation promoting effects, polyunsaturated fats are more likely to oxidize versus saturated (pasture raised beef, butter, & eggs) and monounsaturated fats (avocado & olive oil) (2).This oxidation occurs when fats are exposed to extreme levels of heat, light or oxygen i.e cooking. Therefore, every time you consume food fried in vegetable oil or processed food, you could be consuming rancid fats.These rancid fats can enter the body and cause cellular DNA damage resulting in inflammation. Overtime this adds up reducing longevity and health due to high levels of inflammation. This chronic inflamed state can lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome which puts the individual at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes (3).
To help negate the negative effects of vegetable oil it would be wise to increase your omega 3 intake due to their inflammation decreasing effects (4). But make sure you don’t increase it too much because you still have to watch your calorie intake or weight gain could occur. To prevent this calorie surplus from occurring we should decrease our overall consumption of omega 6 fatty acids, especially through vegetable oils. I recommend that we practice portion control (bottom of article for more info) and replace them with grass fed butter, coconut, or avocado oil.
3. You Eat Too Many Calories
When I became a personal trainer at the age of 19 I believed that people gained weight due to the foods they ate and not the quantity of food. Put simply, I didn’t believe in the idea that your energy balance (calorie intake versus calorie expenditure) was the number one predictor of weight gain. I thought that if you just ate real, whole food you wouldn’t gain weight. I wasn't alone in this thinking, there were many diet groups and still are groups that believe the quality of your food outweighs the calories consumed (usually paleo or low carb advocates). They believe that you can still lose weight as long as you eat “certain” healthy foods and avoid unhealthy foods like dairy, grains and processed foods. Then you have another group (usually "if it fits your macros" or body builders) that believe calorie consumption outweighs the quality of food. It doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you eat enough protein and stay in a caloric deficit you will lose weight.
**This is just a gross explanation of the two sides, there are many people in both diet groups who share the same viewpoints.**
I am here to tell you that both groups are right and wrong. Yes, the quality of food does matter, but calorie consumption matters too, especially if you want to lose weight. Let us not get it twisted. Gluten, grains and refined carbohydrates found in processed foods play a huge role in weight gain. They lack essential micronutrients and protein which causes an increase in hunger. This increase in hunger leads to increased calorie consumption. If this happens on a daily basis you will eventually gain weight. Therefore, your calorie consumption will have the biggest impact on weight loss.
For example, if you eat 3500 calories a day and your body only burns 2500 calories a day, where do you think the extra 1000 calories get stored? Regardless if it is the healthiest food in the world, if you consume too many calories you will gain weight. The best way to limit your calorie consumption is by limiting your meal frequency. The idea that an increased meal frequency increases your metabolism is a myth. Rather, we should reduce our intake down to two to four meals a day with three to four hour breaks between each meal.
As stated above and in other blog posts, each meal should include one to two palm servings of protein. This increased in protein intake and decreased meal frequency will help reduce your hunger cues and lead to less calories consumed. By consuming less calories with adequate protein intake ( 4-8 palm servings a day) you will burn fat while maintaining muscle mass. Granted, these calories should be real, nutrient dense foods that your ancestors have eaten because that is what your genes are wired for. Now I am not talking about 10,000 years ago, or even a 1000 years ago. I am referring to your great grandparents, about 200 years ago where the majority of processed foods* and vegetable oils didn’t exist. You know what did? Meat, fish, vegetables, mushrooms, whole grains, chocolate, and fruits. Nevertheless, it is perfectly fine to have a cheat meal three times a week, just make sure you stay in your caloric balance.
Download this PDF from Precision Nutrition to see what a meal should look like. (Download it HERE)