Is Your Diet Making You Fat?!

Okay, maybe the title is a bit extreme, but it is a humbling question that I believe all those suffering from weight gain or the dreaded weight-loss-plateau should ask themselves. Your diet may not be making you fat, but, if you can’t seem to shed the pounds, I can almost guarantee that your diet is keeping you where you are and preventing you from getting to where you want to be. As Einstein wisely spoke (because he’s Einstein): “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, if you find yourself asking the question in the title, I think it’s time you make a change. Below I have listed several problems commonly faced in regards to weight loss. In addition, unlike how we tend to deal with problems in today’s society, I don’t just state the issue, I propose a solution. Read on to learn more!

1. You Skip Breakfast

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We’ve all heard it a million times. But why? Personally, I think every meal is important and, therefore, skipping a meal—especially your first one—can’t be good. When you wake up in the morning, you may feel refreshed from your 8+ hours of sleep (yeah, right) but, internally, your body is burned out. As we sleep, our body is working in overdrive to utilize its energy and nutrients to reenergize our brain, repair and rebuild our tissues, develop our muscles, etc. Consequently, when we wake up, our body is running pretty low on the nutrients it’s going to need to function throughout the day. Skipping breakfast robs us of that opportunity to replenish our fuels. If we don’t refill our gas tank, our car is eventually going stop moving. Don’t let that happen to you.

Furthermore, as many of us know, when we skip breakfast we find ourselves suffering from hanger come mid-morning. Hanger almost always wins: you will be more likely to indulge in high-sugar, processed foods and overeat in this situation because, at that point, your body has gone into survival mode and it will take whatever it can get its hands on.   After your feasting is complete, you probably ended up consuming more calories, carbs, and fats than you would have if you had just eaten a balanced breakfast and a controlled lunch. Not pretty.

The solution:

Eat breakfast! Yes, I get it. Your morning is insanely busy, you already wake up at the crack of dawn and there is no way you are going to get up any earlier to prepare a stupid meal, you aren’t even that hungry, and so on. I understand. The “getting-to-work-rush” is extremely stressful and it is next to impossible to make time to prepare a meal. So you go to a drive-thru? No! You still prepare a meal, just not that morning. What?! How?

My boyfriend gets up at 4:30 every morning to go to work so, as you can imagine, breakfast was not on his agenda. Me, being the health-nut that I am, decided to make a big egg casserole the Sunday before work filled with cheese, veggies, sausage, and spices. I baked it, cut it up into eight squares, and stuck it in the fridge. It took me five minutes to prepare on Sunday, 90 seconds for him to heat up before he left for work in the mornings, tasted absolutely amazing, and it gave him more than enough portions to last through the week (plus a few for me!). Win! Not an egg fan? Try looking up recipes for crockpot oatmeal. No excuses: eat breakfast.

2. You Starve Yourself

How can limiting your calorie intake keep you from losing weight? Calories-in, calories-out… so if I exercise a lot and don’t eat very much, I’ll definitely shed the pounds. No. Not only is living this way extremely hard to maintain, its largely ineffective. You need to fuel your body to function—it’s as simple as that. If you don’t eat, you won’t be able to train hard, work well, or think straight. The less obvious fact is that your body is smart. It is hard-wired for survival. When you don’t eat for long periods of time or your meals consist solely of a bunch of low-calorie leaves, your body is going to make some changes to the playbook.

When you are low on money you hold onto it a little more tightly. You aren’t going to splurge on a new pair of Nike’s, the latest iPhone, or any of those unnecessary yet nice-and-helpful-to-have things. You’ll spend that money on the bare necessities and probably opt for the cheaper option simply because you can afford it.

Your body works the same way; instead of being low on money, it’s low on energy. Its metabolism is going to slow down and the little energy you give your body is going to go to the essentials (surviving). Good luck working when that’s going on! Another survival mechanism employed by our bodies is that it will try to “hold on” to whatever energy it is given. It does this in order to save it for use during the next several hours of being deprived of food. Unfortunately, the body’s favorite way to “hold on” is storing that energy you just took in as fat. Oops. An even bigger oops when you just ate a “cheat meal” of mass-proportions because you were so hungry!

The solution:

Feed your body! Cutting back on calories can help you lose weight, but we are talking cutting back on a couple hundred calories a day, not a couple thousand! So eat, your body is begging you. Also, I cannot express how important it is to eat frequently—every 3-4 hours on average. Have a meal or a snack containing a healthy ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs throughout the day to prevent your body from going into “survival mode” and to keep hanger feasts at bay. This means being prepared: load your bag with a couple packs of nuts, granola bars, cheese sticks, etc. No excuses.

3. You Eat Too Much of That Processed Stuff

In the 20th century, the food industry saw a rise of non-perishable items—it was great… for business. These highly-processed foods were able to last much longer which was great for manufacturers and consumers. Manufacturers could keep them on the shelves longer and customers could keep them in their kitchens longer. Awesome!

But let’s look at this: the preservatives placed in our food are supposed to keep them from “going bad”. That basically means that bacteria isn’t supposed to access them and break them down. So, if the bacteria in that big scary world can’t break it down, how is the bacteria in our digestive tract supposed to? How are the enzymes we have for breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats supposed to? If you feel bloated and “gross” after you eat, this may be why. Not to mention, a lot of these processed foods contain trans fats and/or high fructose corn syrup to help “enhance the flavor”. These additives do a fantastic job at that—once again, good for businesses… but bad for your body.

I could type up pages and pages of why you shouldn’t include trans fats and high fructose corn syrup in your diet (in fact, I did for a research paper) but, for the sake of time, let me just tell you this: they don’t belong in your body. Unfortunately, feeding your body with things that don’t belong often result is the formation of… you guessed it: fat.

The solution:

Steer clear of processed food! Opt for fresh foods: those that are free from preservatives, trans fat, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). As a college kid, I realize that price can be a factor. I still avoid trans fats and HFCS at all costs, but sometimes the canned option or the 3 for $10 deal on lunch meat (both containing a large amount of preservatives) are far more friendly for my wallet. To counteract this, I began taking probiotics containing digestive enzymes three times a day (before breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and I have seen wonderful results in terms of bloating and “feeling gross” after a meal.

These pills will also help you get the most nutrients out of any meal, especially those containing vegetables, which can be pretty hard to digest. My probiotics only cost $10 a month! Be sure to look for a brand that contains multiple strains of bacteria as well as the enzymes amylase, protease, lipase, and cellulose (these enzymes break down carbs, fats, and proteins). Eat clean… no excuses!

4. Your Diet is Too High in Carbs

This problem is most likely the main culprit behind weight gain and weight loss plateaus. For some reason, most people seem to believe that a diet low in fat (and therefore high in carbs) is the most effective diet for losing weight. In reality, according to hundreds of valid scientific reports (just Google it!) the opposite appears to be the case.

High-fat, low-carb diets have been found to increase weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, and decrease the risk of heart disease. Subjects on low-fat, high-carb diets (even when they contained whole grains!) saw little weight loss—sometimes weight gain—and higher cholesterol levels, as well as an increased risk of heart disease. How? As stated in my blog on How Insulin Sensitivity Affects Weight Loss, eating carbohydrates results in the release of a hormone called insulin, which helps your cells absorb the carbs (i.e. sugars) so that they can use them for energy.

The solution:

Unfortunately, as long as insulin is active in your blood stream, you are unable to burn fats. Eating more carbs causes more insulin to be released, thus increasing the time it is present in your blood and decreasing the time that your body is burning fat stores. Not so good. Fats are your friend. During aerobic respiration (what your body is performing during the day and during aerobic activities such as running and biking) your body wants to burn fats, not carbs. So why not give your body what it wants to use? It won’t make you store fat, it will actually make you burn it, as eating less carbs results in less insulin release and thus more opportunity to get your body looking lean and mean.

Try switching to a high-fat, low-carb diet. Out of all the solutions I have proposed, this is the trickiest as you are switching your main fuel source from one substrate (carbs) to another (fats). Because of this, I strongly recommend speaking to a dietitian about this diet plan. It works, but it is hard to get started without some guidance. Schedule a FREE NO-OBLIGATION CONSULTATION with us today to discuss how your diet may be restricting your success.

Hannah Giangaspro, Exercise Science and Nutrition Intern

Hannah Giangaspro, Exercise Science and Nutrition Intern

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  1. Hi Hannah, it’s so nice to see you in your professional capacity! I’m actually writing for help… let the former student teach the teacher! I’m intrigued by your material on a high fat, low carb diet, which is against everything I learned in the 80s and 90s about dieting and weight loss. I’m stuck at an unpleasant weight and I can’t seem to budge. Yes, I eat too many carbs (I’m about to shove some in my face right now). I do exercise fairly regularly (elliptical, walking), but I need advice on how to achieve a healthy weight within the new parameters you recommend. BTW… I’m looking for breakfast casserole recipes as soon as I finish typing this. How about Whole 30? Or can you suggest a website or program for middle-aged, formerly hot women with non-existent metabolisms???
    Thanks!
    Jane Jens

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