Why the fat we eat is the key to sustained weight loss and vibrant health?
Some of us like to think that we can get thin and healthy by eating less and exercising more. But the truth is that even if we were able to muster up the discipline to eat less, it wouldn’t work long term because we’d become hungry and miserable––and then grab whatever food was available…so our weight would yo-yo back up again.
We need a better solution than self-deprivation if we want to be slim forever. We need a different way of understanding how our bodies handle calories. And this new understanding… has enormous implications for all of us fighting a battle with our weight.
What’s missing from the standard advice is an appreciation for how the body handles the energy in food. When we eat, our digestive system breaks down all of the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in our meal into their most minor units: glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids.
These small units are then absorbed through the intestinal wall and circulate throughout the body as blood sugar, blood fat, and blood protein.
The body’s metabolic engine––the set of biochemical processes that keep us alive and functioning––uses these small molecules to power everything we do. The brain runs on glucose, muscles run on fatty acids, and cells run on amino acids throughout the body.
The calories in each of these three groups of nutrients are handled differently by the body. Glucose, for example, is easily broken down by the digestive system to release its energy, so it has an immediate impact on blood sugar.
Fatty acids are packed with more potential energy than glucose, pound for pound, so they pack an even bigger punch––and take longer to burn off––than glucose.
And amino acids are the powerhouse molecules of life itself. Think of our body’s ability to grow or maintain muscle tissue as anabolic metabolism or our ability to ward off infections and fight disease as immune function as catabolic metabolism.
Blood sugar, fat cells, and protein are not stored in these small units but are handled by very different bodies…
By understanding this new science about how food affects us biologically instead of logically, we can see why the old advice about counting calories and reducing portion sizes doesn’t work long for most people.
We’re not just dealing with a few extra pounds that we can sweat off at the gym. We’re struggling against our biology, which has been finely tuned over millennia to hoard energy as efficiently as possible.
The good news is that by eating the right kinds of foods, we can harness our body’s natural biology in ways that help us stay slim and healthy. The following are some of the critical principles of this new science:
– Carbohydrates should make up the majority of our diet because they are essential for health and vitality. Our brain runs on glucose, muscles run on fatty acids, and cells run on amino acids throughout the body.
– We should eat healthy fats, such as Omega-3s, to encourage a healthy metabolism. Fatty acids are packed with more potential energy than glucose, pound for pound, so they pack an even bigger punch––and take longer to burn off––than glucose.
– We should eat protein to maintain muscle mass and support our immune system. Protein is the essential nutrient for anabolic metabolism and catabolic metabolism.
– We should avoid processed foods and eat instead whole, unprocessed foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats and protein.
We can outsmart our biology and lose weight effortlessly without feeling hungry deprived by following these fundamental principles.
Nina Teicholz reports on the front lines of medicine, examining controversies and turning recent news into an understandable science. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Men’s Health, Vogue, and many other publications.
She is a former NPR reporter, and her first book for Penguin/Random House was “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.”
Teicholz holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and degrees from Oxford University and Yale Law School. In addition to her work as a journalist, she has served as director of the Society of Actuaries’ Distinguished Speaker Series here at Yale.
In 2003 she reported for National Public Radio on the Atkins Diet and other low-carbohydrate weight-loss plans.
In her new book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” Nina Teicholz takes on one of the most important debates of our time: What should we eat to be healthy?
Teicholz’s extensive research led her to a surprising conclusion: that traditional wisdom about nutrition –– eat less fat, avoid cholesterol, and load up on carbohydrates –– is wrong. We should instead be eating more eggs, cheese, and meat.