Losing Fat without Going Hungry - Really!

Previously we discussed the ways that hormones produced by fat, like leptin and estrogen, foil weight loss by making us hungry. These then make it more likely we store those calories as fat when we succumb to that hunger. Fortunately, one can break this pattern by understanding another hormone that we have direct control over: insulin.Foods that make our blood sugar go up force our body to release insulin to return our blood sugar to a safe level.  Insulin does this by converting glucose to triglycerides, cholesterol and fat, things we are conventionally told rise because we eat fat. Both muscles and fat cells have insulin receptors. In insulin’s presence, calories move from our bloodstream into muscles (which can only store a small amount of energy at a time) and fat (which has a limitless capacity to store energy). This process is designed to quickly remove excess sugar from our bloodstream, but shortly after an insulin surge, our blood sugar drops, leaving us lightheaded and hungry to repeat the cycle. What food raise our insulin levels? In short: sugars and other simple carbohydrates, particularly when a large amount are eaten at once. Under the influence of insulin, these foods are rapidly swept from your bloodstream and stored as fat. Over time, many people become resistant to insulin’s effects, a process that leads to type 2 diabetes, the most common type in today’s society.

Most people find this fits with their experience. Which fills you up more, 500 calories in a 32 ounce soda, or 450 calories in 5 eggs? The 300 calories in 2 cookies or a half pound of chicken breast?

Drastic sacrifices are rarely sustainable, so try changing your diet a little at a time. Give up, or mostly give up, sugars (including beer; maltose spikes insulin much more then table sugar!) for a month. See what happens.

If you want more results, decrease or give up intake of refined carbs like pasta, rice, and white bread.  Look up tables of the glycemic index, or better yet, the glycemic load of different foods.  This is a measure of how quickly they will be released into your bloodstream - foods with higher numbers will cause the most problems.

Try eating smaller amounts more often.  Your body can handle this without having to release as much insulin.

These aren’t faddish changes which promise you’ll lose 10 pounds a week, but they will effect a lasting improvement in both your weight and body fat. If you make these changes, you will find your body is less dependant on glucose spikes for energy and you will feel better, crave these foods less and experience less hunger. You will greatly decrease your risk of developing high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and their many health consequences.

Please, this doesn’t mean open season on pork rinds and packaged foods. I still want you to eat veggies and fruits, avoid packaged foods, and view a restaurant meal as a special treat. Instead of a daily sugar fix at Starbucks, save the money for a special meal at a great locally owned restaurant like Bite, where you can enjoy a few small plates without having to gorge.

Remember - as we discussed in an earlier column, fat is itself an organ that causes hormonal changes which tend to make us gain even more weight. As we lose weight, and more importantly, lose fat, the hormonal effects of those fat cells will decrease, leading to ever greater improvements in your health.


—Dr. Rebecca Gelber is an Incline Village resident and graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is an adjunct professor with the UNR School of Medicine and practices locally at Tahoe Medical Spa. Call 775-298-1750, or go totahoemedicalspa.com for additional articles and information.