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  • Caitanya Chandra dasa

Health: How to lose weight in a sustainable way, without suffering

Updated: Mar 6

Many of us nowadays are a few (or many!) kilos above our ideal weight. As the years pass, we tend to progressively gain weight, up to the point that we can barely recognize ourselves in the mirror. We hear that being overweight can cause so many health problems, apart from making us tired, lethargic and so on. Just the fact of having to carry all the extra weight is a big problem in itself. You can imagine if you had to carry one of these big 20 liter water bottles all the time in your back or over your head, walking, running, going up stairs, etc. surely your daily activities would become a struggle. If one is 20 kilos overweight, it means that he is basically living like that. There is also evidence that being overweight is bad for our spiritual advancement. Srila Prabhupada comments how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would severely chastise his overweight disciples, equating weight gain with lack of advancement in spiritual life. At very least, being overweight makes us lethargic, which means an increase in the influence of the mode of ignorance. However, to lose weight is much harder than it may seem. There are many diets around and most of them have something in common: they don't work. Or a person doesn't lose weight at all, or he loses weight at first, but later regains all the weight back, with interest. Actually, to lose weight can be surprisingly easy, as long as you know the secret. If you are interested, continue reading. The essential thing to understand in this connection is the mechanism our bodies use to store fat, and to burn it. It's actually pretty simple. Every time we eat carbohydrates (breads, cakes, rice, sweets, potatoes, and grains in general) the body produces insulin as part of the digestion process. The insulin signal to all cells in the body that it's feast time: that they should absorb and store the glucose that is being put in the blood circulation as quickly as possible. Although glucose is the basic fuel of the body, it is also highly toxic (we can see how too much glucose can be problematic in the case of diabetic persons, for example), therefore it can't stay in the blood for long. In this way, all the cells in the muscles, brain and so on are flooded with glucose, and we have energy for our daily activities. We feel satisfied. However, there is a problem: the fat cells also absorb glucose and they store it in the form of more fat. Happens also that insulin will block the fat cells from releasing the stored energy for a period of six hours or more. Chances are that before this time expires, you are going to have another meal. That's why most diets don't work: they focus on many small meals distributed during the day. This causes the insulin to remain active all the time, which blocks the burning of fat in the body. One feels that he is starving, he suffers like hell, and still he doesn't lose much weight. What is worse is that because the body is forced to work in a situation where it doesn't get enough energy from the food and at the same time can't tap on the fuel stored in the fat cells, it is forced to reduce the metabolism, starting to use less energy. Instead of burning, let's say, 2400 calories per day, the body may start burning 2000, 1600 or even less. As a result, when a person gives-up the diet and starts to eat normally, he becomes propense to gain much more weight than was lost. In other words: the more one insists on the diet, the more fatty he may get in the end. There are cases of persons that, after a succession of failed diets, have their metabolism falling to such low levels that they keep gaining weight even on a diet of 1200 calories per day. It can become really that bad. The situation seems very desperate now. Seems that once one becomes fat, he is simply condemned to gain more and more weight, having a short and miserable life. We can hear someone screaming and crying in the back. However, there is a surprisingly easy solution for this problem. The secret is to, instead of doing many small meals during the day, to have just two, or even one average size meal during the day, leaving a longer interval between then. One can, for example, skip breakfast, have lunch at 1:00 pm and then a small dinner at 6:00 pm, for example. Without snacks between them. Doing that, he will have a long period between the last meal of the day (the dinner at 6:00 pm) and lunch at 1:00 pm the next day. This period without food will allow the insulin to run its course, allowing the fat cells to release the stored energy. The body will then get all the energy it needs from the fat cells, and it will lose weight without having to reduce the metabolism. Not only that, but after passing a period of adaptation in the first weeks, one will not feel very hungry. That's the big secret. Naturally, if one starts to skip breakfast but to compensate eating a lot of junk food in his "lunch" the effect will be limited and he will still suffer a great deal to be able to go on without more junk food until the next meal. For best results, the change in the timing should be accompanied by a change in the diet. One should eat more green leaves, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and roots (like beets, carrots, etc) and eat much less grains. In general, foods that are rich in starch, like most of the grains, potatoes and all industrialized goods result in a huge spike of insulin. They make the body to store fat and make one more hungry, and therefore should be avoided as far as possible if one wants to lose weight. Wheat flour specially should be carefully avoided, because it's the ingredients that have the highest glycemic index of all. White bread, for example, has a GI of 75, higher than even pure sugar, that has a GI of 65. For comparison, cooked chickpeas have a GI of just 28, and peanuts are even lower, at just 14. Foods that are rich in protein (like legumes, lentils, peanuts, or even cheese) result in a moderate release of insulin, whole foods that are rich in fats (like nuts, avocados, ghee and butter, etc.) result in the release of very little insulin. Therefore, a rule of the thumb for weight loss is to eat a lot of vegetables, a moderate amount of fat and protein and very little carbohydrates. This will keep the insulin low and force the body to burn fat. Doing like this, everything works: you will feel hungry during the first two weeks, when the body is transitioning from burning glucose to burning fat, but after that there will be very little hunger, and the weight loss will be quick and maintainable. I have been following this system for a little more than one year, not only I lost 20 kilos, but also my health improved tremendously. It's really that simple. The main point is to maintain the good habits, continue to avoid junk foods and high glycemic foods and continue to eat lots of vegetables during the maintenance phase, after the diet. This is actually a new approach to nutrition, that started to become well known only in the last ten years or so, but this is in line with people where following for most of human history. We tend to think that people from past centuries were uncultured idiots, but actually most of the time the idiots are us. Because in most cultures people discarded the traditional wisdom that was accumulated for thousands of years, they commit so many grievous mistakes. One of the first doctors to point out this mechanism was Jason Fung, that started by using this system to treat his diabetic patients and later notified that it also works very well for people wanting to lose weight or to improve their health in general. If you are interested, you can find some of his seminars on YouTube.


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