Belly Fat and Weight Loss

Belly Fat and Weight Loss

Several years ago, I read a couple of books by Lyle McDonald about fat loss, which were extremely “sciency”, but I must say quite fascinating.  I recently have been reading articles from Dr. Mike Israetel about various topics and I came across an article that he published: “Thinking Clearly About Obesity, Belly Fat and Weight Loss” By Dr. Mike Israetel, Professor of Exercise Science at Temple University.

The article basically challenges several of the current and common beliefs that exist with regards to obesity, belly fat and weight loss.  It is well written and quite interesting, so I wanted to share his key points on belly fat.

Current Claims:  The underlying cause of obesity is the low fat, very high carbohydrate diet we’ve been eating for the last 40 years, which raises levels of the hormone insulin and programs fat cells to go into calorie storage overdrive.

Dr. Isratel:  “There is a very big problem with this statement. The problem is that Americans have NOT been consuming a low-fat, very high-carbohydrate diet for the last 40 years.  Average levels of fat intake have been about the same over that time for the average American, it’s just that carb intake went up so much more.

Yes, various national governing bodies on nutrition and health have advised Americans to eat less fat and more grains over this time frame. But it seems Americans only heard part of that message and just added the carbs but never reduced the fats!  To say that Americans eat a low fat diet is simply not true by any definition of what “low fat” really means. What Americans have been doing is eating many more calories, and that’s a sure way to gain weight no matter where those calories come from.

Upgrading Your Diet

Harvard nutrition professor Dr. David Ludwig recently published a new book titled “Always Hungry.”  Dr. Isratel and Dr. Ludwig actually disagree on a number of hypotheses, however, one key point that they do agree on is the importance of improving or upgrading the diet of the average person.

In fact, the area in which they appear to be in fullest agreement is utilization of a new foods index, called the Satiety Index, and ditching the old Glycemic Index.  The Satiety Index is an independent and more useful measure of a food’s direct effect on hunger.

As such, whole foods tend to have much higher levels of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber than processed foods, making them healthier choices regardless of your body weight, and as such, they are also usually much more satiating for the same amount of calories, so over-eating is going to be more difficult.  For the average person, this is a better barometer for making healthier food choices in quest for better health.

Here is an example:  How many potato chips can you eat? What about slices of fresh apples? How many people have eaten enough potato chips to gain unwanted weight? What about slices of apples?

Eating foods that are high in nutrient density will have powerful effects on making you full and keeping you full, and thus, give you a much better chance of losing weight and belly fat.

Fundamentally, the basic causes of the modern obesity epidemic are:

  • The increased mechanization of the workforce, leading to less physical activity at work for most people, and thus fewer calories burned per day on average
  • The increased wealth of the average person, especially in relationship to food costs. Today, even some of the poorest Americans can afford enough calories to gain weight, and this was not always the case historically.
  • The improved taste and availability of food. Packaged, processed, ready-made and fast foods bring tons of tasty food to your mouth quick. Historically, if you wanted tasty food, you had to make it (which took time and effort) or wait for someone to make it (which took either time, lots of money, or both). More and more over the past several decades, tasty food has become cheaper and more easily accessible. Eating tasty foods is easier than ever.

Dr. Isratel sums up the obesity epidemic as such: “Less activity to burn calories, more affordable food to buy and the food is more convenient and designed to be tastier than ever. Is it any surprise we have more people searching for “how to lose belly fat” and struggling for a solution to the obesity epidemic?”

In conclusion, successfully countering weight gain and obesity and reducing belly fat is a combination of many nutrition and behavioral principles that keep true to the fundamentals, such as calories, food quality and satiety.  It’s worked for thousands of years and still remains true today.

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