Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Obesity - Eat less Move More?

This weekend there was a call for a task force to tackle obesity. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28985874. Doctors, schools and nutritionists were encouraged to get together and make a plan.

However doctors are not generally well-trained in nutrition (I have this on authority from Aseem Malhotra) and the nutritionists have been failing in this task for ages. So what is going to be different this time unless something else is to change?

The advice in the comments section on the BBC article shows that the people concerned enough to comment generally seem to think that “Eating Less and Moving More” is what the fat people should be doing. and that self-control is what the fat people need; with many commentators suggesting that the sell-off of school playing fields leading to less school sport is greatly to blame. 

This mantra is too simple and rather patronizing and tends to be the advice of the lucky slim commentators, who as a consequence of their interest in health are likely to have a 'healthier' diet already. It is what they eat, not their willpower and Sunday morning jogs that is keeping them slim.

Assem Malhotra's advice: “You can’t out-run a bad diet!“ has become a favorite slogan of mine. Yes exercise is very good, but diet is a much bigger factor in weight management.

Over the past 7.5 months of LCHF diet my weight has consistently been about 11 stone 6 lbs. My average training has been low (due to injuries) about 4 hours per week.  We just had a 2-week holiday in France during which I reverted to a carb-based diet, I did not noticeably eat more than normal although I was not counting calories – I never do.  I trained for about 8 hours per week and my weight rose to over 12 stone.

This is not exactly clinical research but something tells me that my weight is controlled more by my choice of diet than by my levels of exercise.

Losing weight is not as simple as ‘eat less move more’. Yes, we have to aim to eat less, but how? The carbohydrate-loaded diet recommended to us by the NHS leaves us feeling hungry too often and this leads us to eat too much and too often.

We need the NHS to recognize the role of carbohydrates in fluctuating blood sugar levels and leading us to feel hungry more quickly and hence to eat more food. The obesity epidemic is directly related to the growth in the consumption of carbohydrates.

Imagine what would happen if we led half a class of children to a table covered in sugary drinks, sausage rolls, sandwiches and and donuts (typical kids party food) and the other half to a table covered in water, chicken salad, strawberries and cream (a typical adult summer lunch in Hassocks). We then invite the children to eat as much as they like. Lots more food (and lots more calories) would be eaten by the first half, even though many children and adults would admit that the second table tasted just as good or better.

A fat-based diet stabilizes blood sugars and suppresses hunger; so we eat less and less often. As humans this is how we have evolved. Carbohydrates are relatively new and we have not evolved to tolerate them very well yet.

Eat real, unprocessed food – and this includes fat.

To tackle the obesity epidemic we need to change the way we eat.  And to do that we have to challenge the myth that fat is bad. 


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