You’ve been trying to lose weight the wrong way, study finds

Portion control has long been one of the weight-loss mantras. But new research suggests it may not be how much you eat, but rather what you eat that is the primary driver of obesity.

It’s estimated that 25 per cent of Australian children and 36 per cent of adults are clinically obese. And the rates climb as we age. An estimated 16 per cent of adults aged 18 to 24 are listed as obese, compared with 41 per cent of those aged 65 to 74.

Eating less and exercising more has long been the conventional wisdom when it comes to losing weight. The logic is sound. Decrease your calorie intake and increase the number of calories burned.

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But research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that thinking is wrong.

“According to a commonly held view, the obesity pandemic is caused by overconsumption of modern, highly palatable, energy-dense processed foods, exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle,” the study says.

“However, obesity rates remain at historic highs, despite a persistent focus on eating less and moving more.”

This method of simply consuming fewer calories than you burn is broadly referred to as the energy balance model (EBM).

Read: ‘Skinny gene’ offers obesity hope

The researchers say a fundamental problem with this model may be responsible for the lack of progress on obesity. The EBM frames weight loss as a simple physical problem without considering the myriad ways your body can store fat.

Instead, the researchers propose a new model they call the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM). The CIM reframes obesity as a metabolic disorder triggered by what you’re eating rather than how much.

This new way of looking at obesity blames weight gain on excessive consumption of foods with a high glycaemic load, in particular processed and rapidly digestible carbohydrates. These are found in many processed foods such as potato chips. Unfortunately, you also find them in white bread, bananas and pasta.

These carbohydrates cause your body to produce hormones that alter your metabolism and increase fat storage, weight gain and obesity.

More simply, these types of foods encourage your body to store calories rather than burn them through exercise. In effect, we’re starving ourselves of calories for energy use while gaining weight at the same time.

Read: Can you be overweight and healthy?

If you’re looking to substitute high-glycaemic foods with low-glycaemic ones, you’ll want to incorporate more wholegrain breads such as rye and sourdough. Certain fruits can be high in sugars, so its recommended to eat apples, strawberries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears and kiwi fruit.

Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin are also low on the glycaemic index (GI) as are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and zucchini.

The CIM predicts we can eat as much as we like of these low-GI foods and still lose weight, but the researchers say that further research is needed to conclusively test the model on a wider scale.

Have you struggled to lose weight through diet and exercise alone? What are your best tips and tricks for weight loss? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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