Insulin is not only the fat storage hormone, it also stops us accessing and burning the fat we’ve already got stored. That makes it impossible to lose weight if we’re consuming foods that stimulate insulin, like starchy carbohydrates and sugary drinks.
The key to weight loss is to keep the amount of insulin as low as possible, so that insulin has hardly anything to store and is free to open the gates to the fat we’ve already got in our wobbly bits.
Like hybrid cars, which can run on two different fuels – petrol or electricity – humans also have hybrid ‘engines’. Actually, our energy motors can run on several fuels in addition to glucose.
This often comes as a surprise to many, because we’ve heard that we ‘need glucose for energy’, that our ‘brains can only run on glucose’, that ‘athletes need to carb-load’, and so on.
If glucose is kept low, the fat cells release their stored fat, which the liver converts to a fuel called ketone bodies, or ketones for short.
After making the ketones, the liver releases them into the bloodstream, where they are available for other organs to use.
For example, the brain and heart work very efficiently on ketones: they don’t have to use glucose.
Taking advantage of the human body’s ability to run on various fuels other than glucose is the key to effectively burn our own fat, thereby losing weight.
Essential food groups
Another surprise, perhaps, is that carbohydrates are not an essential food group.
By definition, an essential food group is one that supplies the building blocks our bodies can’t make.
We have to eat protein, because our bodies can’t make all the protein building blocks (called amino acids) we need to repair and build tissues.
And we have to eat fats, because we can’t make all the fatty acid building blocks we need for our cells and nerves.
The only building block supplied by starchy carbohydrates and sugary drinks is glucose.
But, in a process called gluconeogenesis, our liver can easily make from protein and fat, all the glucose our brain and other organs need.
Because the liver makes glucose, there’s no need to get glucose from starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes and drinks like fruit juice and colas.
Leafy vegetables and salads belong to the carbohydrate family, too, and also supply starch – but only in very small amounts. For example, one cup of rice has approximately the same amount of starch as twelve cups of broccoli.
Leafy carbohydrates are beneficial carbohydrates because they’re low in starch, supply fibre, antioxidants, and many of the vitamins and minerals we use to run our body machinery.
As I’ve explained in the article ‘Eating starch raises blood sugar and fat‘, and how glucose makes us fat in the article ‘Why we get fat‘, severely limiting the source of glucose has many health advantages – including losing weight.
If we cut out starches and sugars, and eat only protein, fats, and leafy vegetables and salads our bodies will have all the building blocks they need to function at optimum health, without huge doses of glucose and the consequent huge doses of the fat-making hormone, insulin.
In other words, the key to losing weight is to keep insulin production low by avoiding starchy foods and sugary drinks.
Here are two short video explanations of glucose, starch, and gaining weight…
You may have heard to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more.
If you’re struggling with your weight, the last thing you feel like doing is slogging around the gym.
Forget about exercise until you’ve lost enough weight to feel comfortable with a little exertion. Then, when you’re ready, start with some very gentle exercise.
Dr Mercola has many articles on his fitness website about exercises you can do at home, and the gentle ones designed for seniors may be a good place to start, even though you may be much, much younger. Later you can progress to more advanced techniques.
Exercise is a futile way of trying to lose weight, not only because it doesn’t burn off many calories, but because it makes you thirsty and hungry. Many people reach for the sports drinks and snack bars and the calories pile on again.
However, exercise is a good way to keep muscle strength and mobility, and there’s also a ‘feel good’ factor, so it’s well worth doing – after you’ve got your weight under control.
Cut the starch and sugars
The idea then, is to eat foods that don’t cause your blood glucose to rise sharply and trigger an avalanche of insulin, which will make you store even more fat.
Insulin also closes the doors to your fat cells so you can’t burn any of the fat you’ve already got.
There are hundreds of ideas and recipes for meals on the websites I’ve recommended in the column on the right of this page.
And to get you started, I’ve suggested the foods you can enjoy, as well as the ones best avoided for weight loss, in the article ‘Best foods for weight loss‘.
Scales or tape measure?
People wanting to lose weight often weigh themselves one or more times a day. Sometimes there’s a good number to be seen, and sometimes there appears to be very little weight lost.
On those days when nothing much seems to have happened, it’s easy to get down-hearted and assume it’s not working for you.
A far better way of checking how you’re doing is to use a tape measure.
Measure your waist before you start your new low carbohydrate lifestyle, and measure again at weekly intervals. If you’re seeing a gradual decline in the measurement, wonderful.
If there’s no change at all, check if starchy carbohydrates have crept back into your meals, or the ‘occasional’ piece of fruit or glass of fruit juice. Even small amounts will sabotage your weight loss goal.
Alternatively, you may be consuming the right foods, just too many of them for your specific metabolic level and energy needs.
Although there’s no need to weigh every scrap of food and count calories, you do need to be mindful that your daily calories do not exceed your needs.
If you’re eating massive steaks with your salad, your liver will convert the excess protein to fat and you’ll put on weight.
If you’re eating too much fat, your body will burn the fat in your meals, not the fat around your waist.
I’ve found the most reliable way to keep a handle on things is to track what I eat and drink.
There’s a superb free online food tracker you can use, which will show you exactly how many calories you can consume each day to achieve your weight-loss goal. It’s very easy to use, as you’ll see if you go to the online food tracker page.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your weight-loss experiences for the benefit of others, please use the comment box, below. Thanks.
And at the contact page is my email address, in case you prefer to get in touch by email.
Important medical note
If you are taking medicines from your doctor, please read the medical cautions page before you make changes to your food choices.