Overeating isn’t what causes you to gain weight—it’s the real culprit
It’s not hard to understand why people gain weight, right? When we take in more calories than we burn, we gain weight. Want to lose weight? Eat less and move more. That’s what we’ve been hearing for years. Recent research, however, offers a new perspective that turns this thinking on its head. Could it be that overeating doesn’t actually cause weight gain?
In 2021, Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, published an article in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which challenged the prevailing wisdom about America’s obesity epidemic. According to the article, co-authored by 17 internationally recognized scientists, clinical researchers and public health experts, it is what what we eat (not how much we eat) has the biggest impact on our weight.
More than 40 percent of Americans are obese (defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more). Obesity puts people at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. That’s why finding the root cause of weight gain and helping people understand how to manage their weight more effectively is so important.
Should we rethink traditional weight loss advice?
The weight loss advice most of us have heard for years follows the “energy balance model,” which is calorie-for-calorie thinking that says overeating, along with a lack of adequate physical activity, causes people to gain weight.
However, Ludwig proposes a different perspective, the “carbohydrate-insulin model,” which explains obesity as metabolic disorder caused by overeating the wrong kind of food, not overeating itself. “Conceptualizing obesity as a disorder of energy balance repeats a principle of physics without considering the biological mechanisms underlying weight gain,” he says.
While it is USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 states that in order to push the number down on the scale, “adults [need] in order to reduce the number of calories they get from food and drinks and increase the amount consumed by physical activity,” advises Ludwig to take a closer look at your daily diet and reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates we eat and drink.
Can you eat as much as you want and still lose weight?
Foods with a high glycemic load—especially processed carbohydrates like baked goods, pizza, packaged pasta (unless it’s whole grain), breakfast cereals, white bread, and white rice—trigger hormonal reactions that fundamentally alter our metabolism, according to Ludwig’s research. And it is precisely this change in metabolic rate that is the real culprit behind weight gain and obesity.
So what does this mean for someone trying to shed a few pounds? “Reducing the consumption of fast-digesting carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era reduces the basic drive to store body fat,” says Ludwig. “As a result, people can Lose weight with less hunger and fighting.”
In other words, overeating is not something you should worry about if you are eating the right foods. Want to fit into your pre-pandemic skinny jeans without feeling deprived and grumpy? Just skip the packaged “low calorie” foods and anything made with white flour or refined sugar. Instead, reach for whole grains, fruits and vegetables. That way, you can feel good about helping yourself to seconds, thirds, and even fourths.
To that, we say Pleasant!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Women’s world.
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