Overeating as a reason for weight gain
There are certainly many reasons why our body can start packing up weight. Overeating is usually blamed as the main reason. The logic goes like this: you either eat too many calories or you are not exercising and not burning the calories that you eat. And most of the time it’s both the sedentary lifestyle and eating too much. I’m not a big supporter of this approach. Your body strives to maintain body weight just like it would with any other homeostatic parameters, like your blood pressure, for example. The hormones circulating in the body regulate your weight. They tell the body to either store the energy in the form of fat or brake it up and use it.
What you eat vs how much you eat
What’s more important is what you eat, not just how much you eat. I bet that, for years and years you ate low-fat food. And how could you not when we all hear and read everywhere a recommendation to reduce fat intake, to eat less meat, especially red meat because it causes heart disease. Here’s a shocker… Recent studies confirm that low-fat diets do reduce cholesterol levels, but have no effect on cardiovascular disease1. Anyway, if you eat a low fat diet you have to substitute the energy from fat with something. And typically, it’s the carbohydrates.
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets
By definition low-fat diets are high in carbohydrates. Most carbs available at the supermarket are the staple of our diet: pasta, rice, corn, breads, cookies, soda drinks and fruit juices. All these highly precessed foods have been stripped of their nutrients to increase shelf life. True, they are usually fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals, but only in a limited way. In addition, the synthetic form of the vitamins is often not beneficial for our health. And the majority of essential micronutrients are missing from these foods. So when we eat a diet of highly processed carbs you end up with a lot of calories and very little nutritional content. Your body might have plenty of energy/calories but scream for more food because it is starving for real nutrition!
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets throw off your blood sugar regulation and overstimulate the insulin secretion. I have a separate blog about the importance of insulin for weight regulation and overeating. Please read it here.
Highly palatable carbs in the form of chips, pretzels, pizza, pasta, sweets and desserts stimulate the reward centers in your brain in a very powerful way. That often results in sweets and/or carbohydrates cravings and even food addictions2.
- Ross, J. (2012). The Diet Cure. New York: Penguin Group.