Weighing In On Your Food: Can The Weight Of Your Food Affect The Weight Of Your Body?
That’s the consensus from researchers now more interested in “energy density” and “food volume” as opposed to the supposedly tried-and-true “Glycemic Index.” The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on the food’s effect on blood sugar compared with a standard reference food’s effect. In short, how carbs affect your body, insulin spikes, and consequently fat storage.
For years nutritionists (myself included) were all about the GI. “Eat foods low on the GI, and you’ll store less fat”, we all chanted. And, there’s some truth to it – just not for the reasons we originally thought. Insulin is still a major issue for heart disease and diabetes management, that is a given. However, it turns out that the energy of food itself may be the key to long-term fat loss.
I’m going to cover a bit about energy density here today. The subject is really quite involved, so I’ll be covering it over several issues – and really trying to focus on what you need to know ‘now’ in order to make this amazing distinction work for you when it comes to shedding body fat.
First, here are some comments on the latest research from my friend and colleague Christian Finn.
“When I first read about the glycemic index in the early 1990’s, it seemed to make perfect sense. And, being one of those people who have a tendency to obsess over small details, I invested a lot of time and effort in eliminating foods with a high GI from my diet.
“Much of this effort, unfortunately, was a complete waste of time.
“It’s not that there’s anything wrong with following a diet that has a low GI. However, if you make the same mistake that I did and focus only on the glycemic index (without making a change to your calorie intake too), chances are you’ll end up feeling frustrated because you’re not losing any weight.
“In one of the most recent studies of the glycemic index, researchers from the University of Minnesota tested whether lowering the GI of a diet already low in calories would have any further effect on weight loss.
“The researchers compared the effects of three low-calorie diets, each with a different glycemic load, on 29 obese adults. All of the diets – high GI, low GI or high fat – provided the same number of calories.
“For the first 12 weeks, all food was provided to the subjects (the feeding phase). Then, 22 subjects were told to follow the assigned diet for an additional 24 weeks (the free-living phase).
“After 12 weeks, all three groups lost weight. However, there was no significant difference in weight loss between the groups. Subjects on the low GI diet lost, on average, 21.8 pounds (9.9 kilograms), while those on the high GI diet lost 20.5 pounds (9.3 kilograms).
“In summary, lowering the glycemic load and glycemic index of weight reduction diets does not provide any added benefit to energy restriction in promoting weight loss in obese subjects,” conclude the researchers.
“Eating a diet with a low glycemic load can help with weight loss. But, that’s largely because many foods with a low glycemic index (with the exception of high-fat foods like nuts and avocados) also have a lower energy density.”
So what does all this mean? All food can be measured in terms of “energy density”. Foods that physically weigh very little yet contain a lot of calories, have a high energy density. Many fats would be in this category. The inverse is true – foods that gather their volume from water, fiber, and non-caloric elements like fruits and vegetables (eaten, not in juice form) have a very low energy density factor despite weighing in as heavy as some of their energy-dense counterparts.
Let’s not confuse “energy density” with foods that give you energy. In fact, it’s just the opposite – often the foods with the lowest energy density (those with the lowest calories and the greatest volume, or weight) provide sustained energy.
Let’s break this down into something we can use. I was working on a “diet plan” well before reading some of the information I discovered when researching this article. However, I want to give props to those who had the same idea. Dr. Barbara Rolls and her “Volumetrics” plan really kicked off my interest in energy density. Also, a great and simple book called “The Three Apple A Day Plan” by personal trainer/nutritionist Tammi Flynn solidified my thoughts that the key to long-term fat burning is found in volume and energy density of food. Literally, how much your food ‘weighs’ for the amount of calories that food provides.
Let’s start right now with the basic foundation: consume foods that consume you. This means eating foods that require a lot of energy from the body to process. Celery fits the bill, but you don’t want to live on it – that’s for sure. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to. However, you can use celery, protein foods that are higher in thermogenic response (meaning they generate more heat and conversely burn more calories), and low-energy, high-volume foods to fill you up. With that combination, it’s next to impossible to go wrong.
And, it tastes good!
Here’s step one: eat an apple 15 minutes prior to your first meal. Then simply eat a normal breakfast for you. You’ll find you eat less, and your cravings for sugar are diminished. You’ll also find that the pectin in the apple peel will help your blood sugar stabilize, hence you’ll be less hungry throughout the day.
Step two: eat 1-2 raw carrots immediately prior to lunch. Then, just eat your normal lunch. (How easy is this?!) The carrot should ‘not’ be feared, even though it is a “high GI food.” It’s also a very low energy density food, and that’s all you need to worry about.
Step three: eat 1-2 raw celery sticks prior to dinner. Then, just eat a high protein, low-carb dinner. That’s it.
Just doing these three things can cause radical changes in your body’s ability to cleanse itself, burn more fat, and fill yourself up prior to eating “normally.” After this stage, we kick it up a few notches and really get the fat burning happening – but for now, start here. Feel the power of energy.
Remember: the weight of your food reflects the weight you see on your scale. Eat food that weighs more but has less calories in the form of energy density and you’re well on your way to a healthy, long-term solution to fat burning.