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Those Extra Winter Pounds - Reduction by Addition

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in March, 2014

Spring is just around the corner and after sitting around all winter, many of us have accumulated a few pounds that we don’t need. Of course this is a year round problem also, as America has become one of the most overweight countries in history. The problem is getting worse. Obesity rates for adults in the U.S. were near 13% in 1962, and had risen to 35% by 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Americans eat exceedingly beyond their need. In order to rectify this situation in an enduring way, it is necessary to understand the cause. One theory holds that the vagus nerve is unable to properly convey to the brain that the stomach is full. Psychological reasons also may come into play, as food in a stressful society is often used for comfort and reward. One of the most useful theories is that of insulin release. When blood sugar rises abruptly, insulin is excreted to help remove the excess. But there are insulin receptors in the brain also, and when stimulated these receptors notify the body that it needs more food. If we then eat more insulin producing sugar, a vicious cycle ensues and we seem to never really get satisfied no matter how much we eat.

Attempts to lose weight with fad diets and food restrictions are temporary at best. If we restrict ourselves from certain foods, almost inevitably our cravings for those foods eventually break down our will power. However, thousands of people have successfully reduced their weight, and kept it off for decades, by adding certain traditional foods to their daily fare. Whole grains, such as brown rice, barley, whole wheat, millet, oats, rye, and buckwheat have been the staple of almost every civilization in history. Only in the last century has their role in human nutrition been reduced in industrialized nations, and the corresponding incidence rate of obesity is clear. When whole grains are consumed at every meal, the carbohydrates that they contain are complex, and therefore are broken down into glucose slowly over time. Therefore there is no insulin spike like the one seen when simple sugars are consumed. Without the insulin spike, we are less likely to experience hunger between meals. We eat less, but are nourished more. The more we eat these grains in their whole form, rather than in processed forms such as flour, the more nourishing they will be. But it is important to consume a substantial portion of grains at every meal, otherwise that vicious cycle will begin again.

So this spring, break out your walking shoes, your tennis rackets, your hiking gear, and enjoy the fitness and energy level you’ve hoped for by nourishing your body with whole grains. Then watch the pounds fall off without those cravings.

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