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Weight loss and nutrition go hand in hand. And weight loss, like nutrition, is an ever-changing topic. There are all sorts of exercise plans to bulk up and slim down. We see so many diet fads come and go.

So if you want to lose weight, what plan should you actually follow?

The first goal is to understand your baseline, healthy waistline. From there you can make sustainable, long-term diet changes to help control and maintain your weight. What’s important to keep in mind is that no matter how much you’re exercising, if you’re not fueling your body with the right blend of nutrients, then you will have an incredibly difficult time losing weight.

Many of us wish there was a simple, “cure-all” answer to dieting. And maybe there is. What’s the secret?

In a word: sugar.

Nutrition and Diet: Then vs. Now

Many of our members come to us because they want results.

There’s a classic nutrition saying that goes, “Calories in, calories out.” This motto refers to the idea that we burn fat and lose weight if we burn more calories than we consume. This may be true to some extent, but new research — and, most importantly, new results — says it’s more complicated than that.

It’s not just about how many calories you’re eating, it’s what those particular calories are doing in your body.

What Does Sugar Do in Our Bodies?

To survive, our bodies need sugar in the simple form of glucose. We use glucose for pretty much every bodily function, from fueling our brains to giving us the energy to breathe and move. We can get this fuel by eating actual sugar or by eating other simple carbohydrates that our body then converts to glucose.

If you don’t eat for a day, you might become hungry and weak, but you won’t die. Why is that? After your body uses the sugars it needs for energy, it turns the rest into fat stores in your liver, muscles, and fat cells.

Our bodies store up fat for emergencies. When we’re in need of energy, the body breaks down fat stores into fuel called ketones it can use for energy. This means the body will burn fat until you eat again and provide your system with new, readily available carbohydrates.

The problem is, many people don’t give their bodies a chance to dip into their fat stores. Many of us eat carbohydrates (including sugar) so steadily that we constantly provide glucose to the bloodstream. The result? Our body uses those readily available sugars for energy and saves the fat stores for later.

How Insulin Affects Weight Loss

When we eat foods that break down into sugar in our bloodstream, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin to help move that glucose out of the bloodstream and into our cells. Then our blood sugar and insulin levels return to normal.

If we eat a lot of sugar, then a lot of sugar gets into our bloodstream, and a lot of insulin gets released to deal with it. This insulin tells our bodies not to burn any of our stored fat because so much sugar is available in the bloodstream instead. It also encourages our fat cells to store even more glucose. Over time, this leads to expanding waistlines as well as serious problems like arterial plaque.

Excess fat storage can even occur in places we wouldn’t expect it, like around our internal organs or in our liver, which is where the terms “visceral fat” and “fatty liver” come from. This kind of fat storage can be even more detrimental to our health, weight loss, and insulin levels.

If your body is constantly releasing insulin to deal with excess sugar, then regardless of calorie intake, weight loss will be difficult. So the key to weight loss may not lie so much in the reduction of calories as in the control of our sugar intake and insulin levels.

Regain Control of Your Health

The big question now is this: How can we get our insulin levels under control?

If you’re serious about turning your weight around and burning fat, you can start by identifying the sources of sugar in your diet — and cutting them out. Simply put, when we eat sugar, insulin levels spike. But when insulin is low, the body can burn fat.

The way you do this is up to you. There are a host of low-carb diets, ketogenic diets, and intermittent fasting plans to choose from. All of them provide ways for you to control how much insulin is being released and circulating at any given time.

Applying a targeted strategy like this to weight loss is much more effective than a blanket reduction of calories. And in addition to shrinking your waistline, getting your insulin and weight loss under control will also help to reverse the metabolic diseases that so often accompany extra pounds.

This is truly exciting!

Reducing Sugar Intake Is Hard, But Life-Changing

While much changes over time in the world of nutrition, one thing is certain: Too much sugar is incredibly dangerous. We might even call this, along with substances like high fructose corn syrup, the root of all evil. It’s the nutritional world’s equivalent to smoking — addictive, and entirely harmful to your health.

As with smoking, reducing your sugar intake can be difficult and may even require therapeutic support. In fact, for years our founder Dr. Radley Griffin struggled with what he called a sugar addiction.

It can be hard to shift your sugar intake — but you can do it. We suggest beginning with small, definite changes like the ones below.

Sweet Treats

You can start by reducing some of the obvious stuff. Are you pouring teaspoons of sugar into your coffee each morning? Does every lunch include a hearty serving of simple carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, or a big glass of soda? How often are you having dessert — and how much dessert are we talking? A quarter cup of ice cream or the whole pint?

Though we may not know it, many of our taste buds have become so used to excess sugar that we don’t realize how much we’re eating. By reducing the amount of sweetness we eat, our taste buds can reacclimate to normal levels of sugar.

Alcohol

For many reasons, reducing alcohol intake can have a very positive impact on your physical and mental health. Another reason to add to the list is that alcohol may stall weight loss in several ways.

While many forms of alcohol contain sugar, other forms don’t contain any glucose. However, glucose-free alcohol still contains calories that the body can use as fuel, interrupting the fat-burning process.

Alcohol also impacts weight gain and weight loss via the liver. Alcohol is primarily processed through the liver and can create inflammation (indicated by elevated liver enzymes, GGT, and ferritin), which leads to fat deposits in the liver. A fatty liver then impacts the way our body uses insulin.

Let’s put it this way: The fattier our liver gets, the worse our insulin performs. The byproduct is more insulin production, which means more fat storage all over the body, including the liver. What a vicious cycle!

Fruits

We want to eat a balanced diet that’s high in fiber, but it’s important to remember that fruits contain a high amount of the fruit sugar, fructose, which is primarily stored as fat.

Start to identify all the areas of fructose in your daily diet, from pineapples and apples to peaches and watermelon. Consider reducing fruits and raising the number of vegetables in your diet.

This doesn’t mean you can never eat fruit again. It just means that in order to control insulin and lose weight, holding off on the fruit for a while can help.

One rule you can implement regarding fruit and alcohol: You can introduce these again when the waistline returns to normal and the liver loses its fat.

Weight loss is an ever-changing topic. There are all sorts of exercise plans out there. If you want to lose weight, what plan should you follow?

Balanced Body Means Balanced Diet

There are three important things to keep in mind when starting your weight loss journey:

  1. Don’t start with an arbitrary weight loss number. Instead, determine your baseline, healthy waistline, and aim for that goal.
  2. Determine what diet and exercise plan will be sustainable for you.
  3. Reducing sugar is one of the simplest (yet hardest!) ways to lose weight, improve heart health, and reverse metabolic disease.

Weight loss plans should be individualized to meet your unique body’s needs. What works for one person may not work for another.

What we do know is that across the board, sugar intake determines insulin levels, and insulin plays an incredible role in how much fat we store or burn. The key is to focus on insulin control and long-term healthy patterns.

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