Food Choices and hormones
We are constantly inundated by "information" telling us how to lose weight and it's usually followed up by a pitch to buy a gadget, supplement, or a diet plan. But the reality is that for most of us, a basic knowledge of how our food choices affect our blood sugar levels can play a major role in whether we gain or lose weight. So buckle up, grab a cup of coffee and let's take a journey through some basics of your endocrine system (at least your pancreas)!!
First, let me start by saying that your body is not "being stubborn" or trying to stymie your efforts. Your body is simply responding to its environment and what you fuel it with as well as WHEN you fuel it. Every cell in your body gets its energy from glucose. Without access to glucose, that cell will die. Just as your vehicle requires unleaded gasoline, or diesel, or ethanol, etc... So you can imagine that it's pretty important to your body to make sure to supply glucose to your cells as steadily as possible. In order to accomplish that, it has a built in mechanism for responding automatically to the food you eat. And its response involves two hormones: insulin and glucagon. Both are important. Neither is bad nor good. They are both vital to your survival. However, if you have a population of people producing too much or too little of one of them, you get, well... Americans.
Your pancreas starts secreting insulin into your bloodstream in response to carbohydrates in your food (and therefore into your bloodstream). Your body tries to keep the amount of glucose in your blood at an equilibrium. So, if you add a LOT of carbohydrate, you produce more insulin. But what does insulin do? Insulin facilitates the intake of glucose into your cells. When that happens, if you supply too much glucose, your body stores that excess energy for later use. It stores is as glycogen (long chains of glucose) in your liver. But it also stores it as FAT. This is natural and good... unless you live in a first-world country with no shortage of twinkies and ho-hos.
Your pancreas also secretes glucagon into your bloodstream in response to protein in your food (and therefore amino acids in your bloodstream). Again, trying to keep your bloodstream glucose levels steady, your body releases stored fat by breaking it down through lipolysis into glucose. That glucose is released into your bloodstream in an attempt to maintain steady levels. You can see that insulin and glucagon are like two sides of the same coin. Both are vital. But understanding this mechanism on a basic level can empower you to achieve changes in body composition with regards to stored fat.
We Americans tend to take a concept, misinterpret it, and go crazy with some idiotic fad. Anyone remember blueberries reducing cholesterol or improving brain function? Soon, blueberry pills hit the shelves, along with the price of blueberries skyrocketing. How about something similar with garlic. Then garlic tablets, etc.... Now we have the ketogenic diet. Let me first say that I'm not against the ketogenic diet. For some people, that diet will help them regulate blood sugar more effectively. Everyone has a unique biochemistry and they need to find the diet that works best for them. But for many, it's just another fad that will fade away into oblivion.
So let me wrap this up with two things. First, eating refined carbohydrates (sugar) is bad because it royally screws up your body's blood sugar levels. This causes a spike in insulin levels, which causes the long term storage of energy... fat. Second, you NEED carbohydrates. But you DON'T need sugar. Get your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables in their natural form (in other words, not loads of fiber-free fruit juice).
So take a look at your diet and see if there is any place where you are providing your body with excess carbohydrates (soda, desserts, pasta, etc...). And is there any meal where you are way out of balance (lots of carbohydrate relative to protein and fat). And if there is, remedy it. One of the biggest problems for Americans is breakfast. We eat pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, etc... But a better meal to regulate hormones would be some type of protein, a low glycemic fruit (like apples or berries), and some fat (avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc...). And while I'm dispensing advice, and you're still reading, try to get some type of vegetable in EVERY meal ;-)
Happy eating everyone. And remember, your food choices are neither good nor bad. They simply stimulate your body closer to or further away from your goals!