So, it’s been exactly one hour and 24 minutes since your last meal and you’re absolutely starving. Wondering why?
The reason you’re still ravenous could be as simple as eating the wrong ‘healthy’ foods. For years we’ve been conditioned to believe that successful weight loss boils down to a low-fat diet that follows the calories-in versus calories-out formula (ie that you need to create a calorie deficit in order to lose weight), but it’s now thought this is the exact reason we pile on the pounds, instead of shifting them in the long term.
In his revolutionary new book, Always Hungry, endocrinologist Dr David Ludwig investigates calorie counting, busting some of the biggest myths surrounding weight loss and revealing how to beat cravings and maintain your ideal weight for life. You’ll also experience improved brain health, feel happier, sleep better and have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The calorie myth
The premise behind the book is simple. ‘Overeating doesn’t make you fat, but instead the process of getting fat makes you overeat,’ he says. What he essentially means is that eating a low-fat diet can end up expanding your waistline. Low-fat foods are almost always high in processed carbs, which send insulin levels sky high. And since this hormone is the ultimate fat cell fertiliser, it makes fat cells grow. ‘The fat cells suck in and store too many calories, leaving too few for the rest of the body, which is why we get hungry and our metabolism slows down,’ says Dr Ludwig. The real problem is not too many calories in fat cells, but actually too few in the bloodstream to serve the needs of the body. ‘As long as those fat cells are hoarding too many calories you’ll be battling hunger, and while you can lose a few pounds on a low-calorie diet for a short while, your body will eventually fight back,’ he says.
The ‘all calories are alike’ model no longer works, according to Dr Ludwig. ‘It would be ridiculous to say 100 calories from an apple is the same as 100 calories from cola,’ he stresses. Foods affect the body in different ways – way beyond energy input. Every time we eat, hormones, metabolic systems and even gene expression change based on what we put into our body. ‘Those effects can make all the difference to weight stability, weight gain and avoidance of chronic diseases,’ according to Dr Ludwig.
Retrain your fat cells
So what’s the solution? Dr Ludwig has devised a three-phase wholefood diet that he believes can be followed for the long haul. The programme targets the underlying cause of weight gain and not the symptoms. This means that you’ll be working with your body so that you eat until you’re satisfied, snack when you’re hungry and forget calorie counting for good. And you get to eat tasty food that keeps hunger levels low. ‘The advantage of fat is that it helps you avoid eating too many processed carbs, as it’s filling and doesn’t leave you feeling deprived,’ he shares. He emphasises wholefoods, lean protein and unsaturated fats found in nuts, avocados and fatty fish. You’re even allowed a small amount of dark chocolate every day! ‘The main source of calories in chocolate is saturated fat, which isn’t the enemy the diet industry would have us believe,’ he says.
As there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to following the three-phase diet – your body determines the rate of weight loss that’s right for you based on your age, size, physical activity level and genes. Watching portion size, eating the right foods and making sure you stay active allow your fat cells to open up, releasing their calories back into the body so it has a more sustained access to fuel, which results in a slimmer body.
The 7-day countdown
Prior to the diet, take one week to get ready for change
Day 7: Stop counting calories
Avoid calorie counting and replace refined carbs (white bread, pasta etc) with fat (nuts, seeds, avocado) and protein (fish, eggs, chicken and meat).
Day 6: Start tracking
Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, and measure your waist and height in order to calculate your BMI (visit alwayshungry book.com for a BMI calculator). If you can, get blood tests done by your GP. Dr Ludwig advises a fasting lipid profile to determine cholesterol levels, various glucose tests to determine type 2 diabetes risk factor and a C-reactive protein test to check internal inflammation.
Day 5: Stress less
Try to make small changes to remove stress as this will improve sleep quality. When you feel well rested you naturally eat better, exercise more and feel your best. Aim for three 15-minute walks after meals to help set the stage for weight loss.
Day 4: Think about why
Define a clear and compelling reason to embark on the programme that centres on your life goals. Put the ‘Big Why’ in writing, frame it and leave it somewhere that constantly grabs your attention.
Day 3: Clear out your kitchen
You’ll be cooking step-by-step meals, so now’s the time to make sure you’re fully equipped. Stock up on basic kitchen utensils like a good set of knives, a salad bowl, blender and measuring cups, and get rid of any unhealthy foods lurking in your cupboards.
Day 2: Go shopping
Stock up on healthy staples like tins of legumes and frozen fruit and vegetables so you’ll be fully equipped to start the diet.
Day 1: Prep for phase one
This is your first day of cooking, so allocate a few hours to prepare sauces, roasted nuts, dressings and so on, as this will give you a base to whip up meals in 30 minutes or less during the days that follow.
Phase it in
The three-phase programme explained
Duration: Two weeks
Why: This phase is the most restrictive but it’s aimed at jumpstart weight loss. You’ll eat the opposite of a typical low-fat diet, so 50 per cent of your plate should be made up of fat, 25 per cent should be complex carbs (fruit, beans and non-starchy veg) and 25 per cent protein. You’ll eliminate grains, potatoes and added sugar, and fill up on things like rich sauces, spreads, nut butters and full-fat dairy. In addition to a high-fat diet, set aside 15 minutes three times a week for a leisurely walk after dinner. This will help to aid digestion and dampen the post-meal surge in insulin.
Breakfast: Cheese and spinach omelette with berries and Greek yoghurt
Snack: Trail mix
Lunch: Steak salad
Snack: Roasted chickpeas
Dinner: Coconut prawn curry with spinach
Duration: It depends on how long it takes for your weight to drop down to its set point – it could be a few weeks or a few months.
Why: Like a bootcamp for your fat cells, this phase focuses on shifting the fat cells out of calorie overdrive. You will slightly decrease fat to 40 per cent of your total intake and increase carbs to 35 per cent by adding in whole-kernel grains like quinoa, brown rice and steel-cut oats. Protein will remain at 25 per cent. Now’s the time to start exercising so do 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
Breakfast: Black bean and tofu hash
Snack: 30g dark chocolate
Lunch: Mexican taco salad
chicken with a small
baked sweet potato
Duration: For life!
Why: The goal of phase three is to discover your body’s unique needs and create a personalised blueprint to follow in order to sustain weight loss. This phase is flexible and focused on experimentation. Once your body has had a chance to heal, you mindfully introduce a small amount of processed carbs, watching out for your tipping point – ie how much you can tolerate without cravings or weight gain.
butter and banana
Lunch: Salmon salad with soup and crackers
Snack: Houmous with veggie sticks
Dinner: Herb-roasted chicken, rice and broccoli
Dessert: Berries and cream with granola