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Weight Loss and Snacking

Weight Loss and Snacking

by Laura J Hieb, ND on October 5, 2022
Do you snack? Do you graze instead of eating meals? 
Many people do.
If you are one of them and you want to lose weight, then by snacking or grazing you might be sabotaging your weight loss goals.

In fact, you ARE sabotaging them.
And this is why.

It's all about our good friend insulin.
I am sincere when I call insulin our good friend because we cannot live without insulin. Insulin does many good things for us.

Insulin affects every cell in our body. 

And insulin is a fat storage hormone.

Back in the day when we were hunter gatherers, food was an uncertain business. Being able to store food as fat was a definite advantage!

Now many of us live in a land of an abundance of food so storing food as fat is not so important--but we still do it!

Because genetically we are not so different from our hunter gatherer ancestors.

Every time we eat, our pancreas sends out insulin to a greater or lesser degree depending on what we eat.
If we eat sugary, starchy foods, our pancreas sends out more insulin than if we eat protein/fat and non-starchy vegetables.

Since this happens every time we eat, if we are snacking all the time or grazing, we always have insulin floating around our blood stream in greater or lesser amounts. 
And this is the problem---

Because you cannot store fat and burn fat at the same time.

Let's look at that again:

You cannot store fat AND burn fat at the same time.

If we give ourselves breaks between eating, our insulin levels will go back down, and then we can start burning fat.

This means spacing our meals out every 4-6 hours, to give insulin levels a chance to subside and make it possible to burn fat.

This is also the point of intermittent fasting, more properly known as time restricted eating: stopping eating 3-4 hours before bedtime ensures our insulin levels are low when we go to bed. An then we can burn fat throughout the night and into the morning until we eat breakfast.

But I know--what if you get hungry?

In the not too long ago--ie, when I was a child ;) --snacking was just for kids, and usually just after school to tide us over until dinner. (We had to make it from breakfast until lunch without any snacks! Imagine!) And if you wanted to eat too close to dinner, you were told no, it would spoil your dinner.

But then, in the late 70's or early 80's snacking became the thing. I blame it on the condition du jour: hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar and I am not for a second denying that it exists--when you get "hangry" you have hypoglycemia.

But the treatment for it encouraged snacking.
I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia when I was 15. The treatment was to not eat sugar or starches (just what a 15 year old wants to hear!), AND to eat every 2-3 hours. 
I followed this advice and soon noticed I was gaining weight. My mom said, "Well, you do eat all the time" .

But that's what I was told to do! 

The truth is, that if you limit/avoid sugar and starches/practice sequential eating (see a previous blog), you can easily go 4-6 hours without eating. And then you will lose weight.
But if you eat sugar and starches, you get a glucose (blood sugar) spike, followed by an insulin spike, that results in a precipitous drop in blood sugar, which makes you want to eat more sugar and starch. Eventually this leads to too much insulin in your blood stream and now you have insulin resisitance. This leads to type 2 diabetes, a more serious form of insulin resisitance that results in high blood sugar, aka hypER glycemia--from one extreme to the other!

But what if you aren't hungry at meal time? 
It's probably because you are eating too often and too close to your meal time. Start spacing out your meals and even change your meal times if you need to.

In the 80's I spent a few summers in Italy and I was always astounded to see slender young italian women sit down and eat an incredible amount (to me anyway) of food. A traditional italian meal starts with antipasto--usually vegetables, meat and cheese--followed by the pasta course: pasta, risotto, soup with pasta plus or minus vegetables (ie, minestrone) Then comes the meat/fish course with vegetables, and lastly, if you still have room, dessert. How could these women eat all this food and still stay slender? 

Because (at that time anyway) italians did not snack (and also they walked a lot). But following the italian way of eating, I always came home weighing less, depite having eaten more!

So if you want to lose weight, limit your sugar and starch intake and stop eating all the time. 

It really does work.