We live in a time where we seem to focus more on nutrition, where superfoods are sold as sweets and where #fitgirl is one of the most used hashtags on social media. There is definitely no lack of information, motivation and inspiration for a healthy lifestyle. But how is it that, despite the increasing interest in healthy food, so many people still struggle with extra weight? Should we not know by now how to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
It is more than just food
We used to eat for energy. However, nowadays we seem to eat because we like to eat and because it is part of our culture. We have cake on birthdays, turkey for Christmas and go ‘for drinks’ with our friends. Eating is more than just food.
Also your appetite plays an important role in gaining weight. How frustrating is it that your friends are satisfied after just one handful of crisps, while you just conquered the whole bag? No worries, this does not mean you are weak. Overeating happens under the influence of hormones and it affects one more that than the other. This is because your appetite is generated by the interaction of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Also cortisol seem to be important.
Ghrelin, also known as the ‘hunger hormone’, is a hormone secreted by the stomach lining before meals. The production of ghrelin inhibits the production of insulin and stimulates the production of glucagon. This causes fluctuations in your blood sugar level, which will give you the munchies. Ghrelin also stimulates the production of fat in your body and causes your stomach to rumble. Slim people have a ghrelin rise in the morning, but a decrease towards the evening. This is not the case for overweight people, most likely because of a disturbed daily routine (PNAS, 2014). In order to reduce the production of ghrelin, you can therefore ensure a daily structure and a good night’s sleep.
While ghrelin makes you feel hungry, leptin gives you a sign that you ate enough. Therefore, a shortage of leptin in your blood will make you eat more than you should. How much leptin your body produces varies per person, someone with a pear-shaped figure produces more leptin than someone with an apple-shaped figure. In addition, there is also a chance to become resistant to leptin (Behavior and Health, 2006). Do you feel that you are not satisfied enough after eating? Then you might want to adjust your eating habits. Eat slowly and give your body time to produce leptin. Also keep your blood sugar level in balance by not eating too many products that are high in simple carbohydrates, such as: white starch products (such as bread and pasta), biscuits, sweets, chips and soft drinks. Instead, go for products with a lot of fiber, proteins and healthy fats.
You might not expect that cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, can also cause extra weight. Nevertheless, numerous studies show that increased cortisol levels are associated with overweight. Cortisol production increases due to sleep deprivation and stress. This can be psychological stress, such as a high workload or personal problems. But it can also be physical stress, such as chronic pain. In this case (if not in any case) it is important to take your pain complaints seriously. Also excessive exercise is not efficient: give your body time to rest!
A crash diet creates a greater imbalance in hormones and will therefore inhibit weight loss. Simply eating less does not help you lose weight, you also need to sleep well, exercise and cut down stress. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you will notice that it is easier to make healthy food choices. You will already notice difference after losing 5 percent of your weight: you feel will more fit, happier and the chances of chronic illnesses, anxiety and depression decrease.