We have all been told “If you want to lose weight then you need to eat less”. This advice is based on the Energy Balance Principle. If you take in more energy (through food and drinks) than you expend (through physical activity/exercise), you will gain weight (positive energy balance). And if you take in less energy than you expend, you will lose weight (negative energy balance). The Energy Balance Principle assumes all calories are the same. So losing weight should theoretically be as simple as reducing the number of calories you take in from foods and drinks and increasing the amount of energy expended through physical activity/exercise.
As you likely know from experience, it is not this simple. A new paper in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in September 2021 discusses a different explanation for why we gain and lose weight. The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model proposes that the nutritional composition of the food we eat is as important as the number of calories it contains. After a person eats a meal containing fast-digesting carbohydrates (like processed grains and refined sugars), blood sugar and insulin levels tend to increase rapidly. Insulin promotes fat storage of many of the calories from the meal resulting in less energy being available for the rest of the body. This situation leads to increased hunger, excess food consumption, a positive energy balance and weight gain.
The Carbohydrate-Insulin Model suggests that excess weight is due at least in part to the consumption of highly processed carbohydrates. Furthermore, when we try and ignore our hunger and restrict calories, our metabolism slows down making sustainable weight loss even more challenging. This model suggests that calorie restriction is not an effective way to lose weight for most people and that focusing on what we eat rather than how much we eat would be more effective for long term weight loss.
The good news is that the Health Plus program focuses on eating foods that do not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Our Basic Principles encourage eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and lean proteins and to limit highly processed foods, wheat flour and foods containing added sugar. Additionally, you are encouraged to eat frequently and not focus on calorie restriction. The end result will be long term weight loss.
Read the full paper here which summarizes the evidence for the Carbohydrate-Insulin Model.