Why Processed Food Plays Havoc With Our Weight

When was the last time you really took a close look at the nutrition label on any of the processed food items you regularly eat? If your diet consists mostly of products that come in a can, jar, foil-wrap or cardboard container, they have likely been ultra-processed by one of the food manufacturing giants.

What are processed foods? Anything that has to endure a process in order to come to you the way that you receive it. Anything from crisps, chocolate bars and cereal bars, to fast food, sandwich fillings and ready meals… all processed. White bread? Processed. “Smooth” peanut butter? Processed. Fizzy drinks? Fruit cordials? Soy milk? Processed. Flour (of any kind)? Processed. Even baby carrots are processed…!! As you can see, it would be pretty unrealistic to cut some of these kinds of things out altogether, that’s why it’s about limiting your intake.

When food endures a process, more often than not this means that outside chemicals have been introduced. This can be anything from the chlorine that your cute little baby carrots were soaked in before they were packaged, to the avalanche of ingredients in your white bread.

Ultra-Processed Foods are Developed in a Food Laboratory

Food manufacturers know that their food must appeal to our evolved sense of taste for sweet, salt and fat. The reason we crave these tastes, is so that we’ll want to eat natural foods that already contain these flavours and are packed with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that help prevent disease. Instead, laboratory foods are infused with sugar and hydrogenated fats that tease our taste buds and provide us with little more than empty calories that boost blood sugar, cause weight gain and initiate chronic illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Processed Foods are Calorie Dense and Nutrient Poor

The main problem with ultra-processed foods is they deprive your body of the essential nutrients required to maintain optimal health and alter metabolism toward overweight and obesity. A steady diet of laboratory manufactured foods typically consists of twice the daily calories required to maintain an ideal weight and less than one-quarter of the critical nutrients we need to preserve health and avoid illness. While processed foods satisfy our taste for a variety of different flavours, over the course of years they lead to a nutrient deficient state that leads to disease development and weight gain.

The vast majority of processed foods of course are created by businesses that have profit margins to protect. Profits are important; that’s just how business works. Unfortunately, health is more often than not, secondary. In order to provide us with seemingly inexpensive items and still make money, they’ve got to use cheap ingredients. As such, cheap ingredients that are commonly used in a vast array of processed foods are processed carbohydrates.

Processed carbohydrates are problematic, because the process that they go through in order to be boxed, tinned or plastic-wrapped, calls for the valuable part of the carb to be removed; the fibre. The part that not only helps us to feel full, but helps us to empty our digestive system to make room for more food, is removed. The main reason for this is because fibre generally can’t withstand that much time on the shelf. Think of how long ‘truly fibrous’ foods tend to last at home – the fruits, the vegetables; not much beyond a week or so.

When you enter your favourite supermarket, where do you head first? Do you walk straight toward the fresh fruit and vegetable produce? Or do you head for an aisle way? If you’re heading for an aisle way, chances are you’re heading straight for the processed foods.

So, if something as innocent as baby carrots and peanut butter can count as a processed food, how do we know what to limit?
Start with the ingredient list. Almost every processed food originated from a traditional recipe, which means in theory, it should be easily created in our home, using ingredients that we could generally find in our kitchen, right? Do you keep monosodium glutamate in your house? How about fructooligosaccharides? Is there a jar of that in the back of a cupboard somewhere? Probably not. If it contains ingredients that you just wouldn’t find in your kitchen, leave it be.

Avoid the magic potions.
If it has a “Just Add Water” label on it, again, leave it be. A problem with processed food is the fact that it usually disintegrates into what it originated from after you ingest it, only to revert back to a congealed ‘blob’ once digested… a ‘blob’ that can leave you bloated, constipated and unmotivated. Don’t let your hunger manipulate you into falling for the “just add water” magic potion.

If the flies don’t want it… you don’t want it.
Humans are supposed to compete with animals (including flies) for resources. We also have the mental ability to win these competitions. The reason I mention this is because we’re attracted to the same foods for the same reasons. Flies are attracted to our meat, our fruit and our plants because they are nourishing and packed full of nutritional value. If you go to a supermarket, you don’t see flies in the aisles; you see them around the produce. That’s where you should be. Okay, you might have to swat a fly or two off of your tomatoes but believe me, that’s a victory worth winning.

So, the secret is, to maintain a healthy diet and to prevent our bodies being tricked by false hunger pangs and unexplained cravings, we need our food to come to us as untouched as possible, as light on the chemical interference as possible, as desirable as possible as often as possible.

Go on then… feel good about enjoying your next unprocessed meal today...



3 Reasons NOT To Step On The Scales Today..!

I bet you weighed yourself this morning…!!

Did you like the number you saw, or were you expecting something lower?  Did you get overly excited if it was low or unreasonably depressed if it was too high?  We’ve all been there, so don’t beat yourself up about it too much. Seriously..!

Whenever somebody tells me that they’re going to get in shape, it’s usually something like, “I need to lose 50 pounds,” or “If I can just get down below ‘XX’ stone, that would be perfect.”

However, we REALLY should reconsider stepping on those scales too often.  Why?  Because although picking an arbitrary number for weight loss is a decent starting point (and it’s definitely good to set goals), our weighing scales certainly don’t tell us the whole story and can send us on an unnecessary roller coaster of emotions;

Here’s why.

1) Our weight will fluctuate more than the stock market.

The human body is one incredibly complex piece of machinery.  There are things going in, coming out, transforming, and dissolving all the time. As a result, our weight can and usually does fluctuate wildly over the course of a 24-48 hour period.  What we ate yesterday, how much water we drank, how good our sleep was, if there was sodium in our food, what kind of clothing we’re wearing, what time of day we weigh ourselves, WILL influence our weight at any given time.

Weigh yourself before and after your next workout - there will be a difference. Weigh yourself tomorrow morning and then again in the evening after a full day of eating – there will be a difference. The best way to grasp this is to understand that we have a ‘weight range’, rather than a ‘set weight’ at any given time. For most people, our weight range will be between 5 and 7 lbs, and over the course of a few days, it’s completely normal that our body weight will reach the high point and the low point within this range. So, if we step on the scales and notice we appear to have gained 3 lbs since yesterday, that doesn’t really mean we’ve actually gained that weight (or lost it if it has gone the other way)….  

If you’re trying to lose weight the healthy way (1-2 pounds a week is a good goal to aim for, 3 pounds if you’re more active), your successful weight loss could be hidden by any number of circumstances that falsify your statistics.

That means you could actually be down three pounds since last week, but because you ate Chinese food last night (high sodium), drank water this morning, and didn’t get to weigh yourself until the afternoon (while wearing jeans), the scale could show a GAIN of one pound.  After working so hard, this “weight gain” can instantly demoralize us, sending us to the kitchen for some comforting “whats the point” chunky chocolate and then over to the couch to catch up on all the soaps for the last month…!

It’s just a number, and it can be wildly inaccurate over a short period of time.

2) Your weight does NOT tell the whole story

Yes, it’s true; muscle weighs more than fat. And building muscle tone can certainly help you ‘lose inches’. In fact, it IS possible to lose 2 dress sizes without losing a single pound; and when we’re out-and-about, it’s the ‘inches’ lost that people notice..!!

I remember reading about a contestant who had taken part in a local ‘Biggest Loser’ type of challenge recently. He had restricted his calories and spent hours a week doing cardio exercises, losing 31 pounds in the process over a period of 3 months.  A body composition test showed he lost 17 lbs of fat and 14 of muscle.

After the competition was over, he went back to his normal routine of eating healthy and lifting weights. He only lost 16 pounds over the next three months, but 15 of them were fat and only 1 pound lost was muscle..!

Just comparing the scales (31 pounds lost in 3 months against only 16 pounds lost in the following 3 months) seems like a no-brainer.  However, when you compare the TYPE of weight lost, it’s clear to see which three month period was more successful.

Why spend extra time losing fat AND muscle, and then have to build up the muscle again (which is incredibly tough – I know), when you can just cut out the fat and keep the muscle you already have?

3) Don’t let the scales define how you feel.

If you were to set out to lose say, 50 pounds in 5 months (quite an ambitious goal), and only manage to lose 40, you might consider this a failure, yes? After all, a goal was set and it wasn’t achieved…

Hang on… YOU’VE STILL LOST40 POUNDS!!!, something you may have been struggling to do for years. You’ve also probably had to buy a whole new wardrobe and get all kinds of “Wow, you’re looking AMAZING” comments on a daily basis. Not bad for a failure, eh?

Don’t get caught up in the numbers game, and instead be proud of what you have accomplished instead.

I remember having conversations with a client who desperately wanted to get down to 139 pounds (under 10 stone) SO badly. She went from almost 200 pounds down to 145 pounds, and then got stuck there for weeks. For weeks she was mortified and saw herself a FAILURE for not losing those last six pounds. In reality she had already lost around 50 pounds, had completely re-shaped her eating habit and her body, and was in better shape than she had been in years…!

I come across people all the time who tell me that at some point, they’ve looked in the mirror and felt great about how their shape is changing, then stepped on the scales and felt gutted when they’ve seen a NUMBER on a DIAL.!!

You’re not a statistic.

You’re not a number.

How to keep track of your success instead

I will admit that the scales can have their uses.  If you’re just getting started, a few changes at the beginning can really help you see progress and build momentum. Also, over longer periods of time, it’s a good way to tell if you’re heading in the right direction or not. However, weighing scales can also cause all kinds of mental issues, that can easily bring us down if we allow them to; when in reality, our actual ‘weight’ actually becomes less and less important, the closer we get to our goals...
Only today, I was speaking with someone who told me she “loved” her body again, but daren’t step on the scales in case she sees something she doesn’t like.!!! Surely, once we’ve reached the point where we’re “loving our bodies” again, we’ve reached our ‘ultimate’ destination in our weight-loss journey, haven’t we? But these are the types of trap we can allow ourselves to fall into if we’re not careful.

So, how can we stay strong and motivated, without stepping on the scales too often?

Remember that your journey to a healthier life is a marathon, not a sprint. Changes from day to day are practically meaningless and incredibly difficult to quantify, so go with changes over a longer period of time. If you weigh yourself weekly, make sure you weigh at the same time of the day, wearing the same type of clothing (if any at all). Remove as many of the ‘variables’ as possible to make your reading more meaningful; and even then, don’t dwell on it too long. Don’t even think of weighing more than once a week; the readings really are quite meaningless.

Take note of your body shape as much as your weight. Perhaps take a picture of yourself every month or so, giving you the chance to visually compare how your progress is going. Some, more advanced scales can calculate ‘body fat percentage’ and other readings, as well as actual weight. Or you could even just use a tape measure to keep track how your body is adjusting. If you do this, be sure you’re taking your measurements in the same places on your body at the same time of day.  If you’re taking photos, take a straight-on photo and a profile photo.

Set goals that are not weight-oriented. If you can currently swim 10 lengths or walk a mile in 20 minutes, perhaps look at aiming at 12 lengths, then 14, etc, or walking a mile and a quarter in 20 minutes, then a mile and a half, etc, etc. Unlike the scales, these achievements REALLY do mean you’re getting fitter/stronger/faster or whatever. Perhaps set a goal of fitting into a particular outfit; pick something that has a strong emotional attachment (you’d just love to get in it) that’s just a little too small and keep it on show in the bedroom or dressing room. You’ll be amazed just how much that constant ‘visual’ inducement will subconsciously influence your day-to-day decisions and choices, eventually leading you to the achievement of fitting into it and feeling great.  

Keep a journal or diary. I know plenty of 13 stone people who are out of shape and 20 stone people who are incredibly healthy. How do you FEEL this month compared to last month?  Maybe you can now walk or run around the field without stopping, you don’t get out-of-breath going up and down stairs, and you can give your kids a piggy back ride on a Saturday morning without being out of action for the rest of the weekend.!!  Keep track of your energy levels, your conditioning, and your overall well-being; these are the REAL you. Forget the scales.

If the scales are working for you and you’re seeing results, stick with it.  But, if that number on the scales constantly messes with your mind and sends you the other way, maybe it’s time to take a break.

Until next time, keep it all going…