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The Quality of your food will impact the Quantity

If you’ve been in diet culture for many years, and I suspect if you’re a millennial like me, Gen X, Gen Z, Baby Bloomers, all of us have been exposed to some messaging around dieting, and with that you’ve likely heard

It's just a calorie deficit

Or the notion of

Eat less, move more

Of course, this goes with a goal of fat loss.

Whilst on the surface, these messages are correct, when considering the energy balance equation, this comes from the law of thermodynamics in science.

Fat loss is governed by the law of thermodynamics which is the conversion of energy.

The laws of thermodynamics are a set of scientific laws which define a group of physical quantities, such as temperature, energy, and entropy, that characterize thermodynamic systems in thermodynamic equilibrium.

Which is where energy in vs energy out originates from or “it's just a calorie deficit”

A negative energy balance - Fat loss

A positive energy balance - Fat Gain

Neutral - Maintenance

Energy Balance in humans is measured by calories, calories consumed vs calories expended.

However, the element overlooked with such a simplified message here is two things;

  1. Human Behaviour

  2. Our Environment

If it was as simple as just eat less and move more we wouldn’t be in the midst of an obesity epidemic with statistics showing the rate of weight loss success, thus maintaining weight loss 6-12 months post diet being less than 20%.

Human Behaviour is a biggie when considering energy balance, emotional regulation, why we eat the way we eat, what food is (or isn’t) serving for you, which directly feeds accessibility from our environment, the foods we have available to us and how these can impact your later eating behaviours.

This blog I want to really focus on food quality because not only can it help with human behaviour of Nutrition, but it can have such positive impacts on our energy, mood and results, but results I define as maintenance success.

Welcome to the side of the industry who care about you actually having the knowledge and awareness of how to not only achieve fat loss, but maintain it for years to come with behaviours, habits & understanding.

Physiologically we are, as humans, designed to survive famine, it was how our ancestors managed to survive and come through generations to where we are now sitting here today reading this.

Prentice, A (2005), Starvation in humans: evolutionary background and contemporary implications. Available at: PMID: 15907972

We have evolved with this survival mechanism, however now we live in a feast environment, food is no longer scarce, we have the scarcity evolution but our surroundings do not support that, we have more ultra processed food, more saturated fats, more palatable foods than ever before and these foods DO have an impact on our hunger and thus the amount of food we actually consume.

You’ve likely felt not overly full, say 30 minutes after eating at McDonalds.

This is due to the energy density, quality & weight of this food. This plays into a lack of satiety, fullness and does pull the trigger for wanting to eat more and bring about some “cravings” for many.

Whilst eating these foods leaves you with physical fullness, there is usually a lack of fullness and satiety.

We have two hunger hormones;

Ghrelin - Ghrelin is a hormone produced by enteroendocrine cells of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach, and is often called a "hunger hormone" because it increases the drive to eat. Blood levels of ghrelin are highest before meals when hungry, returning to lower levels after mealtimes.

& Leptin - Leptin is a hormone predominantly made by adipose cells and its primary role is likely to regulate long-term energy balance. As one of the major signals of energy status, leptin levels influence appetite, satiety, and motivated behaviors oriented towards the maintenance of energy reserves

You’d think that eating a McDonalds of lets say 1,000kcals would keep you full right? But actually not and here’s why,

The ultra processed foods increase our appetite, mainly because they do not secrete hormones, namely Ghrelin which plays into a lack of fullness and satiety, these hormones work in pairs, if Ghrelin is increased because of a lack of satiety, leptin is then decreased, and leptin communicates back to the brain and influences behaviours associated with hunger. This is exacerbated by the fact that the brain uses Glucose as a main energy source, therefore carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can pass the blood brain barrier.

Therefore these ultra-processed foods increase Ghrelin and decrease Leptin, with this communication to the brain and therefore psychological response for more food, our environment with food availability so high makes sticking to our diet harder.

Crimarco, A et al (2021) Review of Ultra-processed Foods, Weight Gain, and Co-morbidity Risk. Available at PMID: 34677812

If our diet is made up of ultra processed foods, your body will seek out more of this to meet the psychological demands of food leading to a higher overall caloric intake thus gaining weight overtime.

Interestingly, alongside this, independent of energy density within foods a really cool study showed people ate the same QUANTITY of food.

Not only are we are driven to survive famine, we are actually destined to eat a certain overall weight of food. Ultra processed foods are higher in density and thus lower in volume, therefore increasing the change of overall consumption due to the weight bias of our hunger.

Eg 250g chocolate vs 250g strawberries (taken from my Instagram account)

Less processed foods however contain not only fewer calories, they have profound impacts on our overall health, supporting our gut microbiome, delivering essential vitamins & minerals around the body, aiding fullness & satiety by slowing of gastric emptying, supporting mental health through the digestion process within our gut, 80-90% of our serotonin is found in our gut, supporting our immune system and bowel movements.

These less processed foods do help with satiety & fullness therefore decreasing the ghrelin response and increasing the leptin response thus driving hunger down.

The quality of your food will direct the quantity of your food

Alongside this, ultra processed foods do change your palette so you actually don’t enjoy fruit and veg products, not receiving the wellness response these do deliver with the uptake of serotonin, this however CAN be changed by incorporating these back into your diet.

This also aids in the dopamine response we gain from ultra processed foods, therefore making these more enjoyable thus actually driving less of a novelty for these too.

This for many, can be empowering, to help understand why many times they find themselves overeating, this isn’t to say we should completely avoid certain foods, absolutely not, I portray a very balanced diet with an inclusive approach to Nutrition. However the more understanding we have in society the more we can feel empowered to then navigate the times when we do, rightly so, enjoy the ultra processed foods.

A good balance would be 80/20, but some weeks that may look like 90/10 or 50/50. The adaptability and psychological flexibility along with the understanding helps remove the red button of dichotomous thinking and allows you to lean into how you can navigate these times with moderation.

So if you have ever dieted and just counted syns, points, or calories, and questioned hunger, you will to an extent feel some hunger in a fat loss phase, but you can mitigate some of that by choosing quality foods with lots of nutrients, protein and wholegrains.

A healthy approach to your nutrition should contain a vast array of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains at least 25g protein per meal with a balance of ultra processed foods for enjoyment.

Happy healthy living!

Lots of love,

Rebecca x


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