I’m convinced that maintaining optimum weight has nothing to do with eating less and exercising more. Balancing calories in with calories out does not equate. The body does not operate like a scale.It works like a sink. Let me explain.Most of us have heard of insulin resistance. It is based on the idea that the body overproduces a hormone called insulin in response to eating foods that cause a spike in blood sugar—things like breads, cakes, pastries, pasta, pizza, white potatoes and rice. When insulin gets too high, the body gets numb to it. This is like listening to music that’s too loud without realizing it until you restart the car. Your ears become a bit deaf to the spike in volume.Same goes with sugar.MORE: 8 Sneaky Sources of SugarWhen insulin is too high, it causes our body to take the sugar we eat and store it as fat. Even worse, elevated insulin locks fat in fat cells so that you can’t use it as fuel. Consequently, when blood sugar drops, all you can use to fuel your body is more and more sugar. You crave the same carbohydrates that cause insulin to spike because it’s the only thing you can use for gas. This carbohydrate addiction has you chasing carbs for fuel, making you gain weight in the process.It’s a vicious cycle that has nothing to do with scales and has everything to do with biochemistry—namely a hormonal signal that tells us to be in fat-storing mode.The picture I like to use comes from Jonathan Bailor’s incredible YouTube video, Slim is Simple. This is a brilliant concept that explains insulin resistance.MORE: Is Your Diet Killing You?In his words, food should work like a sink.Think of a new, white porcelain sink with pristine, copper plumbing. It sparkles and shines, just waiting to do its job. So what is that?Turn on the cold water, and what happens?It drains. That’s what it’s supposed to do. How about both the hot water and the cold simultaneously? All the way? Water still goes through, right?What if you get a bucket of water and pour it in while the hot and cold are still on at full tilt, what might happen? Yeah, the level may rise a bit momentarily, but sooner or later the sink empties completely, regardless of how much you put in.Clean water drains cleanly through clean pipes. So what makes a sink not work?You guessed it: a big, nasty clog. Once you have a blockage, what happens when you pour water down the sink?MORE: Can Certain Foods Speed Up Weight Loss?Yup —it gets stuck and begins to back up. Depending on the clog, the problem might be serious or slight. Let’s say the sink is only partially blocked. As long as you adjust the flow of water to match the drainage, you’re fine. But what happens when you put too much in or pour something thick and viscous down the drain? It gets harder and harder to go down. Backed-up water makes for a dirty sink.That’s obesity in a nutshell. Clogged pipes make water rise. A clog in your sink makes you gain fat. So what’s the clog?Insulin resistance: a hormonal, biochemically driven response of the body to signal its need to store fat above anything else. You go into fat-storing mode locking your body’s ability to burn calories in favor of putting them away.This signal will not only increase your body’s ability to store fat, but it will also make you feel lethargic, achy and depressed, creating chronic under-the-surface inflammation in the body that has been linked to almost every major chronic disease of the modern generation. Obesity, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, gout, heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, schizophrenia and even cancer have all been linked to chronic, unchecked inflammation.MORE: The Anti-Inflammatory DietThe answer to this is unclogging our sinks. How do we do this? We certainly don’t do it by hyper-measuring food or counting calories. We do it best by eating more foods that clear our drain.Let’s take a look at the clog-clearers—foods that turn to sugar slowly in the body:
- Non-starchy vegetables of all colors and kinds (spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, onions and peppers). Eat these without worrying about serving size. I’m also good with periodically eating small amounts (the size of a “clawed” hand) of root veggies such as beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips, sweet potatoes and rutabaga.
- Low sugar fruits such as berries, apples, pears, tomatoes and citrus.
- High quality proteins such as grass-fed beef and other wild game; fish high in omega-3s like wild salmon, black cod and sardines; shellfish; low-sugar dairy (plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese); cage-free poultry; and omega-3 fortified eggs.
- Whole food fats such as nuts and seeds, olives and avocadoes, even high quality cheeses, especially ones made from goat and sheep’s milk.
- Beans, legumes and lentils are great high-fiber, low-carb alternatives to pasta, potatoes and rice.