WHY FAT CAN BE FATAL
Kick-starting your body into burning excess weight will bring instant life-changing benefits
‘YOU CAN’T BE TOO OBSESSIVE. IT’S NORMAL TO DIP IN AND OUT OR TO GAIN ONE OR TWO KILOS’
LOSING WEIGHT CAN HELP YOU LIVE LONGER
Fat is much more than an aesthetic issue – it affects many aspects of our health and wellbeing, and carrying too much of it can ultimately shorten our lives, explains Gabriela. ‘It’s never the weight alone that’s the concern – it’s what it can lead to.’
Decades of research has shown that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (resulting in heart attacks and strokes), certain types of cancer, and issues as wide-ranging as infertility, asthma and psoriasis.
One of the most well-established links between obesity and ill health is the role it plays in diabetes, says Gabriela. Recent research has shown that fat tissue is more than just a storage system; it releases inflammatory proteins which can trigger changes in our metabolism and increase insulin resistance – leading to such conditions as type 2 diabetes (which occurs when your cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates how your body uses sugar and fat). Over time, the consistently high level of sugar circulating in your blood can lead to complications with your heart, eyes, kidneys and feet.
‘When you lose the excess weight, you lower your risk of all these illnesses – and ultimately, premature death,’ says Gabriela. There are other benefits, too. ‘You can also improve your energy levels and quality of sleep.’
WHY INFLAMMATION IS THE BIGGEST RISK TO YOUR HEALTH
Excess fat can cause inflammation, which can set off a domino effect of damaging changes throughout the body. Inflammation is part of our body’s immune response, bringing blood cells to attack infection or heal injuries. But when it becomes chronic, as it can when we are carrying too much weight, it has a host of negative effects.
‘This sort of inflammation is a risk factor for all sorts of diseases – not just diabetes but also hardening of the arteries, stroke, skin conditions, depression and cancer,’ explains Gabriela. But losing weight – reducing the amount of fat tissue – can reverse inflammation as well as the risks it can pose.
‘Although our genes can make some of us more prone to weight gain than others, ultimately, we can take control of our diets and lifestyles and effect the necessary changes,’ she says.
The food choices we make can also contribute to inflammation – or combat it, says Gabriela. She recommends avoiding added sugar and refined carbohydrates, which provoke inflammation by sending blood sugar soaring, and to instead eat more anti-inflammatory foods. ‘These include oily fish, nuts and seeds – the omega-3 fatty acids in these have been demonstrated to reduce the production of inflammatory markers in the body,’ Gabriela says. She also advocates eating ‘dark leafy greens including kale and sprouts, as well as purple foods such as blackberries and blueberries’, as these all contain a variety of chemicals, such as polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins that are linked to reduced inflammation.
She’s also a huge fan of turmeric, which you can find in many curry sauces or as a standalone supplement, because it contains curcumin – said to be very anti-inflammatory. ‘There’s also evidence it may alter gut microbial composition; having healthier gut bacteria is also linked with lower levels of inflammation and good weight management.’
HOW TO BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
‘Our blood-sugar level dictates how hungry we feel, as well as how tired or energetic,’ says Gabriela. ‘If you have low energy, if you can’t sleep, if you have cravings, if you struggle to lose weight – you need to balance your blood sugar.’
Blood sugar is produced when we break down the sugar from food we have eaten to provide an energy source for our cells. Sugary foods and simple carbohydrates such as white pasta are broken down quickly and absorbed rapidly, causing a quicker, higher rise in blood-sugar levels than a complex, high-fibre carbohydrate such as a sweet potato, or a protein (such as cheese or meat). In response to a rise in blood sugar, insulin is released.
‘Insulin is like a taxi: it takes the sugar into our cells, where it is stored,’ explains
Gabriela. ‘This prevents blood-sugar levels from getting too high. But when we eat lots of simple carbohydrates, the pancreas releases lots of insulin.
‘This not only promotes storage of blood sugars as body fat, but it also tells our body that there is plenty of energy available, and that it should not burn any fat.’
The key is to stabilise blood-sugar levels, says Gabriela, which means ‘we won’t produce too much insulin and will allow our body to utilise our stored energy instead – the body fat.’
THE POWER OF PROTEIN
The best way to balance blood sugar is by eating complex rather than simple carbohydrates – rye bread over white, for instance – but, crucially, Gabriela says you should always balance this intake with protein.
‘If you combine protein and carbohydrate, it takes longer to digest and sugars are released much more slowly, meaning there is less of a spike in blood sugar or insulin. So never have toast plain or just with butter or Marmite – have it with cheese or eggs. There is nothing wrong with big snacks as long as the carbs are matched with protein.
‘My ideal snack in the afternoon is oatcakes with hummus or some nice toasted dark rye bread or pumpernickel bread with loads of turkey or ham on it.
‘Within a day you’ll find your energy levels have improved. It’s quite amazing for someone who was always exhausted by mid-afternoon and relied on that sugary crutch of a cake and a coffee.’
For more information, visit Gabriela’s website gpnutrition.com
We strongly advise consulting your doctor before embarking on any diet plan. You should also discuss your medication if necessary. The eating plan is not suitable if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or underweight.
‘IF YOU HAVE LOW ENERGY, CAN’T SLEEP, HAVE CRAVINGS, STRUGGLE TO LOSE WEIGHT – YOU NEED TO BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR’