Say what? Over 60% of people with SCI are overweight and this increase in weight is strongly correlated with the development of other health conditions such as, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When most of us think about losing weight and unwanted fat, we think less is more: less calories, fewer meals and smaller portion sizes. While healthy weight loss is indeed about eating the right kinds of foods and in the right amounts, it’s also greatly affected by the balance and signaling of hormones, such as insulin and glucagon.
Eating a diet too high in processed carbohydrates and simple
sugars (refined sugar/ flour, white bread/ pasta/ rice, pop, cakes, cookies, donuts, etc.) significantly affects our insulin. These foods are very quickly digested and absorbed into our blood causing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. In response to this increase in blood sugar, our pancreas secretes the hormone insulin in order to transport the sugar from our blood into our cells to be utilized as fuel. However, when diets primarily consist of simple sugars, the pancreas has to continually pump out insulin. High insulin levels can not only lead to cells becoming insulin resistant, but it also sends messages to the body to store more fat.
Many people try to lose fat by skipping meals and/or drastically reducing calories. However, when you skip meals or consume too few calories, your body releases another hormone called glucagon, which causes muscle loss. Glucagon sends a message to the body to start breaking down muscle protein so it can be converted into energy. So the weight you will be losing by depriving yourself of food is good muscle, not fat – and those of us with SCI need to maintain whatever muscle we have.
There is a healthy way to lose weight, reduce fat while maintaining muscle and you don’t have to starve yourself to do it. The trick is to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels by eating more meals! That’s right- eating more meals can lead to less weight. Consuming 4-5 small meals a day, consisting of low glycemic foods (eg. proteins and complex carbohydrates - fruits, vegetables whole grains and legumes) is all you have to do - see attached eating schedule. The added benefits of eating this way is it will help give you more sustained energy levels throughout the day and improve your bowel function.
This edition’s low glycemic recipe is provided by a fabulous Canadian chef named, Cory Parsons, who sustained a C6 quadriplegia 12 years ago in a diving accident. Cory recently published his first cook book entitled Cooking With Cory, which I highly recommend. Cooking With Cory can be purchased at Chapters, Costco or online at www.coryparsons.com