Pauline Cox

Pauline Cox MSc – Functional Nutritionist, Author of Hungry Woman – Eating for Health, Happiness + Hormones.

Low-carb, keto, paleo, plant-based, carnivore the Mediterranean diet… the dietary options being flagged as ‘the best way to eat’ are continuously being touted as the way to lose weight and live a long and healthy life.

Having studied health, nutrition and wellbeing for over 20 years, with two bachelor’s of science, a Master’s degree and as a fellow of the National Centre of Integrative Medicine, I understand the intricacies of eating for human health… and I know that it is not always as simple as ‘eat this…avoid that!’

As the global prevalence of type 2 diabetes is set to hit 438 million by 2030, unpicking the science of what we eat and its impact on our health and longevity has never been more important.

So Do Diets Really Work?!

Diets work in so much as the foods we eat result in hormonal changes… those hormones instruct your body to burn fat or store fat. The foods we choose on a daily basis impact not only our blood sugar levels, but also our sugar cravings, energy levels, whether we store fat or burn fat… basically what you eat on a daily basis can be one of the most important decisions you make with regard to your health and wellbeing!

Eating in a way that keeps your blood sugars balanced, can promote fat burning, reduce inflammation, optimise sleep and increase energy.

Two important hormones…

Two key competing hormones produced by the pancreas determine whether we burn fat or store fat. These two hormones have an antagonistic relationship with one another, they are insulin and glucagon. Insulin slams on the breaks of fat burning, driving fat storage and preventing fat breakdown for fuel. Glucagon on the other hand, drives a process called lipolysis…or fat breakdown, breaking down stored fat and making it available for energy.

What we eat and when we eat it will determine which of these hormones is dominant… which wins out on the battle of fat-burning versus fat-storing. Insulin is produced in higher levels when we continually consume carbohydrates. That is, when we are tucking into a high sugar breakfast, followed by a mid-morning biscuit break, a baguette and crisps for lunch… and a hearty bowl of pasta and pudding for dinner. Our brain loves carb-heavy foods because it wants to help us store lots of body fat in-case we encounter times of famine. Our brain is the ultimate prepper! Eat the sweet, bready foods and get ready for the times of scarcity ahead!

Does that mean we are to avoid carb at all cost…

No. Carbs are not bad…it’s the overconsumption of carbs, the constant snacking causing our blood sugars to become consistently elevated that drives insulin levels to remain high and become the winner of the fat-storing battle.

When blood sugars levels are balanced and insulin sensitivity is high, having the occasional biscuit does no harm. It’s when our blood sugars are consistently high, causing insulin levels to creep up, that’s when the stubborn weight gain can kick in. The delicate system of insulin ushering blood sugar into the cells becomes dysfunction, which can see blood sugar levels creep up, insulin levels creep up and weight creep up!! It’s the creep effect that is so commonly experienced with age.

At the Walk Yourself Happy retreat, I have worked with the head chef to ensure not only is the food absolutely delicious, packed with nutrients and satisfying, but also promotes blood sugar balance

  • Prioritise Protein

Each meal is protein packed, ensuring you have the necessary building blocks to build important tissues such as muscle, bone, hair, nails and skin… as well as building the brain hormones that keep you happy – serotonin, and motivated – dopamine. Protein help you feel fuller for longer and significantly reduces cravings.

  • Veg Out

Vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrients. Providing essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for all of our basic needs such as making energy, calming the nervous system and allowing us to sleep, thyroid function, optimal gut health and effective bowel movements…  vegetables, when given the TLC they deserve, are absolutely delicious!

  • Fabulous Ferments

Fermented foods are receiving increasing attention for the health-giving benefits. A forkful of ferments will be offered up alongside some fascinating info about how the gut microbiome not only influences digestion, nutrient levels but also mood and even hormone balance!

  • The Sweet Stuff?

There is always room for some sweetness is our life. When it comes to diet, we need to work with our caveman brains! We are not designed for the highly sweetened, formulated foods that trigger cravings and food-addiction tendencies. From comfort eating to overcoming cravings, we won’t shun the sweet stuff, instead we will explore ways to still enjoy delicious and tasty foods that won’t send our brain into a sugar overload frenzy.

Learning about the power food has over our immediate health, including mood, sleep, energy, motivation and weight status has never been more important. Tasting and experiencing how delicious and satisfying food that don’t cause large blood sugar spikes and perpetuate sugar cravings and weight gain… is also key! Eating well is not about depriving yourself and digging deep to find will power. It’s about recognising that fighting our own physiology can result in sugar cravings and low energy… and that is when we turn back to the foods we are trying to move away from! When we are low in essential nutrients, it is SO difficult to overcome cravings. Understanding your body is THE most important way to stop blaming yourself and start enjoying the foods that will liberate you from just surviving… and take you to THRIVING!

Blog Author: Pauline Cox