The “Big Rocks” of Weight Loss

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when embarking upon any change, and lifestyle change is certainly no exception. To that end, we have borrowed a concept from business coach Steven Covey called The “Big Rocks” of Life. When trying to fit a bunch of big rocks, gravel, sand and water into a jar, he argues that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.

This little story can be applied to all aspects of life, including weight loss efforts. With so many approaches out there and so many experts offering up the latest trends, the question becomes “Where do I put my time and energy?” After all, these authorities are often contradicting each other. If they can’t even agree, how are we supposed to feel confident that we are heading down the right road?

Quinte’s Biggest Loser contestants, and Living Primal “Super Contestants,” Darren and Jenn Currie

So what are the big rocks when it comes to slimming down? Eating less? Exercising more? Low fat? High protein? Breakfast shakes?

In our opinion, keeping insulin levels low is the number one place to start for anyone seeking to lose weight. Insulin, the fat-storage hormone, is secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood sugar levels. The higher the spike in blood sugar, the more insulin that is released to drive fuel into the cells of the body. Repeated cycles of high and low blood sugar can cause metabolic disturbances over time that promote fat storage, while at the same time making it difficult (if not impossible) to access our own stored body fat as fuel. That combination spells just one outcome – weight gain.

We all know that jelly beans, candy, chocolate bars, alcohol and cheesecake are bad for our waistlines. But given our knowledge of what triggers surges in insulin, what other kinds of foods might we also want to avoid?

Wheat, rice, potatoes, corn, oats, soy, beans and lentils: yes, all agricultural foods, including most grains and legumes (carbohydrates), become sugar as a result of the digestion process. By allowing these foods to form the centrepiece of our diets, as we’re so advised by our government, we may be doing ourselves an overall disservice.

According to Dallas and Melissa Hartwig in their bestselling book It Starts With Food, “There is not a single health-promoting substance present in grains that you can’t also get from vegetables and fruit. Not a single vitamin. Not a single mineral. Not even fibre.” They go on to site the fibre content of various grains vs. vegetables and fruit to further support their statement. These types of food charts are freely available online with a basic Google search.

So our #1 big rock involves keeping our intake of carbohydrates to between 100-150 grams per day from sources like non-starchy vegetables, seasonal fruit, and maybe even the odd square of high quality dark chocolate or glass of dry red. Those with more ambitious weight loss goals can aim for 50-100 grams per day. While it is true that some cells of the body operate exclusively on carbohydrates (red blood cells, some brain and kidney cells), even 50 grams per day is generous given that the body is capable of making carbohydrate out of protein and fat. By comparison, Canada’s Food Guide recommends upwards of 300 grams per day, enough to make even the most health conscious eater store unwanted body fat.

Ensuring that just this one big rock gets into your jar at every meal can mean the difference between weight loss success and failure. Stay tuned for an update on how our Quinte’s Biggest Loser contestants held up during their first week getting acquainted with big rock #1.

For more on the carbohydrate content of food, click here.