Gene eating: the truth about diets

On October 19th, Giles Yeo, a Professor of Cambridge University who specialises in the science of diets and weight loss, presented his research in a talk at the Forum. The delivery of which, as well as being informative, was funny and engaging. He broke his talk down into six truths:  

The first truth: it’s not supposed to be easy. If someone is selling you an easy simple way to lose 10 pounds in a week – they’re lying. Weight loss is difficult and for some, their genetics make it even harder. In fact, our body weight can be linked by up to 70% to genetics. Some people’s brains are more sensitive to the signals from food which means they sense less calories being taken in and are driven to eat more. These people have a predisposition to hunger. 

The second truth: eat a little less of everything. Many diets tell you to cut out entire food groups: don’t. Too much of anything is bad, and too little of anything is as well.  

The third truth: if food takes longer to digest, it makes you feel fuller. Proteins and complex whole grains take longer to digest and release energy more evenly; filling you up until your next meal.  

The fourth truth: don’t blindly count calories. Calories should be treated more as a rough guideline than a blind truth. Some foods are more calorically unavailable than others. Sugar is very calorically available, sweetcorn: not so much. 

The fifth truth: eat more unsaturated fats. Fat doesn’t equal bad. There is actually a link between eating unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts, to lower mortality. 

Finally, truth number six: Don’t fear food. We need to learn to love food again. We need it to live. Find the foods that work for you, and just try to eat slightly less of them than you would like.  

So, what was the answer? What is the ultimate diet that we can all go on and achieve the body of our dreams forever? Well unfortunately, there isn’t one. As Yeo said, our bodies are the result of thousands of micro-decisions we have made over the last couple of years. A diet may make your body smaller in the short term, but as soon as you go off it you will most likely gain the weight back. Learn more about your food and what works for you, and try to be as healthy as you can, while still enjoying the food you’re eating. 

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Jess Scragg

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May 2022
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