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The basics of weight loss

basics of weight loss

Want to lose weight?
Use your head!

Being overweight is the main symptom of improper eating habits. This is also the main reason for the interest in ‘diets’ – miraculous treatments that in a closed period of time would “cure” us.

As long as this or that diet works – we do not wonder why it works. However, after a few weeks every miracle cure fails and then it is usually too late to ask questions. Annoyed by failure, we wait for an ordered pizza – no longer bothering where the mistake was: Were we doing something not as we should or maybe our dietitian is a quack? 

Well, I admit that there is something in the last sentence. It contains two questions, to which the only possible answer is: YES.

I do not want to be accused of ‘hate speech’, so I explain: If your dietitian is a charlatan, then you certainly did something wrong. And he is a charlatan (!), because if he was not – he would not let you “be on a diet”.

Losing weight is too important to be left to dieters

You have to do it yourself – not by using diets, but by CHANGING your EATING HABITS.

To do this, the basics of nutrition physiology are essential. You need to acquire this knowledge yourself – only then you will be immune to stupid persuasions that the Internet is full of.

This section of ‘our VEGAN school’ is devoted to this: the basics of nutrition.

However, before we start – the most important:

To understand the essence of METABOLISM, we must realize that the human body functions through processes. It needs a continuous supply of substances that builds tissues as well as energetic substances, thanks to which its permanent reconstruction becomes possible. It is a continuous metamorphosis, thanks to which the body has the ability to react to any changes.

Why is it so important to realize this fact?
Because only thanks to this you can understand why – after two weeks of counting calories and “starving” – your organism stops losing weight. Its ability to respond to changes is the cause of ineffectiveness of all low-calorie diets!

Most diet creators mistakenly assume that the only reaction of your body to starving is the disappearance of your fatty tissue. Meanwhile, this is only true in the initial period of diet. After some time, the body simply adapts to the reduced energy supply, switching to another, economical metabolic path (i.e. the production of ketone compounds – physiological path in states of hunger).

That’s why:

If you want to lose weight,
you MUST NOT be on ANY ‘diet’

But to the point:

NUTRITIONAL SUBSTANCES can be divided into 6 groups, three of which (ie vitamins, minerals and water) create only an environment for change, so we will not bother them.

What remains?

  • carbohydrates
  • fats
  • proteins

When it comes to losing or gaining weight – carbohydrate and fat metabolism play a major role. Why? Because the mechanism of formation and disappearance of “adipose tissue” is directly (inseparably) associated with changes of two factors:

  1. the level of glucose in our blood and
  2. the level of insulin / glucagon (hormones secreted alternately into the blood by the pancreas), which depends on the level of glucose

Fluctuations in insulin/glucagon levels determine whether “adipose tissue” stores fat or gets rid of it. During periods when the insulin level is high – we gain weight, and when the insulin level drops (up to zero) and glucagon appears – we lose weight.

How it works exactly:


The amount of glucose in the blood (glycemia) – measured in the morning before breakfast, is 65-100 * mg% (mg/dL), and below this level does not decrease even during hunger. (The liver is watching over this, releasing glucose from the glycogen contained in it).

*) Sometimes, slightly different values are assumed, for example 70-105 mg/dL or 79-110 mg/dL.

After eating a meal, the level of glucose in the blood begins to grow very early (say, after just 5 minutes). The level of glucose reaches its maximum after about 30-40 min, after which it slowly begins to decrease and reaches the baseline value in 2 – 2.5 hours after a meal.

Fluctuation of glucose levels after a meal is best illustrated by the so-called “glycemic curve” (describes blood sugar change after a meal) *, which we should become familiar with.

*) “Glycemic curve” is often confused with the so-called “glucose tolerance test” (laboratory test for diagnosing diabetes). This is not the same: “Glycemic curve” is simply the general relationship between the level of glucose in the blood and the time that passed after a meal.

blood sugar change

The pancreas monitors the glucose level in blood at 10-second intervals. An increase in blood glucose results in the immediate release of insulin (pancreatic hormone), whose task is to lower the level of glucose.

Insulin acts like a key that opens cells and allows glucose to get from the blood into the tissues of the body, mainly the liver, skeletal muscles and adipose tissue.

In the liver and muscles, glucose is stored as glycogen. In adipose tissue – glucose provides alpha-glycerophosphate, thanks to which free fatty acids turn into triglycerides (simply: into fat).

basics of losing weight - insulin

As the main stimulus causing the insulin release is the level of glucose in the blood, it can be assumed that the level of insulin in the blood is proportional to the level of glucose.

However, the action of insulin is not limited to carbohydrate metabolism; insulin also stimulates lipogenesis (ie, the synthesis of triglycerides in adipose tissue).

What does all this mean?

The more glucose released into the blood after eating (ie the more “glycemic” was our meal), the more insulin will appear in the blood and the more fat we store. (Because thanks to high levels of glucose and insulin – adipose tissue cells will have a larger amount of alpha-glycerophosphate, a substrate for the production of triglycerides).

And vice versa: the less “glycemic” meal, the less fat storage.

This puts my old “Fat Thursdays” under the dirty light.

I do not know how it is in your country, but in Poland we have such a holiday: there is one Thursday in a year, which we call “fat”, during which – from morning to night – we torture our digestive tract with donuts. I used to celebrate this day, eating about 14 pieces (2.5 lbs). Tradition is tradition!

Our donuts are different from those with a hole. They resemble a crushed ball and are fried in deep lard. On average, they weigh over 2 ounces (including 1 tablespoon of hot lard in each donut) and contain ~ 300 kcal each. Throughout the day the glucose level in my veins was at its zenith. Since I had a lot of glucose, I also got a lot of insulin, so I stored a total of 14 tablespoons of lard plus carbohydrates (~ 4200 kcal).

But this is not the end. In the evening, about 2 hours after the 14th donut, for reasons unknown to me at the time, I began to feel a huge hunger. Then, not being able to look at sweets – I started hunting for meat.

And now note (!):
Adipose tissue is one in which glucose transport inside the cells occurs only in the presence of insulin.

In the absence of insulin, adipose tissue cells do not take glucose from the extracellular fluid.

Then, (i.e. in the period when the glucose level drops), another mechanism gains the advantage: a second important pancreatic hormone – glucagon – comes to the fore.

Its action is antagonistic to insulin; it causes the mobilization of energy reserves of the body, i.e. the liquefaction of glycogen stored in the liver (thanks to which the blood glucose concentration will remain at the normal level) and the breakdown of adipose tissue triglycerides – that is simply weight loss.

What happens to glucose, which arose as a result of digestion?

As we said, part of the glucose, thanks to insulin, is stored in the liver as glycogen. It makes up a maximum of 5% of the liver’s mass. If for some time (a dozen or so hours) we will not eat anything, the liver will liquefy this entire supply, and then it will start to produce glucose (eg from amino acids). This is because a constant level of glucose is needed to ensure the proper functioning of the tissues that metabolize it (mainly the central nervous system and blood cells). The glycogen stored in the liver is therefore not dangerous for us, i.e. it will never be used to produce body fat.

Glucose stored as glycogen in skeletal muscle (max 0.5% of tissue weight) is equally harmless. This glycogen is a fast energy reserve, from which the muscles draw their power in case of intense efforts. So this glucose will never return to blood and will not increase our “fat tissue”.

Only the excess of absorbed glucose is really dangerous for us, because everything that insulin can do with it is either to make it available to fat tissue or the liver. The liver will use it for the synthesis of lipoproteins (endogenous triglycerides), which will eventually also supply fatty tissue.


There is a relationship between blood glucose levels and weight gain and weight loss processes.

  • Elevated glucose results in the secretion of insulin, which allows glucose to enter the interior of cells and incorporate it into fat. The task of insulin is to store energy.
    Ultimately: we GAIN WEIGHT in all periods of time during which the glucose level is high.
  • A drop in the glucose level around the standard – results in the secretion of glucagon, which works in the opposite way to insulin: it draws energy from our own power-bank 🙂 (fat tissue), and thus liquefies fat.
    Ultimately, we LOSE WEIGHT in all periods of time, during which the glucose level is low and fluctuates around lower values

Talking about weight gain and weight loss, however, we can not stay with the scheme of a single meal; we need to look at glycemic changes throughout the day.

Ultimately: the longer – within a day – the level of sugar in our blood keeps high, the more we gain weight.

gaining weight

And vice versa: the longer – within a day – the level of sugar in our blood keeps in low registers, the more we lose weight.

losing weight

The use of Whole Food Plant Based cuisine causes that after meals the changes in blood glucose are relatively small. This does not mean, however, that we feel hungry – even the opposite (details when discussing “glycemia”). Insulin levels are also lower. And if less insulin, then less fat storage.


Ryh - cofounderIf you want to help us running this HEALTH BLOG – just visit our vegan store. Maybe you’ll like one of our bags, or maybe you’ll just recommend it to someone who loves VEGAN ART-BOHO style.


/Ryh Dziewulski/

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