The following quote does not mean what you will at first think that it means.
My first professional research position was in a basic science laboratory conducting experiments with mice. Soon after starting this work, I became amazed by the beauty and complexity of the systems that control body weight. If we fasted a mouse for a few days, it would, of course, lose weight. Then, when given free access to food, the animal ate voraciously until it had regained all of the lost weight— no more, no less. The opposite was also true. Force-feeding could temporarily make a mouse fat, but afterward it would avoid food until its weight dropped back to normal. Based on these and other experiments, it seemed as if an animal’s body knew precisely what weight it wanted to be, automatically altering food intake and metabolism to reach a sort of internal set point, like a thermostat that keeps a room at just the right temperature.
Ludwig, David (2016-01-05). Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently (p. 4). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.
If you are over your desired weight you may read the passage above and think that I, and the author, are saying that you may as well get used to being fat, that there is nothing you can do about it. In fact, if you have ever tried to lose weight by changing your diet and exercise habits you may have already began to suspect that you cannot change your weight this way. All of your life you have heard that if you reduce the number of calories you consume, or if you increase the number of calories you burn, that by simple physics you will lose weight. This has never been true.
Within a week, I felt an astonishing improvement in energy and vitality, and a robust sense of well-being that lasted throughout the day— as if some previously unknown but important metabolic switch had finally been flipped on. Four months later, I had lost 20 pounds and needed a new wardrobe two pants sizes smaller. Most remarkably, all this had occurred with no hunger and no carbohydrate cravings. Previously, I would be famished by late afternoon, and usually staved off hunger in the lab with a four p.m. break for a carb-laden vanilla scone from the local bakery. But with my new diet, I felt full for hours after eating. For the first time in my life, I completely lost interest in bread, which used to accompany my every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And when it was time for a meal, I’d experience a pleasant, stimulating interest in food, entirely different from feeling starved and in desperate need of calories.
Ludwig, David (2016-01-05). Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently (p. 7). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Re-read that last passage…if this sounds like the experience that you get when you are trying to get control of your expanding waistline, then you are already doing it right. Share with us in the comments section below how you are doing it. However, if you are like 100% of the people that are on traditional ‘starvation’ diets, then you need to read on. If you are denying yourself any nutrient, if you are counting calories, if you are working an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill per day for the purpose of losing body fat then you are using outdated instructions on how to operate the human body.
Too Many Calories in the Body, But Too Few in the Right Place
This situation is similar to edema, a condition in which fluid leaks out of the blood vessels and accumulates elsewhere in the body (for example, in the legs), causing swelling. Despite having too much water in the body, people with edema may experience unquenchable thirst, because there’s not enough water in the blood, where it’s needed. Telling people with edema to drink less is no more effective than food restriction for weight loss, because it ignores the underlying cause. Insulin (and other influences, as we’ll discuss later) has programmed fat cells into calorie-storage overdrive. People chronically overeat because they’re trying to keep enough calories in the blood to feed the brain, compensating for those being siphoned off by overstimulated fat cells. But until the underlying problem is addressed, it’s a never-ending battle, and those extra calories cause even more weight gain. The fundamental problem is one of distribution: not too many calories, but too few in the right place. Though we think of obesity as a condition of excess, it’s actually a matter of starvation to the body!
Ludwig, David (2016-01-05). Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently (p. 44). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.
It is possible to be obese, packing around more than enough stored energy to last for many months yet to feel famished after missing a small percentage of the normal daily calorie intake. There is a lot to take in to be able to understand why this is so, but it basically comes down to knowing what causes hunger. The same thing that stores fat causes you to feel hungry, insulin. The key to understanding why you can’t lose weight long term is to understand how to control insulin production in your body.
Basically, insulin is released into the blood by the pancreas if the glucose in the blood rises above the safe zone set point. Too much glucose in the blood is deadly, too little glucose in the blood can be deadly. Eating highly processed foods and sugars leads to an immediate spike in glucose, thus a corresponding spike in glucose-lowering insulin. An hour after eating a highly processed, carbohydrate rich meal the blood glucose level, AND the blood lipid (fatty acids–another potential source of energy for all body functions) will have fallen dangerously low. In some cases, if the body does not get more food at this time then there is a true metabolic crisis, sweating, shakes, as the brain releases cortisol and adrenaline to free liver fats for immediate brain energy needs. This happens despite a person being hundreds of pounds over weight, and it happens because the insulin levels went too high in response to a blood glucose spike.
The trick to getting control of metabolism is to get control of insulin production. How? Read more tomorrow….