Losing Weight (Part 4B): The Myth that You Have an Unescapable “Set” Weight
If you read my blog last week, you saw that I disagree with the NY Times article that claims that your brain forces you to return to the same weight after you have lost it. This suggests that everyone is destined to return to some “set weight” that they cannot escape from.
One of the reasons cited in the Times article is that your metabolism supposedly slows after you lose weight. But what is the meaning of a slowing metabolism? This is a cause of confusion that requires us to ask if the NY Times article is correct.
I think it is not, and this blog continues to explain why.
Metabolism has several possible meanings. First, it can be defined as the efficiency with which a person extracts energy from a unit amount of food. Even though this can vary between individuals, there is no evidence that this definition changes significantly in the same individual after losing weight.
Second, metabolism can also be defined as the amount of energy expended during a unit of time such as one day. This can be less in a person who lost weight because of lower energy expenditure for maintaining reduced body weight. But it can also be due to decreased physical activity, intentional or due to a lack of motivation caused by an imbalance of nutrients resulting from the very diet consumed to achieve the weight loss.
The article also cites that the hormone leptin, which promotes satiation, is reduced after losing weight. This makes people hungry all the time and they begin eating too much (aka, overeating). But the fact is, leptin released by fat cells can both enhance or inhibit food intake, depending on the sufficiency of fat reserves in the body.
However, the supposed pivotal role of leptin in food intake leading to excess weight gain is questionable for the following reasons. The majority of overweight people have normal leptin function. When it comes to food intake, there is no evidence of fluctuation of leptin level in tandem with hunger and satiation sensations, regardless of one’s weight. The role of leptin is complimentary to that of insulin from the pancreas, ghrelin from the stomach and other molecules from the intestine. It varies with the amount of stored fat.
Reconnecting with your “authentic” weight
My theory differs from the experts in that I am not suggesting that your brain forces you to return to unhealthy levels of weight. I disagree with the experts cited in the article who would have us convinced that the brain’s weight-regulation system actually sets the correct weight for you, whether or not you like it. They suggest you are helpless because that weight is in your brain and you can’t (or even shouldn’t bother to) fight it.
I do believe that the brain knows what our “authentic” weight should be. Your authentic body weight is a measure of the total mass of all components of your body, including bone, muscle, organs, blood, fat, and water. The role of each of these components of the body in contributing to one’s weight differs in every individual in the world. You could be tall and small boned with lots of muscle, or short and big boned with regular muscle—and weigh the same.
Only you can intuitively know your authentic weight based on what your brain assesses. If you get in touch with that, you can structure your eating habits to remain at that weight.
The above questions and observations suggest to me that weight gain and the storage of fat are an incidental act, most likely due to the absorption of glucose, amino acid or fatty acid in excess of one’s immediate needs. In other words, people gain weight because they are overconsuming food, especially foods that lead to high blood glucose levels.
The easiest and the fastest way to lose weight is by avoiding the biggest contributor of raw material for fat in the modern day diet, namely, grains (wheat, oats, barley, rice, and corn) and grain-flour products. Focus your diet on eating fresh vegetables, whole fruit (not juices), legumes such as lentils and beans, meat, fish, and nuts and seeds. Having accomplished weight loss, it is critical to maintain this diet, as the return to eating grains is the trigger for regaining weight.
In my view, experts in nutrition and dietary practices who recommend consumption of whole grain are misguiding you. The attachment of the bran to the grain kernel does not confer some magical power on the grain. The bran is simply detached in the intestine while grains are digested into glucose. The fact is, while 100 grams of refined rice contains 80 grams of carbohydrates, the same amount of brown rice contains 77 grams, nearly the same.
Avoid the trend to blend, puree, liquefy your foods, as in making smoothies or blends of vegetables as your meal. Chewing food with your teeth before swallowing is the way for your brain to register the act of eating. Chewing allows your taste and smell receptors to notify your brain of the nutrients in the food, and allow you to savor the flavors and enjoy the meal. Chewing also helps your brain measure the amount the food you are consuming, and along with signals from the blood and intestines, your brain will send out the ‘satiation” signal telling you to stop eating.
When you eat, also do not focus your attention elsewhere, such as attending a meeting or watching TV or a ballgame. Distraction is likely to interfere with your brain’s conscious natural control mechanisms to stop eating when satisfied.
Finally, do not lose sight on the main objective of avoiding unneeded weight: to decrease the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart attack, stroke, and cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and endometrium. Regardless of one’s classification based on weight table or BMI chart, what is floating in the blood such as elevated levels of fatty acids, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and glucose cause these complications. For example, elevated levels of fatty acid can cause muscles to switch from glucose to fatty acid to generate energy, leaving glucose in the blood, leading to the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. High levels of triglyceride and LDL cholesterol can stick to the inside of arterial wall blocking blood flow leading to heart attack and stroke. Elevation of glucose can feed cancer cells that otherwise would not have enough fuel to grow faster than the immune system can destroy.
The solution for unneeded weight gain is to reeducate yourself how to eat: eat what you enjoy when you are hungry, eat only foods that you can chew, chew thoroughly and, most importantly, concentrate on the enjoyment so that you can stop eating when it subsides rather than when you feel full in your stomach.
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