Obesity is an epidemic in the modern world. Our Feasting lifestyle has proven to be very dangerous. In some wealthy countries, half of the people are obese. In these countries there are diet fads and industries making billions of dollars selling calorie restrictive meal plans, or extreme exercise plans or both. If these quick fix plans actually worked there would be very few obese people left in the world.
The problem is really pretty simple; these low calorie high cardio plans are a recipe for turning on the dreaded Famine and Fasting metabolism. The trouble begins with the excessive exercise. Historically, when we are starving we would be crawling around looking for anything to eat, not exercising like a competitive athlete. Even more troubling is the high appetite. Psychologically and physiologically, on a Famine metabolism we are driven to NOT DIE. For almost everyone I know, myself included, the constant hormonal drive to survive, the thoughts of food, the distraction of cravings almost always win out.
So, what is really going on?
To understand weight gain, weight loss, cravings and appropriate exercise you will have to get to know Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by adipose tissue (fat) and tells your brain, specifically your hypothalamus, that you have had enough to eat and you have enough energy stored as fat to survive the kind of famines you regularly experience in your life. I think of leptin as the “enough” hormone. If you have not eaten much lately your leptin levels or drop a bit, increasing your appetite.
When you stay in a feasting metabolism for a long time, your leptin levels are always high and the receptors on the hypothalamus become resistant to the message that you have had enough to eat and enough energy for later. Said another way your brain loses its sensitivity to leptin. This can eventually be misunderstood as low leptin levels and you appetite goes up and up and up.
This is very important to understand if you want to lose weight in a way that will last. If you have been overweight for a long time, a crash diet and excessive exercise will potentially help you lose some weight (some fat). The problem that most people experience is once you start eating normally you gain all of your weight back, usually plus a few pounds. It drives people crazy. So, here is the catch – you adipose tissue is actually a functioning gland. If you have convinced your, probably by accident, that you need a 15 pound adipose gland to survive it will keep making one. Every time you try the famine and fasting metabolism, especially if you add a lot of high cardio exercise, and lose your gland (fat), your instinctual metabolism will fight back as soon as it and grow a 20 pound gland. You may feel like a failure but your instinctual metabolism feels like a hero – a life saver.
There is only one answer. Forage your way to health. Eat nutrient dense foods in small amounts often. Get regular and reasonable exercise and start sleeping and resting with respect to the seasons. Winter is a time of relative hibernation unless you live at the equator. Lower your stress levels. The bummer of holistic medicine is that everything is connected. There is no quick fix for a confused metabolism.
Fasting can be healthy, once or twice a year, for a few days. Just don’t run a marathon at the same time.