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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Do You Really Get Fat? – Here is the Answer - Part IV

You’ve heard it over and over a million times…you’re eating more than you burn off


Thanks Mr. Obvious. 

So many people walk around acting like experts in the area of fat loss, from personal trainers to dieticians, to your next-door neighbor.  Their advice is always the same…cut back on what you’re eating and become more active…the catch is, as I’ve said in Part I, II and III of this series…THIS DOES NOT WORK AND IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO FAT LOSS

People who believe and propagate this nonsense demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic human physiology
.  However, many crown themselves experts simply because they read fitness magazines, watch the news and The Biggest Loser.  These sound bite experts are very dangerous.  The worst culprits are the exercise junkies who have always been “fit” (half of this is genetics) and thus feel they should advise everyone on how they should eat and work out.  You know, the type who is afraid of fat and advocates a low fat diet with lots of grains, vegetables, fruits and lean meats.  They are the same ones who you’ll see bee bopping into a Starbucks at 7am after their 5 mile run and asking for a nonfat soy latte with a banana and a bottle of juice.  Gotta load up on all that caffeine and sugar to refuel after the workout, calories in calories out!  In reality, they need the caffeine and sugar so they can continue to race through their overscheduled life that involves little or no sleep.  Unfortunately for them, and those whom they influence…this is the absolute worst type of lifestyle and eating plan they could follow.  When they hit 40 they are the ones who are the moody, unhappy, old looking, tired but wired individuals, who despite feeling miserable, think they are Heath or Helen Health Nut who know the secrets to health and longevity.  This is one type of person created by the eat less exercise more and calories in calories out myths.  The other is the one who is overwhelmed by all of this insanity and just says screw it, I’m going to eat whatever I want and enjoy my life.

Follow Me, I'm an Expert

Even with these aforementioned extremes, created by years of beating people over the head with eat less exercise more dogma, most people, even those who are overweight keep a relatively similar weight for yearsHow can this be?  Particularly, as I alluded to in a previous post, because just 20 calories too much or too little in a day can add up to a gain or loss of 2 pounds a year.  Do you really think most people can control their food intake at a margin of under 1% of their daily calorie intake over the course of many years?  Not a chance.  But this is what you would need to buy into if you believe the calories in calories out; eat less exercise more idea to be true.

You would also have to assume that what you eat and what you expend have little or no influence on each other.  This is quite foolish, as everything in your body is related…things work together in a system, not in isolation.  You eat less, your body will burn less and store more…you burn more your body will tell you to eat more and back and forth it goes…never amounting to more than a token pound or two up or pound or two down.  Clearly, it’s not as simple as cutting back your food a little and being more active.

Rather, fat loss is much more involved, as you can see with the following statement from the NIH “obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from an interaction of genotype and the environment…our understanding of how and why obesity develops is incomplete but involves the integration of social, behavioral, cultural, physiological, metabolic and genetic factors.”  After reading that statement, it kind of puts a damper on hopes for a simple straightforward fat loss solution.  Frustrating, isn’t it?  Very frustrating!  You do what the “experts” tell you and your results are nonexistent. 

The fact that it is so complicated and frustrating, in my opinion, contributes significantly to keeping the simplistic eat less exercise more calories in calories out idea alive and well in the minds of most.  It’s just easier to blame will power, blame food makers, blame technology, blame anything…rather than change a long held belief that is well established in people’s minds.

Before I explain the real cause of obesity, let me first address the whole “it’s your behavior” mindset surrounding obesity.  Many of the “experts” on obesity are psychologists and psychiatrists who’ve been putting the blame solely on human behavior for a long time. 

As an aside…does it really make sense that people trained in the ways of the mind are the “experts” on obesity?  Not to say there isn’t any psychological component to obesity, but to look at it strictly from a behavioral standpoint is quite silly when it’s clear there is a biological component as well.  You wouldn’t call your accountant when you have a plumbing issue, so why then would you look to people trained in the ways of the mind to solve a problem rooted primarily in human biology?

What Does He Know About Weight Loss?

This whole behavioral notion got started way back in the 1920’s by Louis Newburgh, who became an authority on obesity.  He never delved deeper to see what else may have been behind the issue.  Then by the 1970’s all kinds of unproven behavioral therapies (eating slowly, eating at the kitchen table etc.) began being used to supposedly make overweight people eat like lean people.  Not those these are bad things, but they aren’t fat loss solutions.

Now why is there this overwhelming urge to continually pin the cause of obesity squarely on behavior?  For one, it’s a very convenient way to perpetuate the whole calories in calories out myth.  If it really were that simple, what excuse other than behavior would there be for not eating less and exercising more?

Secondly, if they were to look at the problem from all angles they would have to admit that laying the blame on behavior and one’s character, without considering the other glaring realities, is flat wrong, and does more harm than good.  It’s not just will power and behavior…there’s human biology behind this that most of the “experts” never talk about.  No one likes to admit mistakes, particularly when they’ve been touted as facts for decades, with whole industries and billions of dollars hinging on them.  What is the motivation to step up and admit the truth?  Perhaps character.  These same “experts” who want to talk about people’s behavior and character, or lack thereof, causing them to be fat might just want to look in the mirror.  If they want to talk character, then how about bringing out the whole truth, despite the fact that it would possibly destroy their reputation, and livelihoods.  Just think about how many people are being hoodwinked into believing the calories in calories out lie…putting all their energy into something that has no merit.  When instead they could focus their energy on understanding the real causes and solutions to obesity.

This stuff is carefully regulated

The real cause of obesity centers upon fat tissue regulation.  One’s body fat is very carefully regulated and it doesn’t take much for this regulation to get out of balance and cause you to get fatter.  For an example, look no further than the differences between men and women when it comes to body fat distribution.  What has to be understood, however, is the fact that it’s not overeating that causes you to get fatter, it’s getting fatter that causes you to overeat.  You may be questioning this in your mind, likely because you’ve never heard it before.  But it doesn’t change this biological fact.  This has been demonstrated in research done over more than 80 yrs.  Think about teenagers, you wouldn’t say they grow taller because they eat too much and exercise too little.  Why then would this be an explanation for growing fat?  It wouldn’t be…it’s just you’ve been fed this line forever, so you believe it even though it’s been proven false over and over again.  If something is growing it needs more material to grow…and thus the motivation to eat more.  With a lean person, their body is programmed to burn calories in their muscle cells, whereas a fat person’s body is programmed to pull those same calories into fat cells.  The more calories going into fat cells the more the person needs to eat, because the rest of the body is starving for nutrients and energy.  Thus the drive to eat more, particularly when you try to cut back on food…because again if there is an imbalance with fat regulation those calories, no matter how few, will get pulled into the fat cells. 

Why would this happen?

Like I alluded to before, something is off with the regulation of fat tissue.  This regulation is done by hormones and enzymes, which are chemicals that tell your body what to do, and how quickly to do it.  In people who are fat, their fat cells are way too excited about getting fatter due to hormones and enzymes disproportionately working to build fat, whereas lean people’s hormones and enzymes work to burn fat.

Here’s basically how this works.

You think about eating and your body releases the hormone insulin, which is the primary regulator of fat tissue…it decides where you need to put the carbs, fat and protein you eat.  When you eat a large amount of carbohydrates, particularly quick digesting, refined ones your body must release a lot of insulin to keep blood sugar under control.  Because of this need to keep blood sugar under control your body sends the fats you eat to fat cells for later use.  Guess what?  If you eat a lot of carbs, which most people do, you’ll never get around to burning the fats and thus your fat cells become bigger and more numerous.  In fact, because you don’t need that much glucose to begin with your body has to break down and store all that sugar as fat.

Fat Regulation is a Simple Subject

Insulin regulates your fat through 2 enzymes, LPL and HSL.  LPL works to move fat into your fat cells for storage and HSL works to release fat from your fat cells for burning.  Essentially, the more insulin you have running around the more LPL will be active…hence you will be storing more fat.  The less insulin you have running around, the more HSL will be working to release fat from your fat cells for burning. 

Insulin regulation problems are the reason why diabetics get fatter independently of diet.  In fact, in a 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, type 2 diabetics on insulin gained an average of 8 pounds and 1 out of 3 gained more than 20 pounds in 3.5 years.

Of course there are other mechanisms and hormones that play a role, but insulin is the main one and the one you can actively control based on the quantity and quality of carbs you consume.  And insulin affects how the other hormones work when it comes to fat regulation.  For example, the stress hormone cortisol stimulates the fat storage enzyme LPL when insulin is high and HSL the fat burning enzyme when insulin is low.

Additionally, there are many factors which influence your insulin response to particular foods, and this varies from person to person based on genetics, age etc.  However, despite this fact, there really are actions you can take to keep your insulin levels under control, and along with it your fat tissue regulation.  This will be the topic of the 5th and final post in this series, so stay tuned for some fat loss solutions that actually work.

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