How Not To Lose Weight
The standard advice for people looking to lose weight is to burn more calories and consume less. Seems logical. Unfortunately, it is absolutely wrong!
Let me explain the science of why this is as simply as I can. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells and is the master hormone in charge of keeping you from starving to death by monitoring how much body fat you have in reserve. Leptin is in direct communication with the hypothalamus, which controls body fat storage and our metabolism. When we have sufficient fat stores, leptin signals the hypothalamus that everything is ok and as a result, the hypothalamus keeps our metabolism humming along quite nicely. It also keeps our appetites at bay since there is no need to store any additional fat.
As primitive creatures, we also have a built-in starvation defense mechanism controlled by our subconscious. Now, you may think that all you need is more willpower to beat this system, but that won’t work—you can never beat this system! Something really important to remember is that our brains have NO idea what our bodies look like in a bathing suit or what we want to look like. All it cares about is our survival by way of ensuring we have enough body-fat on hand to make it through a famine.
When the survival mechanism kicks in, the hypothalamus signals the thyroid gland (the metabolic control center) to turn the metabolism way down to conserve energy. As this happens, appetite also increases to motivate us to search for more food to replenish their fat stores. Makes sense, right?
Here’s where the body is really smart. Once the “famine” is over, the body immediately starts to plan for the next one. To do this, the body would increase its fat backup storage even more, so that when the next famine came, it was more than prepared!
Could this be why 95% of dieters regain all the weight they lost plus more???
So back to our original question, does exercising more and eating less make sense?
Before you answer, remember the four things that happen during famine (reduced calories):
1. Survival mechanism activated due to low leptin levels
2. Metabolism slows down
3. Appetite increases
4. Body stores even more backup fat
Wouldn’t a low-calorie diet with the addition of calorie burning exercise be the same thing as famine? It sure is; this is exactly what happens when someone tries to apply this strategy to weight loss.
Like I said earlier, your body has no idea what you look like, it only knows to kick in the survival mechanism when calories are too low. So if you are someone who has experienced more weight gain after trying a “diet” this is why. The bad news is, the more times you try these different starvation diets, the more the survival mechanism kicks in.
Now you might ask, wouldn’t overweight and obese people secrete a lot of leptin so they can maintain a reduced calorie diet until fat stores are normal? Great question. However, the problem in these situations—typically due to poor nutritional habits—is that the hypothalamus has become leptin resistant and believes that the person doesn’t have much body fat. Remember, the brain has no idea what you look like. Therefore, the brain is still sending out signals to slow down the metabolism and increase hunger.
The good news is, in many cases, this can be fixed with a proper nutrition and exercise program. Although there is no one-size-fits-all program, here are some things to try:
1) Have your body fat percentage measured and start with the following guidelines to determine an approximate calorie intake:
CURRENT BODY FAT / CALORIC INTAKE
6%-12% = 17cal per pound of Lean Body Mass (LBM)
12.1%-15% = 16cal per pound of LBM
15.1%-19% = 15cal per pound of LBM
19.1%-22% = 14cal per pound of LBM
22.1% or above = 13cal per pound of LBM
2) Change your eating habits. Along with consuming the proper amount of calories, avoid all processed, refined foods and sugars and replace with natural foods. In other words, eat like a caveman or woman—not necessarily paleo, because you need fruits and vegetables, too. This will give your body a chance to stabilize your insulin and leptin levels allowing the body to become more sensitive to these hormones instead of resistant. You will also feel full much longer!
3) Weight Train 2 – 3 times per week for at least 20 -30 minutes. Weight training in combination with proper nutrition as stated above is a perfect way to increase your lean body mass which can lead to better utilization of insulin and leptin.
I hope this strategy makes more sense and gives you a better understanding of how the survival mechanism works. Obviously, I’m over simplifying a very complicated subject but my goal is to get you thinking about weight loss differently. Killing yourself in the
gym and starving is not a good strategy. Sound nutrition and moderate weight training is.
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