This weeks blog is designed to help you understand what happens in our bodies when we ‘diet’ and try to lose weight – learning the science may aid/maintain your weight loss……………….so here comes the sciency bit………………!!!
Why do we get fat? And when we try to lose it why do most fail or revert back? The answer lies in a simple analogous adventure into our prehistoric past. If we look at how our caveman and women ancestors lived and survived, and how our physiology seeks to remain stable and constant, it is easy to see how diets are often unsuccessful in the long run.
When we become lean our fat is lower and subsequently less leptin is produced and sent to the brain, and more specifically the hypothalamus. When this happens the hypothalamus decreases thyroid activity, down regulating our metabolism and also sends out hormones such as ghrelin and neuropeptide Y (NPY), which make us hungry. Think about it, if we go back to our caveman, it makes sense to decrease his metabolism in famine, and increase his hunger to seek his next meal. His body wants him to get back to a body fat that will support famine or the long winter.
The opposite happens when our body fat increases. Increased body fat increases the leptin signal to the hypothalamus and to this it increases metabolism via the thyroid, and decreases hormonal signals of hunger. Although our caveman needs to have enough body fat to survive the next famine, his body also realizes he needs to be lean enough to run away from the occasional tiger
↑ Fat = ↑ Leptin = ↓ Hunger Hormones + ↑ Metabolism
Unfortunately as a species we are becoming Leptin resistant. This is due to many things such as a lethargic lifestyle, over consumption of processed food, high sugared food, chronic stress, and toxicity (alcohol/smoking) to name a few. Essentially the hypothalamus does not receive the signal despite the over abundance of fat. Luckily reversing leptin resistance can be accomplished by paying attention to the aforementioned lifestyle factors. Maintaining regular physical activity, increasing whole food consumption in contrast to processed & sugary foods, dealing with stress, decreasing alcohol consumption, and possible sources of toxicity will go a long way in dealing with leptin resistance.
So getting to our main point; why do “diets” fail? First it’s because the modern conception of diet is incorrect, and means nothing more than a way of eating or a lifestyle. Essentially the same physiological mechanism that kept our caveman at the right body fat still exists in our bodies today. When we begin to go into famine, which in modern day is cutting down our calories and/or decreasing the amount of food we eat, our bodies’ natural mechanisms sense this over time and decrease metabolism. To compound this dieters usually increase activity, and in many cases this takes the form of aerobic activity (Zumba®!). Now think about it, if our caveman were in famine would he go for a jog to expend energy, or conserve it? When we increase activity at this point our body has to release cortisol, a stress hormone that helps liberate fat, glucose, and protein from muscle to provide us with energy. The only bad thing is that this hormone also likes to deposit fat in the tummy area! While this is all happening our body loses protein, which leads to loss of muscle. To pile it on our body also begins to send out hunger signals ghrelin and NPY as it senses famine, and our stress hormones also do a great job at stimulating NPY release. NPY is an interesting hormone because it makes us crave sweet things, not so bad for our caveman who would find some berries, but now those berries have turned into chocolate!
So that’s where the common day “dieter” is left. Coping with a decreased metabolism, increased hunger for sugary food, increased stress hormones, and decreased muscle mass. Not a good situation for maintaining the possible weight loss. The truth is that it’s not about a number, it’s not about weight loss, it’s about fat loss.
It’s not about the mindset of a “diet”‘ but a change in a lifestyle. Successful and maintained fat loss is achieved slower and through making changes in lifestyle to increasing physical activity, making better food choices, decreasing stress, and being practical about what can be achieved.
When it comes to the traditional approach to fat loss, there is a lot left to be desired. Firstly we must maintain a form of aerobic fitness, this maintains muscle mass and decreases the chronic stress response. In addition to this a shopping list that includes plenty of sources of protein, fruits, vegetables, and some nuts, seeds, and healthy oils, while staying away from more processed foods found in boxes and bags will go a long way. And finally, use the SMART goal setting model to establish Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented goals. Getting social support from friends and family, as well as accountability will also better your chances of taking of the fat for good.
I hope this was enlightening or will at least save you or someone you know from falling into the traditional approach to fat loss. Until next time, keep Fit, and stay Healthy!
Share the passion
Zumba Fitness with NIKI & Team x x
This article is with thanks to Keith Cormican and is paraphrased from his article ‘Why do we get fat?’
Keith Cormican is internationally recognised as a Fitness and Wellbeing Expert and Specialist in Extreme Weight Loss. He has already been in British and American health & fitness magazines, websites, TV & radio, appearing as a fitness model & expert nutrition writer. For the past 10 years Keith has been dedicated to helping others develop practical solutions to lose weight, live well and thrive through exercise and nutrition.
Keith learned much of what he knows about the fitness industry during his time as a semi-professional athlete (cycling & martial arts), fitness model and has worked with Gold medal Olympians (2012 London Olympics) and with UK charities – “SCOPE” & “Overcoming Obesity” which aims to help to be the voice of the obese person and to assist them in finding healthy solutions.