Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Dieting and deprivation is believed to be an effective way to lose weight. Eat less and lose weight seems logical to me. It stands to reason, if we put less food in our mouth that the body will have to go to our fat stores for the deficit of calories needed for energy. Is reducing our daily caloric intake and missing meals working? Is it possible we have this all wrong? I wonder if the 70% of overweight adults and the 30% of overweight children in America today is an indicator that we do.
Many things contribute to our enormous percentage of overweight population in the U.S. Scientific research shows that one definite contributor is constant dieting. The average adult will go on four diets a year starting with their New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. One-half of New Year’s Resolutions are broken by February which naturally sets up for another start date. Then, the cycle repeats itself throughout the year. This need to lose weight has created hundreds of diet plans with all the diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, meal replacements and calorie tracking apps to go with them. The weight loss industry as a whole is a 65 billion dollar empire. With all this money being spent and everyone on a diet, why are some many still overweight?
One major thing that we have to get our heads around is the intelligence of the body. It has a mind of its own and no matter if we understand its ways or not, it will always run the show. It really makes sense to study the body’s operating systems and work with it, not against it.
So, here we go…this is what the body thinks about dieting and deprivation:
When we restrict calories, we start a chain of events that becomes a set up for a failure from the start. The body’s software is pre-programmed. When we reduce our calories and/or miss meals, the body’s alarm system for starvation immediately goes off triggering compensatory mechanisms for survival.
Emergency Response Number One: The brain slows the metabolism to conserve energy.
Our brain doesn’t care that we are trying to lose weight so we look good in our swimsuit on our Florida vacation. It has a job to do and that job, first and foremost, is to keep us alive. So, first it turns down the burners.
Emergency Response Number Two: The brain increases the appetite to try to force us to eat
Have you ever just started a diet to get offered so many opportunities for free food and beverages? Isn’t it crazy how that happens. Have you noticed? I have never been offered more ‘free stuff’ than when I just started a diet. I’m not kidding! I’m not sure if our brains are that powerful that they create these opportunities; but, something extraordinary is happening for sure. So, if you have the will power to endure all the ‘free stuff’ coming your way to try to get you to eat; then, the body will have to resort to the third emergency procedure.
Emergency Response Number Three: The brain messages the body to breakdown and burn muscle for energy.
Now, why would the body burn muscle for energy? Why wouldn’t it just burn the fat like we want it to? Why can’t it just comply with our wishes? Well, guess what…it’s not good news. That fat you are trying to let go now became the body’s prize possession. All the body cares about at this juncture is the oncoming famine that it perceives as imminent. Fat is what the body stores for famine. Now, we have engaged the body in a game of tug-of-war over our fat. As we are trying to lose fat, the body is trying to store it. Crazy! Now we are actually fighting with our ourselves over a fat molecule.
Emergency Response Number Four: The brain alerts the bodily systems to not forget that this emergency occurred and prepare for all future emergencies of famine.
The breakdown of muscle and protection of fat will cause the body’s muscle-to-fat ratios to shift. When we have a breakdown and binge, which most will eventually give in and do, the body will be grabbing all the calories it can for fat storage. Remember, its preparation for the coming famine has been activated. So you can see, setting off all these triggers will lead down a path of all out war with the body’s built-in survival mechanisms. And, guess who is going to win this war? That’s right…we are doomed! Even if we do lose weight, for most of us it will be temporary. When we begin to eat again, our body will be making all the fat it can in an effort to prepare in case this shortage happens again. So, next round of dieting results in needing less calories even to maintain what we had before. Have you ever heard someone say,“I’m overweight and I’m not even eating that much”? This can absolutely be true if they have their starvation systems triggered. Their metabolism is now slowed, they need less calories than before and everything is getting converted to fat.
If diets don’t work…what does? How can we send comforting messages to our brains that there is no famine or shortage in sight. How do we get the body to let go of its prize possession…fat? There is a way with lasting results.
The Brain Girl
Author/Certified Health & Lifestyle Coach