Losing weight is easier (and harder) than you think
The trouble with losing weight for many folks is what they perceive as their lack of willpower. They attempt to severely reduce calories, maybe even exercise some, and then inevitably they “cheat” more and more until they just give the whole endeavor up as hopeless.
But when you think about it, why do we cheat on our diets? After all, we do want to lose the weight – you would think we would be motivated to follow our plan.
The problem is often cravings for food – cravings so powerful we can’t seem to help succumbing to them. When we do give in we assume we just have weak willpower – but there really is something else at work here.
The link between our brain, our hormones, and our eating
I am linking below to a very good article written by Brian St. Pierre, registered dietitian, performance nutrition expert, and coach at precisionnutrition.com. This comprehensive article is titled “Eating too much? You can blame your brain. How brain signaling drives what you eat. (And what to do about it).”
I think you will find this fascinating, and if you do want to lose or even maintain weight, I think this is a must-read. Here is a quote from the article which discusses some of the hormonal influences which in effect control us unwillingly:
You see, deeper brain physiology drives what, when, and how much we eat — along with its co-pilots of hormones, fatty acids, amino acids, glucose, and body fat. For the most part, our conscious selves just come along for the ride.
While you eat, your GI tract and related organs (like the pancreas) tell many areas of the brain that food is coming in. Some of these signals travel up the vagus nerve, while others enter the brain by different routes.
Some of the more important of these hormones are:
Cholecystokinin (CCK): When we eat fat and protein, the gut releases CCK, telling your brain (through the vagus nerve) to stop eating.
GLP-1 and amylin: Recent research indicates that GLP-1 may be the most unique, and important, satiation hormone. It seems to stimulate the production and release of insulin (a powerful satiation/satiety hormone itself) and slow down food moving from the stomach into the small intestine, among many other impressive mechanisms. Similarly, amylin is one of the few satiation/satiety hormones shown to actually reduce food intake.
Insulin: When we eat carbs and protein, we release insulin. This tells your brain that nutrients are coming in, and eventually tells it to stop eating.
Additionally, ghrelin and leptin are a huge hormonal influence. Grehlin is a hormone which gives us that hungry feeling, leptin on the other hand is a hormone produced in part by our body fat which tells us we have enough and keeps us from being hungry.
The problem many of us have is that as we put on more and more body fat we release more and more leptin in response, eventually becoming leptin resistant and therefore we eat way more than we should or need since there is no mechanism to turn our hunger off.
Junk food really is addictive
Processed food these days is engineered (its true -scientifically engineered and tested) to taste fantastic to us. Add to that, it is highly rewarding in terms of creating pleasure.
Add these two together and you have a combination which overwhelms our bodies natural ability to regulate food consumption. Once you break this regulation down, you are always in the mood to eat, and as with any addiction you want to bring back those good feelings again and again.
In a sense, willpower can’t even begin to compete with these powerful forces. The best way to beat this is to change your environment so these foods are not readily available. Additionally you will need to understand that as with any other addictive substance it is hard to quit cold turkey – you may need to consider change in slower steps to incrementally reduce these hormonal forces working against you.
Changes in your food choices also changes your brain signaling
The good news is that as you move toward eating more minimally processed whole foods and less processed foods, your brain will slowly regain its regulation ability over time. It is also helpful to eat slowly and mindfully when you do eat, as this will allow what satiety signaling you do have catch up to your food intake and you will feel full with less food.
Here are some other tips suggested in the article:
1. Recognize that your body is a system. Think long-term.
2. Eat mostly whole, minimally processed foods.
3. Eat enough lean protein.
4. Eat plenty of vegetables.
5. Get quality carbs and healthy fats from whole, less processed foods.
6. Consider how you eat.
7. Be flexible.
8. Be aware
I hope you take a few minutes to read the article in its entirety as I think it is truly vital information for people to help them understand how their body responds to food and controls your weight at healthy levels.
Maintaining a healthy weight is not hard once you have the habits in place to live the dietary lifestyle necessary for it. Fortunately for all of us, no willpower required!