You Were Never Meant To Be Fat
It was not your destiny, it’s not in the stars, it’s not what or who you were meant to be.
You were not meant to be fat. Being fat has nothing to do with self-discipline, willpower or any other type of magical thinking. It has to do with physiology and understanding where things go awry. Once you understand some basic principles, you can use that knowledge for lasting weight loss. Weight gain is not your fault. It is more like a slow-moving trainwreck of hormone imbalance coupled with terrible advice from well-meaning people.
In reality, your body was engineered to be slim, fit and healthy. And guess what? That slim, fit, healthy person still exists and is waiting to emerge from hiding. With a rebalancing of hormones and some solid, science-backed guidance, you can lose weight.
There are effective strategies and tools at your disposal. I’m not talking about endless exercising and cutting calories. I’m not talking about being hungry, cold and tired while you barely lose weight. I’m not talking about counting points or cutting out fat. These things can be initially effective for many people. However, the weight loss results rarely last and who wants to suffer while trying to lose weight? Sounds like a recipe for failure and it almost always is.
Why Do Weight Loss Efforts Fail?
When you use short-term strategies for weight loss, you are working against your deepest physiological and ancestral tendencies. There is no amount of sheer willpower that will ever win against the screaming of your primal hormones. Your body’s drive to store energy is deep, abiding and cannot be thwarted by so called “self-discipline”. However, these tendencies can be manipulated so the body’s innate drive to store fat and energy are used to your advantage. When your physiological drive to eat is skillfully mastered, hunger and cravings abate and food choices are made from a place of satiety, not hunger.
The Goal of The Primitive Body: Store Energy
You were not meant to be fat, but your body was programmed to be very efficient at storing energy. This is basic human physiology. Store calories for later when food runs out. Problem is, in the modern era food never runs out. Scientist refer to the phenomenon of obesity and weight gain as a “mismatch disease”. Essentially, you are living in a modern world with primitive genes. Since we cannot go back in time and live like our ancestors, fighting against modern life is not the answer. But if we understand our physiology in the modern context, we can solve the problem.
The Problem With Modern Living: Too Much Food Abundance Coupled With Bad Advice
Do these statements sound familiar?
- You need to eat breakfast as soon as you wake up.
- You need to snack every 3-4 hours to maintain a healthy blood sugar.
- If you don’t snack your metabolism will slow down.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
- Fruit sugar is healthy.
- Fat is bad and will clog your arteries.
- Calories in, Calories out!
- You just need to exercise and you will lose weight.
And then come these beauties, often said by well-meaning people.
- You just need more motivation.
- You need to be willing to change
- You need to have more self-discipline.
- You’ll feel better once you start a program.
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
These statements are all nonsense to some degree or another when it comes to weight loss. Even if there is truth to some of these statements, they need some context. Badly. People walk around believing these things, buying into the nonsense their doctor tells them about calories in, calories out. The most devastating part of this terrible advice is that it leads people to blame themselves.
People walk around feeling ashamed because they cannot seem to will themselves to eat less and exercise more. Like I said earlier, it is not about will, it is not about moral failure or laziness or sloth or any number of nonsense “character failings”. The failure of dietary programs is a steady dose of hormone imbalance coupled with very bad advice from mostly well-meaning people.
Insulin: Your Body’s Premier Fat Storage Hormone
Fat cells don’t know how many calories you just ate. All they know is that they need to either store fat or they need to release fat. Period. They are told to store or release fat by hormonal regulation. Namely, insulin. This leads us to the very simple answer of how to lose weight. If you understand and control insulin, you can then control whether you store or burn fat and whether or not you lose or gain weight. It really is that easy. Now, putting this principle into action is where things get a little more complex. But like any learning curve, once you’ve got the basic principles down, things get a lot easier.
Hacking Insulin: Strategies For Lasting Weight Loss
To lose weight the first thing we do is reduce the body’s exposure to insulin. We do this using two methods- lowering carbohydrate consumption and gradually restricting eating times through intermittent fasting.
Insulin is a hormone. Most hormones work in episodic doses. Meaning, they are secreted in bursts. When given the appropriate feedback, they secrete into the bloodstream and do their work. Until they are needed again, they stay quiet. Insulin is stimulated by the presence of glucose in the bloodstream. Carbohydrates turn into glucose in the bloodstream. Stop eating carbs and refined sugars and you will stop stimulating insulin. You stop running insulin, you start burning fat.
The state of near-constant insulin production is called, “hyperinsulinemia” which translates as “too much insulin in the bloodstream.” This is the root cause of type 2 diabetes. In ancient times when we evolved as omnivores, we did not have a constant stream of processed carbohydrates. Even if a culture lived off of carbohydrate as a primary fuel source, they were only eating once or twice a day. They still lived a life where insulin was episodic, not constant.
If you stimulate insulin production all day long by eating carbs at every meal, you are putting strain on the body’s ability to deal with that hormone. The body will attempt to correct the problem by becoming insulin-resistant. This is what causes diabetes.
A recent study done by Virta Health found that a low-carb, high fat diet reversed type 2 diabetes in a majority of patients within one year. The reason they were able to reverse diabetes is because they stopped hyperinsulinemia by giving patients a diet that was low in carbohydrate and higher in healthy fat and moderate in protein.
Never-ending Fat Storage
When insulin production is strained due to constant signaling from carbohydrate consumption, the body is thrown into a state of near-constant fat storage. Over time, the fat cells get larger and larger. The person gets fatter and fatter. There is glucose everywhere because the cells are becoming insulin-resistant. The person keeps gaining weight and despite weight loss efforts, they often fail. Failure is because fat cells cannot release energy in the face of insulin but also because hunger remains persistent.
Persistent Hunger Is For Sugar Burners
Hyperinsulinemia also causes the body to crave sugar. When glucose dips, the body will start to send signals of hunger that can include fatigue, shakiness, carbohydrate cravings, foggy thinking, the list goes on. The reason for this state of unreasonable hunger is because the body is not fat-adapted. In other words, your body is so used to burning glucose due to a steady stream of carbohydrates, that it cannot efficiently switch over to fat-burning.
The state of intense, unmitigated, cycling patterns of hunger is a major cause of failure for many people who are trying to lose weight. They get hungry often, they eat more food at earlier intervals and they keep the carb-glucose-insulin cycle going and going. They see their weight loss attempts fail and their confidence plummets.
Becoming an efficient fat-burner changes the hunger cycle. Dips in glucose do not prompt the body to become irrationally hungry. When the body becomes “fat-adapted”, the energy reservoir is easily accessed. The mitochondria of the cells make an easy shift into burning fat as fuel.
Fat-adapted individuals still feel hunger of course, but it does not dominate their experience. Hunger happens less often and becomes a manageable sensation instead of an immediate and irrepressible urge to obtain more fuel.
Its Not About Willpower
This is where we talk about willpower. You don’t need a lot of willpower if you simply aren’t hungry. You don’t need “self-discipline” if your hormones are in balance, if your body is calm and capable of fueling itself efficiently from your own fat cells. Many fat-adapted individuals state that they can go many hours and sometimes days without feeling intense hunger. This is a normal physiological mechanism.
The human body was not meant to wither away if a meal was missed. The human body is actually built for periods of fasting. During ancient or primal times, hunters did not drag themselves into the bush with “low blood sugar” feeling hunger, fatigued and light-headed while they searched for food. They were fat-adapted. Their sensory experience was actually heightened. They experienced a focused mind, sharp thinking and agile reflexes. They could survive days, sometimes weeks without a lot of food.
Fasting: Periods of Low Insulin, Periods of Fat-Burning
Fasting is the state of not eating. Anytime you are not eating, you are fasting. The human body is built to fast. For most of human existence, we experienced times of low food availability. We had seasons of abundance and seasons of scarcity.
The use of fasting in a modern context is the controlled timing of eating. Intermittent fasting is a great place to start. This is when you control eating times in a day. For instance, you may decide to skip breakfast and only eat between 11am-7pm. This is an 8-hour eating window, the rest of the time you are fat-burning. You can play with eating windows. Some people gradually shrink their eating window down to 6 or 4-hours. In this case, they may eat only between Noon-6pm or 1pm-5pm.
The beauty of intermittent fasting is you can play with eating windows and see what works best for you. Say you want to fast, but you enjoy eating dinner with your family or friends. You can fast all day and then eat a regular meal with everyone.
Becoming fat-adapted first by eating a low-carb diet for 3-6 weeks before you try fasting is ideal. When you are fat-adapted, fasting almost becomes a natural part of the way you eat. This is because hunger and cravings no longer dominate your experience, so you may find yourself unintentionally going longer and longer periods of time without thinking about food and without eating.
Fasting: Give Insulin Some Time Off
Fasting is also a time where insulin is off the clock. Your body can unlock fat stores because insulin is quiet. Your body can go into repair mode. Many people also find that fasting is a time to be liberated from eating. Most people are either eating or trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from. This is time-consuming and distracting. One of the best things about being fat-adapted and fasting is the long stretches of time you can focus on daily tasks or enjoyment without being hindered by hunger or food preparation.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the take-home is that you were never meant to be fat. Most people are overweight due to an imbalance of hormones coupled with very bad advice from various sources- doctors, family members, friends and media.
For many years, we have been told that we must eat constantly, snack and keep our blood sugar “stable”. We have been told that we just needed to burn more calories than we eat in order to lose weight. We have been told that if you can’t lose weight, you just don’t have enough willpower or discipline. This faulty thinking has gotten us into a lot of trouble evidenced by the epidemic of obesity and diabetes that is now rampant across the globe.
The fact is, the human body has mechanisms in place that favor fat-burning and times of restricted food consumption. Your body is built for this. The first step toward truth is to understand basic human physiology, how hunger occurs and how fat is stored. We were built to be lean, strong, fit and sharp. We just need to understand who we used to be and how we got to where we are. We then work our way back and create a context that supports long-lasting weight loss.
Yes, we live in a modern world with a constant food supply. But we don’t have to go live in the woods to get back to our optimal physical state. We just need to understand how to work with our innate mechanisms in a way that makes sense and actually works!
If you want to know more about dietary and lifestyle strategies for weight loss, please call the clinic at 415-635-9933 or make an appointment for a free consultation today!