Babies are born knowing to eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are comfortable. But as we grow up and are exposed to fad diets, advertising, food used as a reward, etc., many of us unlearn this beautifully balanced way of eating and begin to overeat. Yet eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are comfortable is one of the keys to healthy eating and living.
By Dr. Mercola
Today's featured video is a lecture by obesity researcher and neurobiologist Dr. Stephan Guyenet. In it, he discusses some helpful and practical tips about the neurobiological underpinnings of our eating habits that can help you better understand why you gain weight.
He starts off by noting that the obesity epidemic closely parallels an increase in daily calorie consumption in the US. Compared to 1960, Americans eat an average of 363 calories more per day today. But why do Americans eat so much more now compared to previous decades?
Guyenet goes on to review some of the alterations to the US food system that promote overeating, stating that the human “brain's hardware may not be up to the task of constructively navigating the modern food environment.”
Research does show that what you eat can make a big difference in how much you eat. As noted by Christy Matta in a previous article:
“One study, for example, found that obese subjects ate 81 percent more total calories after eating two meals of instant oatmeal than they did after eating two meals with the same calories in the form of a vegetable omelet and fruit.”
In a nutshell, research shows that calories gleaned from bread, refined sugars, and processed foods promote overeating, whereas calories from whole vegetables, protein, and fiber decrease hunger.
While Guyenet reviews the role of your brain in all of this, other researchers have clearly demonstrated how your body's metabolism is altered by the foods you eat—as well as the impact of synthetic and toxic chemicals.
The Science of Obesity
While the first law of thermodynamics does apply to humans, in order to actually gain a significant amount of weight, Dr. Johnson’s research shows that you have to do two things:
- Block your sensation of fullness, and
- Impair your body's ability to burn fat by downregulating the enzymes responsible for metabolizing fat.
What this means is that in order for you to become severely overweight you must first become leptin resistant. Leptin is a hormone that helps you regulate your appetite. When your leptin levels rise, it signals your body that you’re full, so you’ll stop eating. Refined sugar (in particular fructose) is exceptionally effective at causing leptin resistance in animals, and it’s also very effective at blocking the burning of fat…
Guyenet also disagrees with this concept. He believes the most effective way to cause leptin resistance in rodents is a refined high-fat diet. Please note that these are not the healthy fats I advocate like coconut oil, avocados, butter and olive oil, but highly processed and refined industrialized soy, corn and canola oils.
He also discusses the impact of leptin sensitivity loss in the featured lecture. He notes that once your brain has lost its sensitivity to leptin, it will perceive the situation as normal, and will therefore defend that fat mass.
Another interesting tidbit is that if you’re insulin resistant and obese, it doesn’t take much fructose to activate the processes that will keep you fat. Some of Dr. Johnson’s most recent research shows that the more high-fructose corn syrup you eat, the more you absorb and the more you metabolize it. Thus, eating fruits may be more of an issue if you are insulin resistant, whereas fruit intake is likely safer or even beneficial if you are lean and healthy. This helps explain the paradox of how some very fit people can eat a lot of fruit—which is rich in natural fructose—without gaining any weight.
Quit ‘Dieting' and Start Living Healthily
If you want to shed excess weight and protect your health, my most urgent recommendation is to replace processed foods with homemade meals, made from whole, ideally organic, ingredients. Remember to replace the grain carbs with vegetables, small amounts of high quality protein, and plenty of healthful fats. For step by step instructions and guidance, please see my optimized nutrition plan.
Intermittent fasting can further boost your weight loss efforts once you're eating right, as it effectively helps shift your body into fat-burning mode. Last but not least, exercise acts in tandem with and boosts the benefits derived from a proper diet. For maximum benefits, you'll want to make sure to include high-intensity interval training, which is at the heart of my Peak Fitness program. To learn more, please see my previous article: “The Major Exercise Mistake I Made for Over 30 Years.”
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