Diets? Fuck it! Part 3

Some quotes from a very good book about the nonsense and danger of diets: ” The Health Trap ” by  Chris Sandel.

Our obsession with weight is more about cultural norms and societal biases. They show study after study detailing that weight is an incredibly poor indicator for health, and that if anything, we would be better falling in the overweight or slightly obese category for better health.

Weight Set Point

As rational and intelligent human beings, we like to believe that we are in control. We have grown up on a diet of the American Dream and the belief that if we are dedicated and work hard enough, we can achieve anything. While it might be painful to admit, there are in fact a lot of things that are outside our conscious control. And when it comes to our body, this is especially true.

The weight set point is not static and can increase or decrease, but any form of dieting unfortunately causes your body to increase your setpoint. This means that when you stop the diet and go back to eating normally, the weight you have lost will come back, as well as some extra for good measure.

Our autonomic nervous system controls functions like heart rate, digestion, salivation, sexual arousal, and perspiration. Most people would agree these are automatic. But what if I were to suggest that weight should also fall in this category? While we like to think that we have absolute control over our weight, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is not the case.

The weight set point theory is the idea that the body naturally and automatically controls your weight. It suggests that your body has an ideal weight range that it likes to keep you within, and the range can be anywhere from a small amount up to about 15-20 kg, and is often estimated as roughly 10% of your body weight.

Your body really wants to keep you in this range. If you start eating less it notices that weight has dropped off. It starts to make you hungrier because it wants to get your weight back up. You may be able to keep it up for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, or possibly even years but more and more, your hunger will increase.

At the same time, your body starts to manipulate the calories that you are using. If there is not enough coming in, it starts to turn down some functions and turn off others. It turns the body into a conservative accountant. Whenever extra calories do come in, more of it is stored for a rainy day rather than being instantly used for energy. Your body isn’t sure when the next surplus is coming in, so it holds on to it in case its not for a while.

All of these changes are made in your body’s attempt to keep you at the right weight set point, to keep you where your body feels comfortable with your weight.

For this reason, I think the idea of calories in versus calories out is largely misunderstood. I agree that if you take in more than you burn, you will put on weight and if you take in less than you burn, you will lose weight. But what I disagree with is how much conscious control we have over it. So much of it is controlled automatically by the body that manipulations of food intake and exercise will only get you so far.

Its amazing how many people start a diet just wanting to lose 3 or 5 kilo’s, and then 15 years down the line are 40 kilo’s heavier after numerous cycles of weight coming off and then going back on.

This is due to to the weigh set point increasing with each new phase of dieting.

What you believe to be a healthy weight is different than what your body believes is a healthy weight.

Don’t destroy your health trying to get to a weight your body doesn’t support, because even if you get there, it won’t be the promised land.

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