I gained a bit of holiday weight, I don’t really want to talk about it.
Answers on the back of a postcard please. This is a concept whereby however complicated something is – the solution must be as simple as possible. You’ll see my answers on the back of a postcard solutions dotted around this discussion about fat gain, obesity and the reasons and causes.
Main take homes from this article for the busy reader;
- If it was just a case of eat less do more then the obesity epidemic would be simple to solve.
- Harsh environments need harsh solutions to tackle them.
- Inflammation makes you hungry and can stop you burning fat by altering leptin sensitivity.
- The brain always wins – I’ll talk more about how to give things up in the next newsletter.
- Fat creates inflammation.
- The holy grail of fat, salt and sugar lights up addictive centres in the brain for up to 3 days.
- Most people are metabolically inflexible meaning they are sugar burners not fat burners.
- Carnitine can help increase metabolic flexibility.
- Energy balance is the ultimate governor.
- Plastic makes you fat and insulin resistant.
- Omega 3/6 ratio improvements might help make you leaner – as long as you obey the governor.
- We eat too fast and we’ve lost the ritual around proper preparation, sourcing, cooking and sharing our meals times with friends and loved ones. Do this better and your weight will probably normalise somewhat.
Being a nutritionist and health practitioner, I often spend time wondering why we all seem to becoming fatter and more unhappy. Especially after my own holiday where I gained some holiday fat. However I know exactly why that happened.
It seems far easier nowadays to find higher calorie, lower nutrient quality convenience foods.
Fast foods, takeaways, pizzas etc. etc. They are dotted on every high street. Plus we’ve got loads of energy saving devices and methods of travel. Hobbies are often sedentary and we spend an increasing amount of time sitting and looking at screens. You really don’t have to go far to find shit food and empty calories. I could spend 2 calories phoning in 5000 calories for £9.99 (or less) delivered right to my door in 25 minutes or less.
Do people really not understand that too much of that kind of habit is what makes them store fat? Or are the hunger signals, the animal desire to eat too compelling….?
Managing body composition should be taught in schools.
“did you ever eat anything by accident”? Woops….
Obey the Governor;
Ultimately we are governed by energy balance this is a chief regulator of metabolism, however there are some other factors which can make life and sustaining a negative energy balance more difficult. I’ll discuss these below.
BUT - If you focus on these more than energy balance though and expect to loose fat weight, you are making a fundamental mistake. It’s a mistake I see a lot of educated people make.
Want all the answers on the back of a post card? The solution to the obesity epidemic? How to lose fat quickly and permanently = “Establish a sustainable deficit, get strong and eat enough protein”.
Energy balance is clearly fundamental. However, if it was just a case of eating less and doing more, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Maybe we’re just too lazy or too hungry / greedy. Maybe we get too tired to make proper choices. Perhaps we lack self-awareness and knowledge of the right things to eat at the right times……
Or are we just lazy? Maybe, when you look on the London underground escalator I would estimate 1:1000 actually walk up the stairs. Looks like we’re programmed or conditioned to be lazy. Everyone else just stands still.
We probably are, the greedy, thrifty, lazy genes are the reason the human race has survived.
The fact is ‘the brain always wins’ and the craving brain usually gets what it wants – eventually anyway. We just gotta be smarter than the primitive brain. Smarter than the lazy brain. We gotta make things fun. Shift the mind set so you get the dopamine from the movement not the pizza. Alter the ‘pleasure’ ‘pain’ cycle and reset what we think we value as habits.
Let’s not forget we are in the middle of an obesity and diabetes epidemic. You could add to that diseases such as cancer and cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s which are also on the rise (perhaps in part due to the 1st2 problems).
It is a serious problem. Serious problems often require drastic actions to remedy them. A little reduction here and a little bit there might not be enough to resolve the issues quickly enough. Label shit food as shit food – so you know how and why you are enjoying it on a treat day…..Or just educate people. The ones who want to know anyhow.
State sponsored and compulsory morning exercise rituals….? Maybe.
You can read on to look at how inflammation can disrupt both hunger and metabolic signals associated with enhanced fat burning and making the brain hungry and body then consuming more calories.
There are clearly other factors at work making this whole process more likely to occur and more difficult to reverse. Here’s my thoughts on the obesity epidemic, outside of simple energy balance, and what we can do about it.
Appetite regulation and metabolism is largely controlled by the hypothalamus.
This can become damaged and inflamed due to poor diet, and large amounts of total calories fat, sugar and salt being consumed. Leptin and grehlin hunger and metabolic regulating hormones become disrupted making us hungrier and less able to burn and more likely to store fat. You can read more about these hormones here.
Leptin signals the fat cells it’s ok to lose or burn their energy. Grehlin makes you hungry or full. If you have less leptin you burn less fat, if you have more grehlin you get hungry. If you diet too hard and suffer from inflammation these hormones get disrupted in the wrong way.
The answer is simple, lower intake of these foods, high salt, sugar and fat combination foods = fast and processed foods, lower inflammation, take brain protective nutrients such as DHA and alpha lipoic acid, consider raspberry ketones and other herbals once you’ve done everything else.
The fat cells themselves can begin to wage a war creating their own inflammatory hormones and further dysregulating systemic inflammation. Above a certain fat percentage and with a combined poor ratio of fatty acid ingestion the fat cells begin to act as an independent endocrine organ, making higher levels of pro-inflammatory circulating cytokines – pretty much stuff you don’t want to be happening in order to stay healthy and well. This means that to a certain extent the fatter you are the easier it is to become fatter. In addition a poor fat to muscle ratio means there’s less reserve for excess sugars if consumed in the muscle tissue. Again some excesses are always likely for certain individuals if they are trained to hold a greater lean mass these can be partitioned and angled towards glycogen replenishment and muscle re-synthesis rather than feeding your hungry inflamed fat cell organ.
Plastics in your fat cells make you more insulin resistant. This has been known about for a while, but basically if you are exposed to plastics like bisphenol A and you over consume calories the plastic contaminants end up in your fat and acts amongst other endocrine disrupting jobs (like hiking up estrogen disorders) acts as an insulin deregulator. If you have this in your fat you are far more likely to become diabetic than someone without exposure to these plastics.
These plastic chemicals are now termed obesogens. The idea that somehow obesity is driven by environmental factors stems back to 2002 when Paula Baillie-Hamilton, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinein 2002talked about studies dating back to the 1970’s which showed certain low doses of certain toxics caused experimental animals to gain fat weight. Removal of these toxins requires a two-fold attack, a reduction in fat % through diet and exercise combined with things like sauna, chelation therapy and infa-red sauna therapy.
We live in an obesogenic environment.
Diets don’t work or at least don’t work for long. Most diets which work fast are hard to stick to in the longer term the result is rebound weight gain. The reason for this is behaviours ultimately govern our actions, learned behaviours from our environment and upbringing ultimately influence who were are and what we do.
I prefer a wave cycling approach to loosing fat. Drastic fast track fat loss combined with more sustainable steady periods.
What if each generation had adopted a few behaviours which meant they gained a few pounds and dropped a few behaviours which meant they stopped burning as many calories (which they have since the 80’s) they teach their kids and when those kids become adults they then pass on the learned behaviours. Solution; don’t diet just list and adopt the behaviour associated with being the person you want to become. Here’s a list of behaviours which lean people follow and a list of behaviours which fat people follow;
Lean people workout.
Lean people never skip workouts.
Leaner people regulate portions.
Are aware of what they eat, how they eat and why they eat.
These learned behaviours in turn may well have influenced the ways are genes express themselves, with continued exposure to toxins, inflammation and a lack of sufficient movement whole collections of lean epigenetic gene expression may stay dormant. Solution; teach metabolic weights circuits as compulsory in all schools, workplaces and factories! For example taking fish oils can switch on fat burning genes and switch off some fat storing genes. Avoid all the habits listed above.
Metabolic flexibility refers to how well we are able to switch between burning fat as a source of fuel and how well we use carbohydrates as a source of fuel. Often people become dependant on burning sugars and less efficient at burning fat.
This is mostly to do with how much we consume in terms of ratio of macronutrients but also dependent on how far down the insulin resistant or dysglycemic route we have already travelled. If you consume sugars and carbohydrates regularly and don’t move too much you tend to shift towards being better at using sugar as fuel.
If you are developing or have metabolic syndrome all of these factors are going to be relevant.
Too much HIIT not enough cardio?
Each time you exercise you burn the sugars off but don’t train long enough to get into the fat stores. Or you eat too regularly to allow the body time to shift into the fasted state where you use a higher % of your fat as a source of fuel. The solution;
Establish a deficit.
Eat more fat, vegetables and less sugars and starches.
Move more and spend more time fasting in 24 hours than you spent eating.
Do more cardio…..walk more.
Substrate use should change quickly with a change of ratios or macronutrients –
However consuming carnitine and potentially other mitochondrial toning nutrients may also help along the way. Carnitine loading having been shown to increase fat burning at rest and higher levels of exercise intensity. Use aminos to stimulate insulin when loading rather than the 60 grams of carbs used in the studies!
Hormonal signalling and fatty acid balance.
The types of fat that integrate into the cells may also play a role in how well you are able to burn fat as a source of fuel. The specific fat that I have a real problem with is long life vegetable oil. This has a preservative added to it to prolong it’s shelf life. It’s used for deep frying commercially prepared foods and it’s used in more or less every restaurant and fast food establishment across the country. It poses a few problems;
- It’s a pure omega 6 fat which increases inflammation.
- It’s loaded with preservatives which make it harder to breakdown in the body (my opinion) no science on this yet
- It’s heated which shifts the fats into trans fats and forms super toxic carcinogenic compounds called alkenes.