Whenever I say the word, “nutrition”, the word that most people seem to hear is “diet”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, diets don’t work. At least not the way people intend. Our bodies are designed to survive shortages of food. It’s only a recent development in human history that we have so much calorie-rich food at our fingertips and we don’t have to toil all day just to eat. Back in the “old days” (not so long ago), during periods of famine… the skinny people died! The people who had a great ability to store calories (ie. body fat), are the ones that survived. So they passed that lovely trick to their offspring. Fast forward to today… Our bodies are still really good at storing fuel for the “famine”. We are BUILT for it! Unfortunately, this “starvation” approach is the most common way that most people think they are supposed to “lose weight”. But there is both a psychological and physiological downfall to severe calorie reduction.
First, the psychological. In an extreme absence of fuel (ya know, calories), your conscious, logical mind convinces you that eating less will make the body fat disappear. That seems logical right? Eat less, the body will use that stored stuff for the missing fuel! Simple math! Not so fast. Your subconscious mind is shifting into “freak-out mode” (not a technical term). What starts happening is that you start to crave all the things that your body can easily store as body fat. Saturated fats. Sugars. All the “fun” stuff to eat. But not only are you now craving those things, you also find yourself wanting to eat way more than you would even normally eat. Ever start eating when you’re really hungry, get full and want to continue eating long after you’re full? Yep, you guessed it, that’s your survival mind working to store fat. So that psychological effect leads to binge eating when you finally “allow” yourself to eat again. The physiological effect makes that binge a whole lot worse.
Second, the physiological. Let me start by using an analogy that I published in an article and I’ve been explaining to clients for decades:
Imagine that somewhere in your body there's a room full of furnaces.
Those furnaces are your muscle tissue. Muscle determines metabolism. Nervous system regulates muscle activation. Hypothetically, let's say you have 20 furnaces worth of muscle tissue. When you go a long period of time without eating (like the “don't eat after dinner” lie), your body's natural reaction is to use the nervous system to shut down furnaces in an attempt to preserve body fat for the “famine”. So by the time you DO eat, you might have 4 of your 20 furnaces left burning. Your mind is telling you to eat 60 furnaces worth of food because you're essentially starving (see above). But even if you only eat 20 furnaces worth of food, which will satisfy you if you wait, your nervous system has lowered your metabolism to only burn 4 furnaces worth of calories! The other 16 furnaces worth of food that your body would have burned ends up getting stored as fat. Over time, if you continue to starve yourself, your body simply breaks down those furnaces entirely! Now you have less muscle tone, balance, metabolism and strength. To make matters worse, you drop your furnaces (muscle tissue) down to 15 (lowered metabolism) but you still think 20 furnaces are what makes you feel satisfied. So now when you go back to eating the same things you always did, you put all the weight back on and more! And now you don’t even have the level of calorie burning potential that you did before you went on a “diet”. You’ve even started training your nervous system to be very good at shutting down those muscle furnaces. Hopefully that analogy helps you to realize how important it is to fuel the metabolism through the connection between nutrition, the nervous system and the muscles.
So learn to eat correctly to fuel the systems of your body for success now and success forever. If you would like to meet with us for some help, feel free to contact us for a free appointment.
-This is an excerpt from the Full Body Fat Burn Guide, a Realistic Fitness publication.