YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT WITH LESS ANGST BY LEARNING MORE ABOUT EVOLUTIONARY FOOD COMPULSIONS
You can go to a hundred places online and find weight loss pills, helpful diet hints, food plans, and another walk through the food pyramid. You won’t find much of that in this blog. But you will gain a deeper understanding of the natural forces that drive you to overeat. It turns out that it isn’t entirely your fault after all if you’re overweight. Not entirely.
YOU MIGHT AS WELL SUBMIT TO THE EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER OVERCOME IT
The first documented primate to humanoid link began evolving into present day humanity about six million years ago. Two million years ago the Homo group, including our own species, Homo Sapien, began its turn on the ladder of evolution. It is believed that our modern human sub species, Homo Sapien Sapien began evolving only about 200,000 years ago, from the genetic threads of those who went before.
That means that the biological unit whose weight you are trying to manipulate got its first programming instructions on how to handle food, famine, and feast about six million years ago. Unfortunately, those ancient instructions cannot be overridden or ignored.
This is the core issue of weight control, so let’s be clear. Your body has been programmed by evolution to have its own agenda independent of your consciousness. It doesn’t care what you would like it to weigh. It cares only about survival. Because of this programming, your body’s set point is going to lean toward being overweight, rather than under.
If you want to control your weight, you have to make it happen within the confines and parameters of this prehistoric programming. Your body will never change. So you have to. Weight control has to happen in your head in conformity with your biology. You have to mentally overcome your body’s coding telling you to consume as much food as you can and more than you need. In other words, to overeat.
But first, more on the evolutionary aspect of trying to lose weight.
FAMINE, FEAST, AND FOOD STORAGE PROGRAMMING MUST ALWAYS BE CONSIDERED IN ANY WEIGHT CONTROL PLAN
Every living creature on Earth depends on the planet for sustenance. Whether it’s access to plant matter or the opportunity to devour each other, Earth provides. But not always enough.
In earliest times, in a pre-supermarket environment, when your next available meal was actually on-the-hoof and roaming free, or growing on the side of a cliff that you had to risk your life to get to, this meant that people sometimes went hungry. Those periods of sustained deprivation, the famines, could last weeks or even years. If the human body had not been programmed by evolution to store resources consumed at an earlier time, it could not have survived the scarcities. And humanity would quickly have gone extinct.
In that same vein, when there is plenty of food available, when there is feasting, the body is coded to push you to consume more food than you need at that moment. Because only by consuming more than it actually needs during feast times can the body have resources to put away for the inevitable famines it has been programmed to expect.
3. Food Storage
Our modern problem is that it’s always feast time in our culture and the body has no real shut off switch when it comes to storing your over consumption. If the body had a true shut off concerning appetite and satiety, you wouldn’t hear about people having walls removed so they could leave their houses. These people are deep in the clutches of unfortunate evolutionary forces that cause them to store resources to a life-threatening extent. The food storage mechanism meant to save them is destroying them instead.
|Definition: Satiety: A simple feedback mechanism is responsible for telling your brain to stop eating when you are full.
As you eat your stomach wall expands and two things happen:
(1) The expansion signals your brain that you are filling up and it’s time to stop eating;
(2) A hormone produced at the start of your meal telling your brain that your stomach was empty now stops sending its signal.
The result is two impulses reaching your brain at the same time. One telling you that your stomach is full, and the other telling you that your stomach is no longer empty. This dual mechanism is suppose to make you stop eating when your are full.
As far as Boss Evolution is concerned, that mechanism is just an update on your stomach contents. It has no compelling powers to make you stop eating.
But Boss Evolution can compel you to eat beyond satiety. How many times have you been eating something delicious and simply ignored those signals? Just kept right on eating. Your stomach is designed to stretch to accommodate overeating during feast times, so it’s easy enough to do.
When you diet, you push back against millions of years of coding via evolution. Isn’t it true that when you diet you often feel like you are engaged in a battle with your body? That’s because you are. All your body knows it that you are trying to rob it of its resources and hack into its “savings account.” It’s going to fight to protect its fat stores.
It appears that humans are programmed to overeat for their own protection. Just in case. If you weren’t designed to overeat, why would your stomach be able to expand? The simple truth is that if you weren’t designed to overeat, you wouldn’t be able to.
And it follows then that a propensity for being overweight has been predetermined for the human species. Pity the poor person trying to control his weight. He is living in a culture where it is always feast time, while he is trapped inside a body that is continually storing nuts for a hard winter that never comes.
And yet this is an efficacious system that has worked successfully for eons. In fact, the body’s ability to store calories eaten today for emergencies that may occur tomorrow is the primary reason humans have survived. In prehistoric times, when all the plants died due to drought or other devastation, and the prey disappeared, all humans had between them and the dark oblivion was the fat that had been stored during the feasts.
That primitive compulsion to eat more than you need is why it is so hard to control your eating habits, especially as you are surrounded and bombarded by images urging you to eat. That compulsion is why despite the horrendous statistics on obesity, especially in the U.S., many restaurants still serve single dishes that should be able to feed two people.
Overeating wasn’t a problem when our programming began. Overeating was and is a safety mechanism, a survival tool. Unfortunately, our bodies were not designed for a world of plenty. Today, many humans are at far more risk from having too much to eat than too little. And that’s sad, because there are still many people who go to bed hungry.
PRIMITIVE TRIBAL FEARS ABOUT FOOD RESOURCES STILL WRONGLY INFECT US
The same food compulsion discussed above manifests in other collective ways.
The TV award shows are very popular, as are the nasty fashion police that follow like jackals after the herd. I have watched numerous times as hosts fret on air about a celebrity being too fat or too thin. Both seem to be equally offensive to the camera and to tribal sensitivities.
Large people complain about being stared at. What they may not know is that very thin, anorexic-looking people get equal attention. Did you ever wonder why people are so vexed by the sight of someone being above or below what is considered “normal” weight? It has to do with tribal genetics.
Picture this: You live in a long-ago plains tribe of 30. Each person has specific duties to perform to ensure the tribe’s well being. As always resources are limited and monitored closely. In such a small group, everyone has close knowledge of every other person.
One day it is noticed that Jamal has gained weight, and has developed a tummy paunch. This immediately signals alarm throughout the tribe. Several members report it to the chief. The alarm is caused by an evolutionary perception that since Jamal has gained weight, it can only mean that he is taking more than his fair share of resources, and therefore threatens the safety and survival of everyone. Jamal is therefore suspected of wrong doing.
Or conversely, Ania is whispered about because she has gotten so thin you can clearly see the outlines of her bones. The tribe perceives that she is taking less than her fair share of resources, and is therefore putting them in jeopardy of losing her and her skills as a member resource. Likewise, Ania is suspected of wrong doing.
Both situations threatened the tribe’s resources and welfare equally. That is why it is ingrained in us even today to be suspicious of people who weigh more or less than the tribe intuitively believes is safe. That ancient attitude is based on the same storage programming that compels you to overeat. It was important when the tribe was small. Now that it has grown into the billions, we no longer have to obsess if someone is heavier or thinner than we think is acceptable.
The only factors to consider nowadays are (1) is the person happy and comfortable with their weight and their body, and (2) is the person’s weight such that he or she can be healthy at that size? Health trumps all other considerations.
Health wise, obesity leads to many other disorders that make an individual’s existence painful and unhappy. It also costs the tribe in many ways. If someone doesn’t take care of their own health when they are able, in the end others are forced to do it for them.
THERE IS NO “RIGHT” SIZE FOR A HEALTHY HUMAN
When Marilyn Monroe appeared in The Seven Year Itch in 1955, in that now famous scene over the subway grate, with her white dress floating up sensuously to expose legs and hips, she was a size 14, and considered to be the ideal woman. Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model expanded its demographic one season by selecting two “plus-size” models who were, you guessed it, size 14.
But due to vanity sizing today Marilyn would be a size 6 with the same body as when she was a size 14. It seems that the clothing industry caved in to cultural sensitivities about weight and size. In 1958 a size 8 had a 24 inch waist; today a size 8 has a 30 inch waist. And a size 20 from 1958 is now a size 12.
|Definition: Vanity Sizing: This is the practice of reducing tag sizes of larger clothing to make women feel that they are actually thinner than they really are.|
Thanks to influential pop figures like the Kardashians, the world has slowly come to accept a more authentic woman figure as ideal. One that is robust and rounded and real. And it is no longer uncommon to see overweight female leads in movies, or held up as sexy figures. Not every body type has to conform and look the same. Our differences are what give us an evolutionary advantage, what make us stronger as a species.
This shift in thinking to a real-woman ideal is healthy. But make no mistake, it can’t be taken too far without back firing. You don’t get a free pass from illness if you are overweight, no matter how much acceptance you receive from your peers. You will still pay for it with serious health issues and a shortened life.
When is the last time you saw an obese senior? There aren’t many, because the obese die young, with a low chance of surviving into old age. Obesity is still the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., because it factors into so many other disorders.
The right size for a human being is a size that lets you eat and enjoy food without endangering your health. But don’t worry about looking like anyone else. Each of you is beautiful in some way, and there is always someone else who will notice and appreciate your beauty. Just be yourself so they fall for the real you. And practice a little discipline about what and how much you put in your mouth.
TRICKS TO GET AROUND THE COMPULSION PROGRAMMING
Okay, so now we know why it is so hard to lose weight. But there are behaviors you can use to lessen the impact of the biological imperatives we’ve been talking about.
First There Is The Practical • • • •
PORTION CONTROL IS PARAMOUNT
Portion control is the hardest part of dieting, but it has to be done if you want to control your weight. If you could conquer this one single step you could weigh what you please without changing anything, including your food choices. You could pretty much eat whatever you wanted, no matter how high in calories or fat, if you restricted yourself to a small enough portion. Sometimes this might mean only a couple of bites, but you could have them guilt free.
It would be better if you could be attracted to healthier foods. That would mean you could eat more, stay healthy, and still lose weight. An important step toward weight control is to start eating a portion size that supports the weight you want to be, not the weight you are. There are things you can do to make portion control easier.
- Use Small Dishes
This is more helpful than you might think. It fools the brain, and consequently the stomach, into thinking you are getting a whole plate or bowl of food. You’d be surprised at how the brain’s perception can effect your sense of reality. You are filling up a plate, but, since the plate is smaller the portions have to be. Over time you will get used to smaller portions. You will actually eat less at each meal, but possibly feel just as satisfied. Without trying very hard you can lose weight over time, while not feeling like you are actually dieting.
- No Second Helpings No Matter What, Where, Or When
Think about it. If you don’t apply this logic to your regimen, you could use a small plate or bowl, but load it up over and over until all advantage of using a smaller dish has been lost.
- TV Dinner Portion Sizes Can Provide Guidance
If you can’t get the hang of small portions, buy a low cal TV dinner (around 400 calories). When it is cooked remove the food from the container and place it on your “small” plate. Take a good look at the portions as they look on the plate you will always use. Take a photo. Hang that photo on the refrigerator door. Refer to that photo every time you eat a meal. Always keep your portions that size.
- Better To Eat More Small Meals Daily Than Fewer Large Ones
Smaller meals burn off faster, and don’t so easily end up as stored fat. Larger meals take longer to digest. They slow down your digestive system, and are more likely to cause a higher percentage of fat storage. People are discouraged from nibbling between meals, but I know thin people who nibble their way through the day. Nibbling only adds weight if you are eating three regular meals a day on top of the nibbling. If you don’t eat that way there is no harm in nibbling.
- Eating Smaller Portions Has Other Benefits Besides Losing Weight
In the 1960’s there was a particularly interesting experiment done on appetite and food consumption, as it relates to good health and longevity. Rats were separated into two groups. Both groups were fed the same food, what was described as a “typical American diet.” The difference was that each group was given a different portion size. But everything else was the same.
One group got several meals a day, plus between meal snacks, as much food as they wanted, anytime they chose. The second group got just enough food to satisfy their daily nutritional needs.
Which group do you think all died early and sick?
It was the group that ate as much as they wanted. The group that had their portions controlled lived a much longer and disease free life. Keep in mind that they ate the same food. Only the portion size was different.
YOU HAVE TO KEEP MOVING
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it covered Pompeii in tons of ash and pumice rising 20 feet. When excavations began, scientists gained detailed insight into the lives of its citizens by studying the remains. The scientists separated the bodies into the servant class and the ruling class right away. I was intrigued by this. How bodies dead for centuries could give up that kind of specific information.
It came down to the shape and strength of their respective bones!
The servant class had strong, dense, non-porous bones. The aristocracy had weak, thin, porous bones. Servants had stronger bones because they had to stand, bend, lift, pull, stretch, push, and carry in the process of caring for the lord and lady of the manor. The lack of movement found in the sedentary life of the rich, caused bones to weaken and growth to slow down or even stop.
It is the movement of muscle across bone that signals the body to increase bone growth. That’s why exercise makes your bones grow. Extra muscle movement over the bones tells the body that more is needed from that part of the bone structure. The body then gets busy bulking up the effected bones.
If you’re trying to lose or control your weight, exercise—movement—is essential. It burns calories. It makes you look better and thinner right away. Even if you don’t actually lose much weight, you can “visually” lose five pounds just by exercising regularly for a week. Meaning, you may weigh the same but you will look thinner.
You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: weight is simply calories burned versus calories consumed. If they are equal you maintain your weight. If more goes in than is burned, the extra is sent to storage and you gain weight. The only way to lose is to burn off more calories than you consume.
|Note: I don’t like to exercise. I certainly don’t like getting cleaned up and dressed and driving somewhere just to exercise.
My solution is the Body Rider stationery bicycle. It is such a simple, incredibly effective machine. You get a great heart healthy aerobic workout without stressing your knees. It burns a lot of calories. It retails online for around $100, with free shipping. It uses no electricity, only the raw energy that you provide. It works not only the legs but the upper arms, which switch over every time your legs do. It has a built in fan, and a computer LED type display that gives you information on speed and distance traveled.
Another fine feature about any bicycle is what it does for the butt and lower back. It strengthens the lower back, and practically overnight lifts and firms the butt, making a noticeable difference. That and the Abs of Steel sculpting workout I memorized keep me home in my PJs and out of my car. I exercise almost every day, just take the six steps across my bedroom floor and I’m at the gym.
If you want your body to remain vital you have to keep it moving. Fifteen minutes a day on any kind of bicycle or other strong aerobics, plus fifteen minutes of floor or free weight exercises, four days a week, can keep you healthy and looking good. If you can’t do 15 minutes of either, start at 1 minute and move up 1 minute a day from there, but you must keep moving.
Then There Is The Counter Intuitive • • • •
DESSERT IS MANDATORY
I’m working on a book called Dieting With Dessert, based on the following concept.
Because of the compulsive programming we discussed above, it is important when dieting to make sure your body never gets the idea that you are going hungry. If it finds out you are dieting it’s all over. It will lower your metabolism to ensure that fewer calories are burned, and the less you try to eat the slower it will run. You can still lose the weight but it will be hell.
If you were traveling with Han Solo on his space ship, and a malfunction caused his craft to start losing power, he would power down all systems except life support and defense, to preserve power. Your body is the space ship carrying you through life.
If your body senses that it’s power source has been compromised it will lower the rate at which it runs to preserve its stored resources. This ensures that fewer calories are being burned from its “savings account.” There is no way around this except to make your body believe that you are not dieting, while still actually dieting.
The secret is dessert. As long as you eat dessert once a day, your body is less likely to lower your metabolism, because dessert signals feast not famine. It is very hard for your body to process the dichotomy that you are simultaneously dieting and also eating chocolate cake. In other words, if you’re eating dessert there is nothing for your body to fear.
The dessert serving should be a reasonable size (200-350 calories), and of course no seconds. But there are no limitations as to choice. Have any dessert that you want, but know that the richer and more “expensive” it is in calories, the smaller must be your portion size.
This practice can be fun and motivating. Planning your diet around small daily servings of the most delicious desserts can be the reward that gets you through a tough day of food denial. It also helps you stick with your diet. It is the “carrot” that can keep you on the treadmill. But this only works if you are otherwise seriously dieting.
YOUR METABOLISM WILL PUNISH YOU FOR SERIAL DIETING
You should not continually go on and off diets. Every time you diet, you signal your body that you have entered famine conditions. Every time you enter famine conditions, your body lowers your metabolism to slow down the expenditure of calories. After a number of diets, weight loss becomes nearly impossible because your metabolism is set so low. This result after so many attempts can be disheartening and can ruin one’s initiative to lose weight.
SHORT TERM WEIGHT GAIN vs. LONG TERM WEIGHT GAIN
Your body is willing to let go of the stored fat from “short term feasting,” without putting up a struggle. This is the fat and stored calories resulting from short term overeating, say, as you would during holidays. You can get the weight off fast if you attack it as soon as the event is over. Your body will only easily give up that weight it has recently gained. You don’t want to do this short term dieting often or for long, or it may trigger the sluggish metabolism associated with serial dieting.
If you wait too long to lose the holiday weight, until after your body has oved the fat from “short term savings” to “long term savings,” it is much harder to get rid of. That’s when your body will really wage battle against your diet efforts.
TRY TREATING CALORIES LIKE YOU TREAT MONEY
If you are part of the 99 percent you have to watch what you spend. If you are trying to lose weight you have to watch what you eat. In both cases you are dealing with categorical units—money and calories—that can be kept track of. Money, you want to increase and hold on to. Calories, you want to decrease and let go of.
To be successful when dealing with money or calories you have to control yourself most of the time. The lesson is that you can be naughty some of the time, and get away with it. If you’re a spendthrift or glutton 15 percent of the time, you can still get ahead or stay healthy. But if you’re a spendthrift or glutton 85 percent of the time, you’re going to be poor or obese.
But when you are bad occasionally you can make up for it by balancing your over-the-top excessive spending or eating, with short term conservative behavior to bring things back into balance, i.e., build the money back up in your checking account by passing up other purchases that you would like to make. Or quickly get rid of the extra pounds you gained by eating dinner salads for a week.
Just try being as careful with your calories as you are with your money.
Sometimes it feels like the body is winning that war we talked about earlier. That’s the time to dig deeper and get creative. Sometimes you have to resort to drastic, but never harmful, measures to control your appetite.
One example: It was hard to eat properly during the first year of law school due to the all day and most of the night schedule of class and studying. The result was that you noshed on comfort foods day and night. The only exercise you got was lifting a legal tome off a library shelf. At home I kept finding myself standing at the open refrigerator door, staring in. When I turned around I had a law book in one hand and some sort of food in the other.
That’s when I bought my first length of chain and a padlock.
Every night at 8:00 I wrapped the chain around my refrigerator and snapped the padlock. I chose that time because I’d read somewhere that eating close to bedtime sends the calories directly to storage. I also put any tasty morsels from my cabinets in the fridge before I locked it. I had a roommate so I had to leave the key in easy reach.
I lost the 15 pounds. By the time I graduated law school I had given up the chain. (I won’t say that I haven’t resorted to it again from time to time.) You may be wondering what kept me from sneaking in anytime I wanted since the key was right there. How stupid would a person feel to go to all that trouble and then sabotage their own efforts? No sir. The chain was sacrosanct once it was padlocked. I unlocked it at 7:00 each morning.
KNOWLEDGE BESTOWS DUTY
At the top I said that if you were overweight it wasn’t entirely your fault. Now that you know what your evolutionary weaknesses are when it comes to controlling your weight, and why they exist, you have a duty to try harder to overcome them for your own sake.
Please be nice to each other, and look for my next blog: Blog 36: Toenail Fungus Problems, where I tell you how to have beautiful feet.
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