Weight Loss and Will Power
aka “Losing Weight has (almost) nothing to do with Will but (almost) everything to do with Hormones”
The main article should take approximately 5.5 mins to read.
I am reusing some of the material I’ve posted earlier under “Calories IN = Calories OUT. Is it?”.
Lot of people out there have tried various diets over a long periods and failed to lose Weight consistently or they tend to lose in the short term and put it back on later. Friends and doctors think these folks do not have the will to control what they eat and do not have the will to exercise. The dieters themselves start to feel guilty and slowly lose confidence in themselves thinking that perhaps they lack the Will and the mental strength to do so.
If you are one of those (either struggling to lose weight or those that think people who do not lose weight lack the Will) – please read on as I intend to show that losing Weight is much more to do with hormones than your will power.
My argument in this post will be:
- Eating less will not make you lose Weight in the long run
- Increasing the amount of Exercise will not make you lose Weight (for most people)
- Losing Weight (and Fat) is mostly related to Hormones. Hormones are very dependent on WHAT you EAT and not much to do with Will Power. So eating right will make you lose Weight (and fat).
Eating Less – Does it really work?
If you eat the typical diet (High Carbohydrates, Low Fat, Low to Moderate Protein) but cut down the calories quite a bit, you are unlikely to lose significant weight in the long run. If your calorie intake is much less than is needed for a normal human being, all that happens is
- You will feel hungry
- You will feel irritable and cold (most or all the time)
- You will stop being active because you don’t feel like it (not much exercise)
- You will perhaps lose muscle mass and not FAT
Why is this the case?
Sensing the lower Energy intake, the Body adjusts (lowers) the base metabolic rate if the total energy intake is less than what is needed. This is done through the effect of various Hormones in the body.
In 2007, Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical published (along with his wife) an article in Scientific American called “What Fuels Fat”. In it they quote
“An animal whose food is suddenly restricted tends to reduce its energy expenditure both by being less active and by slowing energy in cells, thereby limiting weight loss. It also experiences increased hunger so that once the restriction ends, it will eat more than its prior norm until the earlier weight is attained.”
Drastically reducing calorie intake is not going to solve any Weight problems. You are likely to feel miserable, perhaps will lose muscle, will move a lot less and also may not be able to focus on your job or domestic life.
You cannot achieve Weight Loss over the medium to long term through regular exercise ALONE.
Why is this the case?
- Exercise makes you hungry(ier) so you tend to overeat
- Exercise gives a lot of people a sense of entitlement to eat more or indulge
- Together the above negate any real weight loss benefits of Exercise
There have been many studies and trials undertaken to look at the impact of Exercise on weight. In most instances, the effects of exercise on Weight loss were small or marginal in the long term (2 years or more).
You may read the following article for more information.
If your intention is solely weight loss and if you undertake regular aerobic exercise for 30 mins a day or even up to an hour, it is unlikely to help you lose Weight in the long run.
So, how can I lose Weight?
Losing Weight (or Putting on Weight) is almost entirely related to Hormones and not related to Will Power. Hormones respond to food we eat. So by eating Right we can lose Weight.
So, what makes NORMAL human beings put on Weight
- Insulin is the only Storage Hormone in the body (pretty much)
- The more Insulin you have in the body the more FAT you put on
- Insulin responds to Blood sugar levels. Insulin levels go higher if the Blood sugar levels are higher in the body (body tries to keep Blood Sugar level within a range to the extent possible – this mechanism fails in diabetics due to a) Insulin not being able to do its job well (called Insulin Resistance) and b) Not Enough is being produced by the Pancreas)
- Your Blood sugar levels go higher if you eat a) Carbs (processed Carbs are much worse) and b) Sugary Foods (Sugar itself, Sweets, Cookies, Chocolates, Fruit juices etc.)
- The more easily digestible the Carbs are (Bread, Sweets, Rice etc.) and the more you eat of these, the quicker the blood sugar levels rise and more Insulin gets produced
As long as you eat processed Carbs and Sugars your blood sugar levels are high and your Insulin levels go higher and as long as Insulin levels are high there is hardly anything you can do but to put on Fat. Eating less and Exercising More won’t make much difference. Your Will has very little Role to Play since you associate Will to Eating Less and Exercising More.
So your aim should be to reduce the Blood sugar levels thereby reducing Insulin levels by Eating RIGHT and Eating WELL.
Please find below more evidence on effect of hormones on growth and body fat. The key argument here is that people overeat to grow or become fat and not the other way round.
1. Growing Children
It is well known that Children start eating quite a bit during their peak growth period. Levels of the Growth Hormone grow rapidly. This makes them Grow which will make them hungry and eat more. Assuming their diet is balanced, children will grow in height, will have longer/stronger bones and also put on muscle. All that eating is to support the growth (which is kicked into gear by the growth hormones) – Vertical growth (height) and not horizontal growth.
If someone says that Children overeat and that is why they grow that is not right. Children Grow – that is why they overeat.
As soon as the growth period is over, the additional eating stops generally. This also supports our assumption.
2. Hibernating Animals
A number of animals go into Hibernation during seasons (typically winter). Hibernation is mainly controlled by the endocrine system. Glands in the body alter the amounts of hormones being released and can control just about every physiological aspect of hibernation (Thyroid, Melatonin, Insulin etc.)
All these Hormones make the animals put on a lot of Fat which makes them overeat. They do not put on Fat because they overeat, they Over Eat because they are putting on Fat.
Once the season starts they go into hibernation during which the metabolic rate plummets, temperature drops significantly, blood pressure and heart rate become slow (all of this essentially to reduce the consumption of energy thereby saving energy).
3. Pregnant Women
We all know that Pregnant Women eat quite a bit and also put on both Fat and Weight. Going by conventional logic, we could say that pregnant women are getting Fat because they are Overeating.
We know better. They are Overeating because they are getting Fat. Again this is mostly due to hormones and for a very good reason. The fat is to provide nourishment to the mother and the child and also perhaps to cushion the baby’s weight and provide protection.
Once the child is born the Overeating stops and the mother generally returns to her previous size (assuming a balanced meal) over a period of time.
So in essence the hormones create the condition for Overeating by pumping a lot of energy into fat for the sake of the mother and child. Not the other way around.
4. Zucker Rats
Perhaps the best examples to state that the Weight / Fat problem is related to Hormones and not Overeating or Laziness (or being sedentary) are a set of wonderful experiments done with a special category of rats bred for research in Obesity and Hypertension by a researcher called George Wade (et al) in University of Massachusetts in the 1970s. (Just to note that not all experiments that have been successful on rats have not had the same result in humans).
Wade and team removed ovaries from rats and then monitored their subsequent weight and behaviour.
- The rats began to eat voraciously and quickly became Obese (the rats have been given as much food as they wanted to eat – called “Ad Libitum” in medical terms)
Wade then did a second experiment. He removed the ovaries but then restricted the amount of food the rats can eat.
- But the rats got just as fat as quickly. But these rats are now completely lazy. They moved only when necessary.
Removing the Ovaries stopped the production of Estrogen (Oestrogen) in Rats (in both experiments) and Estrogen (a hormone) has a role to play in fat storage (Estrogen works to sensitise Insulin more – less Estrogen means more fat at least in Rats – it’s much more complicated but this is the simple explanation)
Estrogen was infused into the rats.
- The rats did not become fat or did not overeat and moved normally even if unlimited food was made available to them.
This Zucker Rat experiments should make it very clear that Hormones are playing a part in Obesity and Fat Metabolism not Overeating and Laziness.