The natural response to finally accepting you are overweight is to dive into a “diet”. For the vast majority, these short-term calorie purges don’t work. In order to achieve sustainable healthy weight goals, you must implement more balanced lifestyle modifications. Here are the main reasons.The body requires glucose for energy. Under normal circumstances, we take circulating glucose and move it into our cells to drive our metabolism. Where we have inadequate glucose in the blood, we mobilize from the liver and muscle tissue where it is stored as glycogen. Once these stores are depleted, the body is forced to breakdown fat and protein to produce glucose for energy. This is the theory behind a diet where you achieve negative caloric balance. When the calorie demands of living exceed our calorie intake, we run out of glucose, and the body breaks down fat to meet its energy needs. People starve themselves in the hopes of burning off their fat.
The body is smart. As soon as it detects the restricted calorie intake, it adapts to protect itself. The first thing it does is to “slow down” your metabolism. Now you go from a bad situation (low energy) to a worse situation (you feel low in energy plus you burn less energy, so lose less weight)! The body fears starvation. Your brain may know that you will eventually feed your body again, but the body doesn’t know this. Your body thinks the hunger may last forever and you switch into this low energy state. Compare this to the body’s response to exercise. Your metabolic rate increases both during and after exercise. Increased metabolic rate means more calories burned. In a healthy way, without invoking the body’s defensive response, you achieve the caloric balance you require to lose weight!
Most low calorie diets are low volume diets. You eat less! The stomach has stretch receptors that send messages to the brain when you have eaten enough to sustain life. The messages induce chemical changes in your satiety center, and your body knows it can stop eating. When you go on a low volume, low calorie diet, you do not trigger the stretch receptors in the stomach and so you always feel hungry! That’s a miserable, counter-productive state. You now associate “healthy behavior” with misery. That’s neither a reward nor an incentive. Actually, it’s a big turn-off! Its better to eat bulky foods that are relatively low in calories. Bulky, plant-based diets are high in fiber and low in calories. We describe this as a low calorie density diet. This means that there is relatively greater volume than there are calories. You would need to eat a whole pound of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains to ingest 500 to 600 calories. While restricting calories (but not drastically enough to invoke the starvation response), you still trigger stretch receptors, so you don’t feel hungry all the time. You now associate healthy eating with healthy emotion. This is sustainable.
The most dangerous of all is the deep emotional sabotage you invoke in order to adhere to a radical diet. You need to be highly motivated. Few people get this motivation from an overwhelming desire for a healthy slim body. The vast majority motivate themselves out of deep hatred for their current body. In hatred, they embark on this vengeful journey, punishing their body with denial and starvation. These are the antithesis of loving behaviors. Worse still, failure is met with a surge in hatred. You’re angry with yourself for failing, and assume you didn’t hate yourself enough in the first place. So you fill your head with more deeply hurtful and undermining self-judgment. In a surge of self-hatred, your one cookie mistake becomes a seven cookie feast, and you agree to go to bed in a stew of self-pity and misery, hoping to feel good enough about yourself to start over again in the morning. And so on. And if you do hate yourself successfully, and stick to your draconian diet for long enough to lose weight, guess what happens next? You rebound emotionally. Having achieved your goal, you stop hating, and in celebration you resume the original diet that got you in trouble in the first place.
Contrast this with the body’s own design for behavior modification. Serotonin is the “feel-good” hormone in our body. It’s a powerful chemical reward system. It drives feelings of happiness and contentment. When the brain releases serotonin, in response to exercise for example, you feel great! You begin to desire this feeling and will do whatever you need to release more serotonin. So, you exercise more. This is positive reinforcement. Its how your body is built. If you treat your body with the same affirmation, it will reward you. Imagine your body is your spouse. Imagine what he or she would do if you tell them you hate them. Would they comply with your requests and desires? No way! On the other hand, if you tell them how nice they are with both kindness and sincerity, and ask them for the thing you want, you’re far more likely to get it.
If you need to lose weight to achieve BodyWHealth, be kind to your body. Picture and admire it in its future state. Believe! Use powerful positive thinking, together with inspiring emotional visualization, and you will achieve sustainable healthy responses. Improve your caloric balance by first burning more fuel. Exercise! If that is not enough, then gradually tip your metabolism into negative balance. Count your calories and gradually reduce your intake until you have a negative daily total that you must sustain for long enough to reach your goal. This subtle shift prevents the body from going into a counter-productive starvation mode. Include high fiber foods that keep the stretch receptors in your stomach firing so you don’t feel hungry. And then, when you reach your goal, gradually shift back towards a neutral balance where you eat what you burn, and no more.
This is the way to BodyWHealth!