There are many reasons why people find weight loss challenging, but by far the most powerful reason lyes within our bodies themselves. You see the human body is not set up to lose weight. Rather, inbuilt within us, is a complex system designed to protect us from the very thing we wish to achieve. It seems counterproductive when you think about it, but the reality is that our body doesn’t want to lose weight. It sees this as a danger to our survival.
This inbuilt system makes a lot more sense in the context of an environment where food is not readily available. In Australia however we would rarely be further than a mile from a pre-prepared source of energy. Many people label our environment as “obesogenic” because of the huge variety and availably of food everywhere we go. However this was rarely the case a few hundred years ago. People had to prepare or catch their own food, and there would be many an occasion when the availability of food was scarce. It was during these times that our bodies in-built defense system thrived, and no doubt saved many peoples lives. When you think about it it makes a lot of sense. Starvation is more likely to put our lives in acute danger than gaining a few extra pounds will. That’s why our body responds the way it does to a reduction in food intake.
How does the body defend itself
The human body has a number of mechanisms it uses to avoid weight loss. The umbrella term for this set of mechanisms is starvation mode. However contrary to what the name implies, we don’t necessarily have to be starving for starvation mode to kick in. Sometimes all it takes is a small reduction in daily intake or an increase in physical exertion in order for the starvation mode switch to flick on.
Once the switch is flicked the first noticeable response is a drop in metabolic rate. This is like turning down the engine on a car in order to conserve fuel, and it’s exactly what the body does when we eat less food. On top of that our hypothalamus (located in our brain) can release a set of hormones that firstly make us hungrier and secondly makes the appearance and smell of food more attractive. So not only are we conserving energy but we now have an increased appetite to go with it. How unfair is that!
How to get around starvation mode
In short it’s very difficult to get around this natural system, however there are things you can do to reduce it’s impact. The main goal when losing weight should be to reduce our body’s sense of danger. Going on an extreme diet that cuts whole food groups is a bad example of this. Keep in mind that food not only provides energy but also life dependent nutrients. By ensuring that your diet includes adequate amounts of nutrients, which can be achieved even on reduced calories, will potentially turn down the degree at which starvation mode is activated. This will therefore make weight loss easier and achievable in the long term. This is one of the reasons why I tell clients weight loss is more effective when done slowly. It allows adequate food to ensure adequate nutrients. And nutrients are key!
If you would like help with achieving long term weight loss then get into contact with me today and book an appointment.