Dr Eric Pugliesi
Evolution of weight gain
When we focus on weight management we should first explore how our body regulates weight.
A very important part of our brain known as the hypothalamus is key in weight control. This mythological sounding structure is in control of our hormones temperature, pleasure and gets signals sent from our intestinal tract telling us when we should and shouldn’t eat.
Our hypothalamus hasn’t changed much during our evolution unlike our ways of living. Humanity has transitioned quickly into an obese promoting environment bound to easy access of highly palatable and refined food. The accessibility of food has led our “hedonic” dominant pathway (please refer to my first blog) making us eat the food we desire frequently. The former has made our brains develop short circuits to ignite pleasure and these kick in frequently leading to an addiction like model.
In combination with this process there is also a higher prevalence of sedentarism increasing our general population’s risk for weight gain. Roughly, we are gaining 1-1.5 kilos every year.
Unfortunately, our weight gain has been targeted by the weight loss industry and they have imposed a restrictive approach. The continual dietary sell has contributed to our current Obesity Pandemic.
The current restrictive dietary pathways will most likely lead to weight loss in the short term (first 6-12 weeks) however, our brain‘s evolution has been designed to recognise weight loss and protect our baseline. No different to animals who hibernate our hypothalamus has a predetermined weight it considers its baseline and by default it will return to it shortly after a fasting term.
The consequence then is for our primitive brain to gorge seeking sugar / fat rich foods and store energy. In conjunction to a higher intake of high energy food our body is so wise that it will decrease its basal metabolism rate aiming to burn the least amount of energy to run its essential systems.
The damage of restrictive dieting goes beyond the yo-yo effect. Unfortunately, our basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body needs to run its most basic life-sustaining functions) drops with every diet you undergo. In the simplest of terms, you need a greater effort each time to lose weight.
This is why restrictive dieting is not the way to go and please don’t blame yourself for failing on these silly diets.