We used to say our stomachs “shrank” when we dieted. I always imagined that the poor starved thing withered down to a smaller size so that it was full with less food.
That’s not really what happens when we lose weight, though. The stomach stays the same. It’s your brain that changes. No, you don’t become small-minded. But something dramatic happens to your autopilot. Click here to learn about your autopilot.
It has to do with the hormones we talked about in yesterday’s post. Let’s take a closer look at leptin — an important hormone that tells your brain, “Enough already!”
Leptin is a protein made in the fat cells. I bet you thought your fat cells did nothing but sit there and make you look fluffy, but it isn’t so. They are busy little critters, doing lots of destructive things to your health. Fat cells are supposed to produce leptin, though. It’s a little like a fuel gauge. The fat cells send the leptin message to the autopilot in your brain that you have sufficient reserves, so it’s okay to slow down on the eating. It’s a part of the natural balance of your body.
But the way we eat in our culture is not normal. We eat stuff that makes our insulin go out of control. Then we don’t get the exercise we need so our bodies don’t make enough glucagon to burn the extra fat. We have too much fat in storage making too much leptin.
So why don’t we stop eating if we have plenty of leptin to tell us to quit? Just like your body quits recognizing insulin because you’ve produced so much of it, your brain quits “hearing” the leptin. It stops getting the message.
To make matters worse, leptin is also part of the reward system. When your leptin levels are low, or your brain doesn’t get the signals it delivers, food tastes better and makes you happier.
So can you get a leptin shot or order a bottle of leptin pills? The obesity experts had great hopes for that when leptin was discovered in 1994. But it doesn’t work that way. The problem is not that there is a lack of leptin. It is a problem of leptin resistance. If your brain won’t recognize it, there’s no point of giving it more to ignore.
How can you get your autopilot to start listening to your fat? One way is by lowering your insulin levels — there’s a connection there. Another way is by lowering the triglycerides in your blood. The triglycerides are the transport system for sending the leptin message. The best ways to do all those good things? A low glycemic diet and a consistent, doable, exercise plan. Now where have you heard that before? In case you are new to the blog (or very forgetful): Click here to read about low glycemic foods and the Green Light/Red Light eating plan and Click here to learn about an exercise plan you can actually do from now on.
Your conscious pilot can also help your autopilot out. Now that you know it is a matter of hormones yelling that you want to eat, you can consciously decide that you won’t listen!
Tell yourself, “I’m not really hungry and I don’t even really want that food. It’s just a misguided hormone thing. I don’t have to eat it.” It’s true. And if your conscious pilot is firm enough and repeats it often enough, your autopilot just might get the message.
He certainly will when your insulin levels drop to normal and your fat cells quit screaming the “eat” message. That’s why you feel full sooner when you are thinner — not because you don’t have to fill up a huge stomach, but because your autopilot gets the message and tells you that you are full.
We can bear almost anything for a while. Think about how temporary your hunger cycle is. You can stand a few hunger pains if you know that soon your body will get things under control and you will stop feeling so hungry. You will also stop being so fixated on food when your leptin-reward level drops. It will stop being so important to you. The cravings will go away.
So hang on, friends! Just keep on doing the right things — eating mostly from the green list and getting as many extra steps as you can work in. There’s much more going on here than calories in/calories out. It will get better and easier, the more you do it. And you will be preparing yourself for a longer, stronger, healthier, more fulfilling life.
Eating to live and living for Christ,
Susan Jordan Brown