Sally’s Weight in Kilograms – red line is the trend
Serious and sustained weight loss is not an easy thing to achieve. It takes time, you need to apply yourself to it and it takes dedication. If you are obese, however, it is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and prospects for a long life. The co-morbidities associated with obesity seem endless – cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, musculo-skeletal problems and metabolic syndrome are some of them. Maybe Alzheimer’s should be in my list too. Given that we know all that, you might think it should be the case that the body would want to get rid of excess body fat and in general I think it does, but 3 things get in the way:
- Homeostasis – the desire of the body to stay in the state it is currently in;
- The addictive nature of carbohydrates; and
- Our bodies are made for starvation and body fat is our insurance policy to ensure we survive.
The human body doesn’t like change and when you try to change a bit of it, it employs systems to resist that change i.e. temperature goes up, we sweat to bring it down. It does the same thing with body fat. If we eat less the body has fewer calories to play with so it either does less (slows down movement for e.g.) or does something less intensively (turns down our body temperature slightly). Researchers have shown this by attaching movement sensors to people on a calorie restricted diet and have measured less movement, even though the dieters reported that they moved the same amount.
The Addictive Nature of Carbohydrates
The action of fast acting carbohydrates is shown in the right-hand graph below and slower acting foods on the left. You will note that fast acting carbs crash blood sugar below its normal fasting level. This will make your body want to rebuild that blood glucose to the level it should be quickly, and irrespective of what your overall nutritional status is, it will decide you need to eat and eat something that will replace the missing glucose quickly – i.e. more carbohydrates – and the cycle therefore begins again. That’s addiction in my book.
Our Bodies are made for Starvation
As a pretty vulnerable animal, we are astonishingly successful. Partly because of our big (although smaller than they used to be) brains and partly because we can do without food for a long time when hunting is bad and food is scarce. When calories are in short supply, we tend to move less we are not so warm and we hang on to all the resources we can and the most important one of these is body fat. We therefore keep hold of it for as long as we can and use it only when we have to or, crucially, when can replace it easily – i.e. there is plenty of fat in our diet. The longest recorded human fast (no food at all) was 382 days without any ill effects.
All of which makes it VERY HARD TO ACHIEVE SUBSTANTIAL AND SUSTAINED WEIGHT LOSS.
Which brings me to the graph at the top of the page. This is a record of the weight in kilograms of one of my clients. We can call her Sally. Sally came to me three years ago with a BMI of nearly 40 and a weight of 17stone 10lbs (248lbs), which was a lot for a woman of 5 feet 7 inches. I asked her how much weight she wanted to lose, and she said she didn’t know exactly but that a weight of “11 stone something” (154-167lbs) seemed about right. I agreed. I think I said it was achievable but wouldn’t be easy. If I did say that, I was right, but this week Sally has achieved it. She weighed in at 11stone 11lbs (165lbs) with a BMI of 26. A loss of 6 stone or 83lbs. It’s interesting to me to note that, as she has come close to her goal, her weekly weight losses have been some of the fastest ever. That appears to be the function of the introduction of some intermittent fasting (skipping breakfast in the main) and the re-introduction of coconut oil in coffee. Sally took out the coconut oil as she felt it was slowing her weight loss. It looks like the opposite was the case, which won’t surprise my Primal Health Coach colleagues. Convincing your body that it isn’t starving is key to persuading it to give up its stored fat and if you feed it fat, my interpretation of the evidence says the body responds to that fat intake with “good hunting, no worries, burn fat don’t store it…”
What a fantastic achievement!!
As you can see from the graph there have been setbacks, but Sally has achieved her dream of turning around her health. She did it all on a primal/paleo diet with no calorie restriction and just a bit of intermittent fasting in the last few months. Because of Sally’s honesty, we know that the times her weight increased were the times where, for various reasons, she fell off the primal wagon. But she always picked herself up and got back on again. There was another interesting issue that was associated with coming off and going back on a primal diet. When Sally came to me three years ago, one of the issues she had was arthritis in her hands, which isn’t good for a jewellery maker like her. While she was strictly primal however, the arthritis went away, when she wasn’t, it came back. It was a regular as clockwork – primal, no arthritis; not primal, arthritis. Sally is currently 100% primal and 100% arthritis and pain free. It’s not the first time I have seen this in my clients.
Sally now wants to get her BMI a bit below 25 in time for Christmas before entering the maintenance phase and I think she will do it. What a Christmas present that would be! Well done Sally, I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work with you over the years to achieve your goal.
To succeed, you only have to fall down seven times and get up eight.
I’m hoping Sally will share some photos soon…