Friday, November 30, 2007

How to Lose Weight

Every person needs a certain amount of calories (food) in a day.

Here are two ways to go about eating that amount of food:

1. You can take this amount of food and divide it up into 6 to 8 fractions and eat it throughout the day, taking each small meal about every 2 or 3 hours while you're awake. (6-8 small meals)
  • you won't really feel hungry
  • your metabolism will speed up
  • you will lose weight
2. You can starve yourself all day while drinking soda and then binge eat all your calories in 1 or 2 sittings. (1-2 giant meals)
  • you'll be hungry at first, but then the hunger passes as your body enters survival mode
  • when you do get around to eating, your body will "remember" or realize how hungry it is and the urge to gorge or binge on food becomes intense
  • your metabolism will slow down
  • you will store as much fat as possible and gain weight
Somewhere in between these two extremes is "3 meals a day" which is a social convention that we made up. Is "3 meals a day" the best of all possible worlds?

The metabolism changes based on the frequency of meals (how often one eats) regardless of whether one exercises or not.

Eating 6-8 meals or grazing (eating throughout the day) changes the metabolism and puts the body in an "anabolic state."
  • For people who train with weights with a goal of building muscle, eating 6-8 meals is a must. Otherwise, they won't get significant results--unless they support their training (work done) with proper nutrition.
  • For people who want to lose weight (body fat), eating 6-8 meals is an effective and long-lasting way to go about it.
This principle is essentially what NutriSystem sells. There's probably nothing special about what is in their food--the key is in having a consistent meal schedule.

Some cereal brands promise weight loss of 5 or 10 lbs by eating their cereal for breakfast. I have a hunch that the weight-loss occurs just by encouraging people to have a more consistent and well-proportioned meal schedule.

There is a stereotype that obese people eat all day long. More often than not, they fast until they've made themselves very hungry and then they binge eat. The roots of this behavior usually begin with the false but common misconception that skipping meals will lead to weight loss, which is absolutely false.

After fasting or starving oneself, the pleasurable feelings produced by finally eating are intensified. It becomes a reliable way to change the way one feels--using food to influence one's emotions--much like drugs and alcohol are used as predictable ways to change one's feelings. In contrast, if you eat throughout the day, you don't get to that point of intense hunger; you forget what hunger is like. Food is still pleasurable but it doesn't affect the brain's survival and pleasure centers as intensely.

After adjusting one's eating habits for long enough one realizes that unless you fuel your body and brain throughout the day with well-portioned and balanced meals, they don't run as well. It's a self-reinforcing habit.