Do you look at food and seem to gain weight?
A lot of people claim that if they even look at food they’ll gain weight. On the other hand, lots of people can seemingly eat anything without any consequences. What’s going on here?
Our body aims to maintain a constant level of homeostasis. What this means is that our body aims to keep all the systems that make up our body nice and stable, and does this by adapting to our environment (food, sleep, activity, and so on) every day.
Our body also likes to down regulate (slow down) various metabolic hormones in case our body senses a lack of food coming in. This safety mechanism dates back to thousands of years ago where food wasn’t so readily available. We would go days without any food and to survive our body had to adapt to living in such an environment.
These days we no longer have to hunt to survive, we rarely go through periods where we don’t have access to food. Evolution hasn’t caught up with how available food is these days which has caused a number of issues.
Firstly, I’d like to go back to where I said that our bodies like to maintain a constant level of balance. As a result, when we go through a longer period of time where we haven’t consumed food, as soon as we consume food our body likes to hang on to every single bit of food and store it as body fat in case we go through another period where food isn’t as available.
Even though body fat is seen as such a negative thing in society, our bodies see body fat as a way to store food for later in order to survive through periods where food isn’t as available.
Now, I’m not going to turn this into an article about how you “have to eat 6 times a day in order to stoke the metabolic fire”, but eating regularly certainly has some benefit. In my opinion, instead of looking at how many meals you should eat a day you should instead look at how regular is your eating is on a bigger scale. Do you eat at the same times every day, every week, and every month?
Because if you do, you are effectively training your body to expect food at these times which allows your body to not worry about a lack of food because your eating periods are like clockwork.
However, if you have days where you skip breakfast, work through lunch because you’re highly stressed and forget to eat (which in most cases is down to stress hormones blunting your appetite) and as soon as you’re home you’re starving (your body massively raises hormones that are responsible to increase appetite after a stressful period), so you decide to order a high calorie convenient meal like a takeaway which you also over order because you are so hungry.
This is where our evolutionary survival mechanisms kick in and store every bit of food that you eat because it simply does not know when we will be getting food again. Your body also keeps your metabolism down-regulated because it is unsure of when food will be available again.
Above is the case in which people believe that if they even look at food they’ll gain weight. So what do these people need to do?
In order to overwrite these inbuilt survival mechanisms we need to eat with some regularity and portion control. We need to reset our eating pattern and get used to getting hungry at regular periods throughout the day.
By correcting our eating habits we reap a lot of benefits (like increased energy, sleep, mood, etc) but most importantly we reverse our down-regulated metabolism which slowly gives us more freedom with how much food we can consume without accumulating body fat because our bodies aren’t worried about periods of time where food won’t be available.
My advice is start by eating every 4–5 hours. Have breakfast in the morning, have lunch and have dinner. Control your portions so that each sitting you only eat till you are satisfied (and not overly full).
This will be hard at the start because you are used to finishing everything that’s on your plate and more, which is quite an emotional way of eating.
Get used to listening to how you feel when you eat food, consciously chew every single bit of food and don’t just swallow it mindlessly.
By putting this into practice over time you will start to feel your appetite to become a lot more regular, and it will increase over time. As it does, very slowly increase the amount of food that you consume at every meal (or how often you eat, for example every 3 hours). If the next meal comes around and you’re still not hungry, it’s possible that you overate at the last meal. If it’s an hour or two before your next meal and you’re ravenous, chances are you didn’t eat enough so you’ll know better for the next time.
Over time you will slowly retrain your body to be able to consume more food on a regular basis without suffering the consequences. This is largely what reverse dieting is based on. Slowly increasing food to reverse the down-regulated hormones that have happened over a period of reduced calories.
There is a lot more than can be taken into account to speed up the process, but the above process should get you started and on your way.
Get used to listening to your body, more often than not it is telling you exactly what you need to know ;).
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I run a company that specialises in getting people into the best shape of their lives through tailor-made nutrition and training plans, all while coaching them along the way. Find out more about what we offer, and how you can join the team here.