Food Addiction – Part 2: Fat storage, a protection mechanism
Ryan Lewis, B.Sc.
It is estimated that 90-95% of people who go on a diet gain the weight back again, and more. This is because diets are inherently set up to fail. They tend to reduce or eliminate one of the macronutrients found in food that our cells actually need to properly carry out the basic functions that allow us to function properly. These include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The problem with a deprivation approach is that the body perceives this denial as a famine. As a result, when a person finally ends their diet, their body is so happy to be eating again that it stores most of what is eaten into reserves as fat in case it is faced with the same problem in the future. Simply put, every time you force yourself to lose weight by limiting calories, your body forces you to gain more weight to protect itself from a perceived threat of starvation or food shortage.
The hormone responsible for signalling to the body to store fat is insulin. In fact, you can think of insulin as the fat producing hormone. When we eat a meal and break it down into glucose and other molecules, insulin is secreted by the pancreas and signals to our cells that glucose is present and ready for up take. The cells then uptake the amount of glucose needed and any excess is stored. One way of storing glucose is in fat cells called adipocytes. This explains why insulin is sometimes referred to as the fat producing hormone.
But, is this fat a bad thing? Contrary to what many people believe, it is actually a good thing. In fact it is one of the body’s protection mechanisms and a great example of how the body can heal when faced with adversity. Most of the detrimental chemicals added to processed foods are not water-soluble. This means they do not dissolve in urine and therefore cannot be easily excreted from our bodies in urine. Instead, they are lipophilic or fat-soluble. This means our bodies surround these chemicals and store them in fat reserves in order to keep them from causing too much damage. The fact that we store these chemicals in our fat has further implications when it comes to weight loss. When a person burns fat, either through exercise or dieting, it allows these chemicals to be released causing damage that was previously prevented when surrounded by fat. As these chemicals or toxins are not excreted in the urine, we do not get rid of them and they accumulate in our bodies. This is why before engaging in any weight loss regime it is essential for a person to first eliminate the toxins they have accumulated before beginning to burn fat. In other words, it is highly beneficial to complete a detoxification program first then proceed with exercise and diet to lose excess weight to support healthy weight reduction. There are certain foods that are considered “detox foods”, which are great for assisting the body to cleanse and eliminate these toxins and harmful chemicals. I will be exploring these further in the third and final part of this series.
Hungry for Change: Your Health is in Your Hands. Dir. James & Laurentine. 2012.