Nutrition

Avoid weight regain

Why do we regain weight is the million dollar question and the answer is hidden deep into million of years of evolution. Fat storage is not inheritably bad and we need to understand it’s various functions before we attempt to address a problem that is affecting so many people in our current society.

Will you join me today, in this little travel through our lifetime and in the wonderful world of fat?

Fat is life

Treasure the fat you have on you, cause it the reason that you exist that you grew up and if you are a mother that you gave birth. to healthy babies. Fat is considered by most a burden, something that is hindering our looks and we would like to get rid of it. 

Back in my university times one of my good friends was Andrew. Andrew was from Nigeria and was an open hearted person always laughing. It was always very interesting to discuss with him since our backgrounds were so different. And still remember many of our chats very vivdly. A lot of them were about the women we like. Being 20 years old women were obviously a very frequent topic of discussion! What Andrew had explained many times that the most beatiful women for him were not the skinny, thin type but the ones that had some weight on them. They are more healthy, they laugh more and they will be good mothers he said. At that time I attributed this to just cultural differences, but these days I often think back to my friend Andrew and how right he might have been.

Fat is life, fat is healthy and essential. 

Babies

Humans are the fattest species on record at birth. A baby human is born with about 15 percent body fat—a higher percentage than any other species in the world. But human babies keep on gaining fat too. Infant fatness peaks between 4 and 9 months of age at about 25 percent before it begins a long slow decline. 

Fat is critical to our warmth. Fat serve us by working as insulation but only. There are actually two kinds of fat: white fat, the normal fat we all know, and brown fat, also known as “brown adipose tissue,”. Brown fat is especially important in humans, who are unable to raise their body temperature through shivering. Brown fat generates heat by burning white fat and serves as a baby’s internal heating mechanism. 

Fat is the brains’ main energy source. During periods of nutritional shortfall, when there isn’t enough food or when food sources are irregular our fat keeps us going. One of the reasons such stores are so important for humans is that we have an extremely demanding organ that requires a lot of energy: our brain. A human baby’s brain is massive relative to its body size and is estimated to use around 50 to 60 percent of a baby’s energy budget. That means if there are any shortfalls in energy or if an infant’s nutrition is poor, there can be serious consequences. 

Fat helps with a strong immune. Babies grow their fat reserves through the first 4 to 9 months of postnatal life. Interestingly, it is at this stage in their development that infants begin to experience a major issue. An increase in exposures to pathogens that can make them sick.  Between increasingly complex nutritional needs and the demand for energy necessary to fight off illness, human babies use their baby fat reserves to stay healthy.

A healthy baby!

Puberty

The tissue that increases most during puberty is fat. Girls experience about a 120% jump in body fat before menarche. Girls need a certain percentage of fat to continue regular menstruations. Without a right amount of fat (around 22%) girls would not be ready to reproduce. Very interestingly the demands of being an athlete from a young age(e.g ballarinas, dancers) has a serious impact on regular menstruation cycles. Fat plas a role also in male developement. Low fat can result in low testosterone, no pubertal development and general under development. 

Adulthood

Healthy bones. A crazy it may sound fat is very important for bone health. Very low body fat causes low estrogen, which in turn causes bones in both mean and women. Postmenopausal women in particular rely on thei fat to protect their bones.

Fat protects us. Fat protects us from illenss and injury. Our immune system defens us against disease and injury by sending white blood cells, and repair proteins to the site of injury. Fat is crucial in this process by moderating a process called angiogenesis. In addition our fighter cells, called T-cells depend on leptin which is triggered by fat!

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Summary

  • Without fat, there would be no healthy babies, no puberty, no sexual maturation, and no pregnancy.
  • Fat is so important for life and health, that our body will do everything it can to maintain it. Losing fat beyond a level, or in the wrong way, sets off all the alarm bells in our body in an attempt to gain it back.

Hormones matter

I hope now you realise why fat is so important, and why our body tries so valiantly to defend it. 

And for every person the amount of fat we had in the past, defines to a big extent how are body will behave. Let me explain.

Overweight people can eat significantly less than those of healthy weight but still maintain excessive body fat. Fat seems to sustain itself even when a person eats less calories. To put in another even more clear way. Bodies of equal fat require different amounts of calories depending on whether one dieted or not!

Leptin is a powerful hormone

You knew that this was never a colories-in-calories-out problem. Here come into the picture our hormones. 

Leptin and Thyroid

Leptin (from leptos, or “thin” in Greek) is referred to as the satiety hormone, but I like to think of it as the manager of nutrition. We consume millions of calories every year and somehow these calories need to be managed. Leptin reflects the total number of calories that are stored. The amount of leptin released varies depends on the amount of fat tissue. Leptin travels from fat to the bloodstream and from there to the brain to a region that is involved in regulating appetite. Let me say that again. Our brain needs to ensure that our fat cells are cared for before allowing us to stop eating.

Leptin levels are usually significantly lower after weight loss (more on this later). Furthermore, where there is a lack of leptin, skeletal muscles become more efficient and consume less energy. So through leptin fat influences can even controls it’s fate by slowing down calorie usage.

Thyroid

Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism. When their levels decrese, so does our metabolic rate. When losing weight, the body is making a coordinated effort to return to it’s known and comfortable weight by decreasing how many colories it burns.

Technical Jargon

  • Friedman and Coleman received the Lasker Award in 2010 for their discovery of leptin in 1994. Not so long ago.

Can we avoid weight regain

There is a bias in society. Many think that people who are over-weight are to blame for their situation and that they are not trying hard enough. But it is not about discipline, mind control, eating less food or any other magic tricks.

You now understand better the role of fat and why we regain weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is not impossible though. 

Avoid diets in the first place

You can’t suppress hunger. If you ever did a low-calorie diet you know that very well. It is a losing battle. Eat all the calories your body needs. Trigger the right satiety hormones and feel good.  This means your hormones are working with you and not against you. Here are a couple of very simple tips 

  1. Eat slowly. Super slowly. Satiety signals don’t get triggered the same second you finish your meal, especially if you empty your plate in 5 minutes. Take 20 minutes, or even more, to finish your meal. Eat slowly and mindfully.
  2. Eat until satisfied but not full. It is called the 80% rule.
  3. Eat all your calories. This also means don’t drink your calories. Track your food in an app like cronometer to have a quick view of all the calories you eat. Use it for a month and you will get a good idea of where you are at.
Don't do any calorie restricted diets please

Include the right type of food in your meals

Since we are talking about satiety, we need to ensure that we eat the right food that give the right signals to our body which will result in not over-eating.

  1. Avoid processed and refined food. These are designed to be over palatable, so don’t get any satiety and eat not only the whole bag of chips but another two or three. Zero nutritional value, zero satiety.
  2. Include saturated fat in your diet. We need to give the right satiey signals to our body. Saturated fat from animal sources like meat and butter provide the right signals to our fat cells. You can eat as much saturated fat as you want but you will not get fat.
  3. Limit O6, polyunsaturated fat. Avoid totally all seed oils, since they are very inflammatory but also inhibit satiety. At the same time try to limit sources which are high in O6 fats such as nuts the same reasons.
  4. Include some fibre. If you are following a higher-carb diet fibre can help with satiety for different reasons. I believe this is optional but works for some people.

Do intermittent fasting and keto

Intermittent fasting is the power-house (once again) in order to maintain a healthy weight. In this case the reason is you are using your own fat for fuel, and if you are really fat adapted you will feel no hunger. Becoming fat adapted takes some time (up-to 12 weeks) and following a keto diet makes it a lot more easy to achieve. Additonally fasting will help with any cravings you may have. It is all about being able to tap into your fat store to maintain a steady supply throughout the day.

Address any insulin sensitivity issues

We have discussed this extensively in other blog posts, and it is essential to be insulin sensitive. If you eat and your cells don’t absorb the carbs (or fat) you eat they will end-up being stored as fat. And at the same time you will constantly feel hungry since your cells will be deprived of nutrients. Intermittent fasting and keto will help you in becoming metabolically healthy.

Sleep sufficiently

Sleep deprivation leads to bad mood, cravings, insulin resistance and will make it alwast impossible not to over-endulde. Respect your sleep

Confirm your status

Doing regular blood tests is a very good strategy to see where you are. These are the basic tests.

  • Insulin serum levels. Insulin works together with leptin in many cases and you need to be metabolically healthy. Aim for less than 5 mIU/L in a fasted state.
  • Leptin serum levels. If you have low leptin levels you know you need to address this. There is also a rare mutation of the LEP gene, where by you might not be producing enough leptin. This can be checked with a genetics test from SelfDecode.

Final thoughts

Fat has it own life and is an active endocrine organ which serves many purposes. And is very important organ communicating with various harmones with the rest of the body. Maintaining healthy weight is about respecting those hormones and what they are trying to achieve by following some simple lifestyle choices like eating mindfully, satieting foods and fasting.

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