- What is this health threat that gets STRONGER the more we try to fight it?
- Why dieting is even harder than we think (and most of us already think it’s hard)
- Amazing research from a US biochemist…
There’s a cult film called The Blob.
Ever seen it?
(If not, and you like schlocky retro sci-fi horror then you can watch it for free here)
In this 1958 film a pulsing jelly-like alien organism attacks a town in Pennsylvania and begins to dissolve its citizens.
The more flesh it consumes, the more it grows!
But funnily enough this is what sprung to mind when reading an interview in the Times with a biochemist named Sylvia Tara.
Oh, and I don’t mean that Tara is The Blob…
The Blob is in all of us.
I’m referring here to FAT.
Sylvia Tara believes that “everything we think we know about weight loss is wrong.” According to her new book The Secret Life of Fat, rather than being dormant, jelly-like stuff that gets bigger and smaller depending on what we eat…
….fat has a MIND OF ITS OWN.
And it’s not to be trifled with.
Or as she puts it, “[Fat] is a dynamic endocrine organ that has a life-or death influence over us.”
For starters, when it feels threatened, fat fights back…
It can communicate with other parts of the body via hormones, releasing leptin to tell the brain it doesn’t need more food.
When you go on a diet, this leptin is depleted, meaning that you find it harder and harder to feel full, thereby putting all that weight back on again.
Fat tries to get you back to the weight you were before. Your fat cells become MORE responsive to food when you diet, meaning you put on more weight for eating the same amount as someone who is not on a diet.
It’s a cruel, cruel beast indeed.
Tara told The Times: “A person who has lost weight has to fun five miles for every four miles a person who is naturally that weight does in order to burn as many calories.”
In other words, the battle to lose weight is a lot harder than many people give credit for.
And here was the one that surprised me…
Fat can use stem cells to regenerate – meaning that your fat levels can increase even if you’re not eating.
That’s kind of terrifying when you think about it.
Because that’s how cancerous tumours behave.
And this is why Tara’s findings about fat reminded me of The Blog – the idea that this creature is an unstoppable feeding machine!
There are other causes of fat gain that Sylvia Tara adds to the list too…
Hidden factors that might be ruining your diet
For instance your genetic makeup… your gender (women tend to store more fat)… and also some forms of cold virus which correlate with a much higher risk of being overweight (four times as much risk for people who harbour this virus).
All of which really makes a mockery of this idea that there is a single diet solution that works for everyone.
Sylvia Tara’s findings (five years studying thousands of research papers) suggest the following:
• A lot of dieting is down to self control. This is the bad news, really. You have to work harder and exercise more to control weight than many non-dieters do. Essentially, life is not fair.
• You should boost the amount of leafy greens and probiotics in your diet so that you have a more diverse range of bacteria. This helps your body fight fat. As I pointed out in this issue of the People’s Doctor, bacterial diversity in your gut can also strengthen your immune system and ease the symptoms of allergies
• Try fasting for 16 hours regularly throughout the week. Again, this is something I talk about in this issue of The People’s Doctor, so please take a look at this for more advice: Does Fasting Work?
• Do intensive exercise three times a week. (This is fine, but I know a lot of people who cannot do this because of age, illness or issues with pain, in which case I recommend walking or swimming. Even if it doesn’t burn fat it’s healthy and gets your metabolism going.)
• Get no fewer than seven hours sleep. (Again, she might be right, but see this issue of People’s Doctor for the problem with sleep advice. Have we got sleeping wrong?)
While I’m not in 100% agreement with all of Sylvia Tara’s dieting solutions, her work on the complexities of fat is really enlightening.
The pattern seems to be that science is continually finding new complexities to our bodies… new interrelationships between different organs, processes and hormones… and one size-fits-all-solutions are just not very likely or helpful.
There is one encouraging idea, though…
Two years to victory!
According to Tara, and also several other weight loss experts I’ve encountered, if you can control your weight for two years, you will be highly likely to stay at that new weight in the long run.
In other words, after about two years, fat sort of gives up on returning to the heavier version of you and recalibrates.
Two years is a long time, of course, which is why the sustainable way to lose weight is to find an eating plan you can realistically stick at long-term.
For more information on this, check out the website – in particularly the issues from early January: The People’s Doctor.
That’s it from me today. On Saturday I’ve got something exciting for you to try out at home that doesn’t involve the Blob, but does involve a jelly-like substance that could sooth painful joints.
Until then, stay healthy!