Why can’t I lose weight?

Are you more confused than ever about what to eat? Do you find you are eating substantially less, exercising a whole lot more and not shedding a single pound? This is a recurring theme in mid life, and sadly even in youth today.

The average North American consumes nearly a ton of food annually – literally. So food matters. Highly palatable, lab-made food, with a long shelf life, is easily accessible around the clock. Not much effort is required to seek it, or prepare it.

Ever notice that no matter how much you eat, there always seems to be a little room left for dessert? Highly processed, refined flour and sugar products never completely satiate us. There’s always room for a little bit more.

“But I eat real food, not packaged food!” you cry.  

You’ve tried every whole food diet, from Paleo to Vegan, and while you experience an initial loss with any dietary change, eventually you gain it all back – and then some. It’s just not fair! To make matters worse, you see your neighbour pig out on chips, fries, pop and pizza and not gain a single pound. What’s the deal here?

Well, we all come in different shapes and sizes. There are many skinny fat people – thin on the outside and fat on the inside (TOFI). That can be worse than obesity. Belly fat is more harmful to health than subcutaneous (under skin) fat. Because it is less obvious, it is also easier to overlook, failing to promote healthy change.

There can also be another explanation though. That neighbour may not obsess about food. That neighbour may often forget to eat because they are so busy running around. They naturally produce a lot of adrenaline, constantly ‘running away from the proverbial sabre-tooth-tiger’, mobilizing stored fat and sugar for fuel. They spend a lot of time “self-eating” – cleaning up debris and accumulation. Regardless, this too may not be sustainable. While some may be more resilient than others, heart and adrenal exhaustion sooner or later will afflict such people.

A normal weight person has 1400-2000 calories of sugar stored in the liver and muscle tissue, and roughly 30,000-100,000 calories stored in fat cells. While prolonged starvation is ill advised, we should be able to access stored fat daily. In fact, in1965, a 456-pound 27-year-old manfasted for 382 days, under medical supervision, ending up at 180 pounds sustainably. Besides water, he was only given yeast, a multivitamin and potassium as needed. (Please do not embark on an unsupervised prolonged fast.)

How can we safely access stored fuel daily?

A prolonged overnight fast depletes a lot of the easily accessible sugar stored in the liver. To deplete the sugar stores in muscle, recruiting and activating all muscle fibers with short bursts of highly intense exercise, or lifting very heavy weights slowly and to muscle exhaustion, is most effective. You’d be surprised how short the duration and frequency of this type of exercise needs to be to achieve results.

To access fat stores, again I encourage prolonging the fast between dinner and breakfast, while eating most of your food earlier in the day, when you are most insulin sensitive (insulin is the main fat storage hormone); not snacking; avoiding refined starch and added sweeteners; adding a lot of colourful non-starchy vegetables, garnished with very high quality protein and a sufficient amount of healthy fats. Current science is moving away from the old advice to eat every three hours to prevent blood sugar issues and prevent over-eating. In fact, a Japanese molecular biologist, Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in medicine, for his work on “autophagy” or “self-eating”. 

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