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What if we didn't store food as fat?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

So how would our lives change if our bodies didn't store fat?

I'm going to pull the thread on that one in just a little bit, but it begs the question, "how and why do our bodies store fat?"

Well I'm certainly not a biologist, a nutritionist, a biochemist, or anything else that requires knowledge of organic chemistry (although I was an astronomer in a previous life), but I'm a good enough of a problem solver to know how to ask the right questions, frame the problem, gather the facts and make a fairly well informed decision.

For years (decades actually) my weltanschauung was much like everyone elses; fat loss & gain were reducible to a simple math problem; calories in must be less than calories out in order to lose weight.

Pretty freaking simple right? Burn more calories than you eat and the weight should just melt off. Keep accurate count of your caloric intake, burn more than you take in, watch the scale slide inexorably downward.

Then WTF is going on with my weight & body composition not responding to this simple math problem? Why have I run thousands of miles and stayed at about the same weight (truth be told, I did add muscle and lose fat), why do (did) I have the same love handles that should have melted away after my third marathon? Inquiring minds want to know.

So for the last 3 months I have read as much as I can about nutrition, carbs, fats, proteins, biochemical pathways, yadda-yadda-yadda. I dove in pretty deep into how & why our bodies store fat.

I'm not sure it's a simple math problem....I think there's chemistry involved, and that takes it beyond high school math and into college labwork. I'm not going into the whole mechanism here, but suffice to say, that it's not so much that our bodies measure the calories in against the calories burnt, storing the difference as fat or reaching into our fat stores to burn it's a little more complicated and involves a whole slew of chemical processes that call upon hormones (insulin, glucagon, etc.) and adaptations of our bodies to what we burn for fuel (glucose, ketones). Bottom line, the best books I've seen about the subject are;

"Why We Get Fat" - Gary Taubes
"The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" - Stephen D. Phinney and Jeff S. Volek
"The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance" - Stephen D. Phinney and Jeff S. Volek
"Wheat Belly" - William Davis
"Fathead: The Movie" - Tom Naughton

There are more, but these are my favorites so far.

So what if the issue isn't, "Why is it so hard to lose weight", but "How do I get my body to stop storing fat".....well that takes you down a whole different least it has for me, and so I've embarked on my own little experiment to see how my body responds to a low carbohydrate lifestyle, one that really reduces my body's propensity to store fat.

And my body has responded very well!

So let's say I eat the right balance of foods that stalls the mechanism where my body has to store food as fat, what happens (or more accurately, what has happened to me).

Well, if I don't store food as fat, then the food I eat goes in to making more muscle & bone.....and my body flushes out the excess nutrients

If I don't store food as fat, then, when I burn off some fat due to doesn't go back and replace what I just burnt off.....and I get a little less "jiggly" over time.

If I don't store food as fat, I can eat more than I think I can in the calories in/calories out model.....and not go around hungry all the time with cravings for food that I feel deprived of, because I'm eating plenty.

If I don't store food as fat, my weight just doesn't seem to increase.....even when I eat way more than I have in the last 2 years.

So is this a clinical trial with all sorts of variables held in check with accurate measurements of everything going on with me.....of course not. I'm barely 3 months in to a lifestyle change that may take a year or more to get me where I want to be (and I'm still not exactly sure where that should be, but that's another blog), but here's what I can safely say has been the pay off so far;

- I feel like I have conquered food cravings.....I eat as much of the things I like as I want (just no carbs) and I do not feel hunger anxieties much at all. This is probably the most incredible part of it, I don't feel compelled to eat a dozen cookies at a pop, or spoonfuls of peanut butter, plates and plates of spaghetti, breads, potatoes, you name it. Yet I just came back from a 7-day cruise where I ate like Fred Flintstone all day, every day.....and I dropped 1.5 lbs!

- I don't "see" it myself, but everyone around me is telling me I look leaner and that I look great....friends, families, co-workers, even strangers in stores or at the gym.

- I do "feel" leaner.....belly bulge & love handles appear to be shrinking, muscles are popping out around shoulders, legs, & arms.

- My weight is very comfortably going down, albeit at a slow rate, but I'm OK with that. I'm working out a lot, lifting weights & doing cardio....I'm at 179 lbs, and truth be told, I'm not sure where I want to level out at.....175, 170, I don't really know. I feel pretty darn good and like what I see in the mirror.

- My BP has gone down to textbook normal numbers.....a very interesting side-effect, especially since I have a family history of high BP, diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of other metabolic syndromes.

So this is where my current research has taken me, all I can do is to to vouch for what I see working so far, but I'm very pleasantly surprised.....still a long way to go, but asking and answering questions like these have definitely made a difference where previous paradigms had stalled me out.

Have a great day Spark friends!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • BOB240
    My experience on a low carb approach has always been positive. I might note that given exactly the same diet over seven months and an increasing exercise regime my best numbers indicated that
    1] When I was 10 ponds over normal BMI the calorie in = calorie out thing seemed to work
    2] As soon as I reached ten pounds outside normal bmi - something happened. Weight loss rate was much less. It still went but despite exercising more etc something had happened to my body.
    I also seemed to get a spurt in strength as judged by lifts BUT I was not eating more.


    2131 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. I am reading New Atkins for a New You that you recommended and it is very interesting. I don't know whether I might become an adapt of low carb or not, but I am definitely experimenting with my own food consumption.
    Good luck on your journey and I am looking forward to those blood tets coming up in a bit!
    emoticon emoticon
    2131 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/19/2012 11:37:44 AM
  • PROT358
    Fascinating blog, and a great question to consider. I've always thought it's more complex than calories in, calories out. And your experience with low carbs also suggest that our bodies don't process all calories equally. (Jillian Michaels agrees and explores this and other aspects of our biochemistry in "Master Your Metabolism," which was a very informative read). Thanks for leaving the book names because I was just about to ask. Looks like my reading list just got a little longer!

    And I got so excited about the rest of the blog I almost forgot ... congratulations on the losing weight and changing your body composition! You're doing great!
    2132 days ago
    I'm glad this is working for you, but this blog hurt my head! I don't want to think that much about balance. I have enough trouble focusing on a single goal each moth - this month it is protein, next month will be fiber. emoticon
    2132 days ago
  • NWFL59
    Glad you found something that works for you and are able to continue to succeed in the pursuit of your long term goals. emoticon
    2132 days ago
    I'd say the low-carb idea is worth looking into, especially if you're stalled/plateaued.
    2132 days ago
    It's complicated, for sure. You're not the first person I've seen who has found low carb does the trick for them; but I haven't needed low carb for myself. I think there's something missing from the research: Why do some methods work well for some people, while other methods work well for other people?

    One size does not fit all, and it's hard to tell which size fits me without trying it on.
    2132 days ago
  • BILL60
    Great blog. Would love to hear of the results at 6/9/12 months.
    2132 days ago
    Great blog, and very interesting!
    And what is the solution for you, how do you divert your metabolism to store food as fat?
    And how did you conquer cravings?
    2132 days ago
    Nice job. Isn't human physiology fascinating?
    2132 days ago
    I have been reading up on the Carbs thing too. It really makes a difference & you end up eating more & healthier.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2132 days ago
    Great! It sounds like your experiment is going very well, indeed. Have you seen Dr. Peter Attia's site?
    2132 days ago
    "- My BP has gone down to textbook normal numbers.....a very interesting side-effect"

    I still find it rather mind-boggling that when you Google "What causes high blood pressure" the answer essentially comes back as "We don't know", yet virtually anyone who substantially lowers their sugar and starch intake will see the numbers drop. Hmmmmm. Think there's a connection there?
    2132 days ago
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