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The human body is designed to gain weight and keep it on at all costs. Our survival depends on it. Until we acknowledge that scientific fact, we will never succeed in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Doctors and consumers alike believe that overeating and gluttony are the causes of our obesity epidemic. Science tells a different story: it is not completely your fault if you are overweight.
Powerful genetic forces control our survival behavior. They are at the root of our weight problems. Our bodies’ weight control systems are designed to produce dozens of molecules that make us eat more and gain weight whenever we have the chance – not to lose it.
We have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years under conditions of food scarcity, not overabundance. Our genes and molecules that control our eating behaviors are shaped by those times.
Basically, we are genetically designed to accumulate fat based on the days when we had to forage for food in the wild. Ignoring that fact becomes hazardous to both our health and our waistlines.
Furthermore, the food industry and our government’s recommendations are fueling this feeding frenzy. We cannot expect to change our instinctual responses to food any more than we can eliminate a feeling of terror when confronted with danger.
Think about this: we have hundreds of genes that protect us from starvation, but very few that protect us from overeating.
It all seems backwards, doesn’t it? If we remain genetically engineered to gain weight, then it would seem that we are wired incorrectly.
Why are we designed to overeat and grow fat? It all comes down to the oldest and most primitive part of our brain, our limbic, or “lizard,” brain. This is the part of your brain that evolved first, and it’s like a reptile’s brain. It governs your survival behaviors, creating certain chemical responses that you have no conscious control over.
While you might think you are in complete control of your mind, the truth is that you have little control over the unconscious choices you make when you are surrounded by food.
The key to a healthy metabolism is learning what those responses are, how they are triggered, and how you can stop them. You don’t want to put yourself in the position of resisting the lure of a bagel. Your drive to eat it will overwhelm any willpower you might have about losing weight. It is a life-or-death experience in your mind, and the bagel will always win.
One of the most important principles of weight loss is to never starve yourself. The question is whether you’re eating enough of the right calories, not if you’re eating too many calories. What you need is a baseline for how much you have to eat to keep your body from going into starvation mode.
Nobody chooses to be a heroin addict, cokehead, or alcoholic. Nobody chooses to have a food addiction either. These behaviors arise from primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal willpower and, in the case of food addictions, overwhelm the ordinary biological signals that control hunger.
Why is it so hard for obese people to lose weight despite the social stigma; despite the health consequences such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer; and despite their intense desire to lose weight?
Not because they want to be fat. It is because in the vast majority of cases, certain types of food—processed foods made of sugar, fat, and salt combined in ways kept secret by the food industry—are addictive. We are biologically wired to crave these foods and eat as much of them as possible
10 Strategies to Stop Overeating and Lose Weight
Fortunately, a number of tips can help you normalize your eating behavior so that you neither overeat nor under-eat. Thankfully, none of them involve counting calories (or counting anything)! Below are the strategies that have helped thousands of my patients lose weight, keep it off, and reduce their risk for diabesity.
Willpower, alone, isn’t enough to prevent you from overeating because the human body is genetically built to crave and cling onto fat. In fact, calorie-restricting diets usually lead to more weight gain and other health problems, especially when the body is forced into starvation mode. If you wish to have better control over your weight and your health, practice healthy habits that’ll gradually help you cut out processed foods, stop mindless eating and start cooking delicious, whole-food recipes. Step-by-step, you can normalize your eating behavior to ensure that you get just the right amount of nutrients.
Mark HymanMark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality - and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.