The human body is an amazing and perplexing thing. It can be made to do many things that at first thought may seem impossible from acrobatics and athletic achievements to surviving seemingly deadly accidents and recovering from supposedly lethal diseases.
But there are some things it cannot do. The body needs certain inputs to survive. It needs oxygen, water, and of course, food for sustenance. Without these inputs, the body will eventually die. I think we’re all quite aware that we need to breathe to live. Take air away for 5 minutes and you will suffer massive brain damage.
You can live approximately 3 days without water. But you’ll start feeling miserable long before that.
So what about food? I think somewhere along the line, we stopped seeing food as a necessary component for survival and started seeing it as a luxury, a pleasure, an indulgence. But while food may play those roles at times, it is actually just as necessary as air to your survival.
I believe this misunderstanding about the nature of food is one reason why so many people think that a good way to lose weight is to just stop eating or to eat extremely little. They don’t consider the fact that food sustains them, they only see that too much of it causes weight gain or that skinny movie stars subsist on baby food. This is without a doubt the wrong way to go about losing weight, if you care about anything other than seeing the number on the scale go down quickly. If you don’t care about keeping it off, or looking like you have nice muscle tone, keeping your hair, or your health or any of the other benefits of eating enough food, then by all means, follow one of those starvation diets. You will lose pounds.
Several studies have come out that show that dieting actually causes weight gain. And by “dieting” I mean ignoring your hunger signals. You may think this is hypocritical coming from someone who just lost 120 pounds by eating less. But the important difference is that while I did eat less, I made sure never to eat too much less. And if I felt ravenously hungry, I ate. I just ate healthier stuff. Every other time in my life I have tried to lose weight, I’ve done so by eating way too little. I never knew that there was a reason not to do that, I thought I just had weak will-power.
I can tell you now that I have fantastic will-power. I stuck with something other people give up on quickly for over 2 years to lose the weight I wanted to lose. But even my will-power is no match for the biological power of hunger.
…the more you diet, the more weight you gain. The reason this happens is because your brain freaks out when you don’t eat even though you are hungry. Your brain panics because it thinks you are starving. Luckily, your neural connections were built to protect you from things like starvation, so your pre-frontal cortex responds by increasing your feelings of pleasure and happiness when you do finally eat. Your frontal lobe actually changes its chemical responses to trick you into eating more, and this change can be pretty permanent depending on how severely and for how long you starve yourself.
Research actually shows that you don’t just gain a little bit of weight from dieting, but you are significantly more likely to become overweight or obese. This means that most people, who are at a healthy body weight throughout their lives, are more likely to have never dieted.
If you find this difficult to believe, just stop breathing. Go ahead, just stop. Hold your breath. Decide that you do not need this input to live. Decide that your will-power is greater than your need to breathe. Hold your breath as long as you can. If you’re really stubborn, you might pass out. But more likely, you will eventually breathe. You will gasp in more air than a normal breath. Your body needs oxygen. If you don’t give it enough, it will panic. Now when you start breathing again, you will gulp in air like you have never breathed before. You don’t have a choice.
Try it again. Hold your breath as long as you can, but this time, when you break, try to breathe as you normally would instead of desperately filling your lungs with air. Can you? I have a sneaking suspicion you cannot.
Now relate this to food. I think many people think “Oh, well, I know I’m going to be really hungry after I do this extreme diet, but I won’t overeat. I’ll just go back to eating normally.” But can you really? Have you taken into account the desperation your body experiences and how this will affect your mind? Do you think your mind is stronger than your bodily need? It is not. If you are able to sustain a long period of time without food or with very little, this is not something of which to be proud; it’s a sign that you are suffering from disordered thinking. Nothing should outweigh the bodily need to survive. Especially not something as silly as looking skinny in a bikini.