I recently got the following message from an old friend:
Hi Bill happy new year heard about your weight. I personally believe once we’ve been programmed before a certain age, our bodies are always like that. This is why winners on the biggest loser with abs and muscles go back to getting fat again because like we have muscle memory I believe we have fat memory. That’s just my opinion. but you did it once and you will be able to do it again.
It turns out there’s some science that backs that opinion. A study published in 2012 by Dr. Daniel Lee and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, showed that rats fed a high fat diet not only gained weight but also grew more neurons—four times as many, in fact—in a region of the hypothalamus area in the brain called the median eminence, than rats fed a regular diet. To see what these new neurons were doing, Dr Lee shut down neuron production in some mice by delivering a precisely targeted beam of radiation, like that used in cancer therapy, to the hypothalamus. This does not damage existing cells, but stops them from dividing further. Meanwhile, the mice carried on gorging on fat.
Three weeks later the results were striking. Those prevented from growing new neurons weighed 10% less and had just two-thirds the body fat of those not subjected to radiotherapy. They were more active and showed higher metabolic rates. The differences in weight persisted even 12 weeks after radiation treatment, indicating that if neurons in the median eminence are allowed to proliferate, this has lasting effects on murine metabolism.
A different study earlier the same year by Dr. David McNay at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, in Boston, investigated another bit of the hypothalamus, called the arcuate nucleus. Dr McNay compared neuron growth in mice fed either normal food (containing 20% fat) or a high-fat diet (60% fat). Unsurprisingly, after ten weeks, mice on the fatty diet were significantly heavier than those given normal grub. They had, however, also grown far fewer neurons in their arcuate nuclei. But when Dr McNay put the chubby mice on calorie restriction, the neuron production in their hypothalamus perked right back up.
The hypothalamus, then, seems to fine-tune the brain’s circuitry to use all available calories, turning up neuron growth in one region while dampening it elsewhere.
So, if we assume that the results seen in these studies also apply to humans, it means the fatter you are and the poorer your diet, the more your brain is “programmed” to stay that way.
We also know, as I eluded to in a previous post, that some people have brain chemistries that reward them more than others for eating unhealthy foods. This is an evolutionary leftover from the days when people had to literally risk their lives in order to eat. Obviously, if you got a big “high” from eating, you were more likely to risk death for something tasty.
On top of that, some people’s bodies are excellent at storing fat.
All of the above is a powerful combination. So, knowing that these circumstances likely describe my situation, I suppose I have two choices: accept that, by nature, I am likely to remain overweight, eat poorly, be unhealthy, and die young, or fight my nature and make better choices despite my instincts to the contrary.
Some days, acceptance seems like the less foolish route. Why go to war with myself every day? What kind of life is that? Maybe I die a little earlier. Maybe I can’t wear skinny jeans but so what?
These days, I hope the last part of my friend’s message is also true; I did it once, I’ll do it again. Being healthy feels way better than eating poorly and being fat. I like being able to get down on the floor and play with my kids without pain. I like the thought of being around and in good shape to play with my grand children one day. So, the battle continues…
The information contained on this website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for entertainment purposes only.You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.Nothing contained on this website is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.