Most diets fail. This episode continues to discuss the physiological reasons why diets don't work. It goes beyond the thermodynamics of food. I talk about the three main factors that influence our weight set point and what we can do to work with our body's biochemistry to lose weight permanently.
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Episode 10 Transcript
Brigitte Factor 0:13 Hello, and welcome to the hungry for truth podcast. I'm your host, Brigitte Factor, the truth seeker, researcher, scientist, nutritionist, teacher in truth teller, and awakening is coming. Get ready for it.
Brigitte Factor 0:47 Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. This is Episode 10. Why diets don't work part two. And last time in episode nine, I talked about why diets don't work from the psychology of eating perspective and getting into our mindset and emotions around our food choices and asking the question about why we eat or why we choose the foods we eat. So if you haven't listened to that, go back and listen to that episode as we dive into the psychology of eating a little more. This episode, I wanted to dive into the physiology of dieting, and why sometimes our efforts can backfire on us when we embark on a diet. And so really, we're gonna look at the biochemistry of dieting and tackle that age old question, is it food quality versus quantity? Is it really just a matter of calories in versus calories out? And, you know, look at some of the other aspects that play a role in this. And last time I mentioned the biggest loser study. And the biggest loser study really exemplifies what we all know or have experienced maybe in the past on going on a very calorie restricted diet is that it may work initially. But after a while, it's impossible to stick to. And then when you go back to doing what you're doing before the diet, you gain the weight back. And even more Well, there's actually some science behind why that happens. It's not that we just give up and fail and start stuffing our faces. Again, there's actually reasons why we do that. So I wanted to touch on that. And in this Biggest Loser study, this is published in obesity in 2016. And it's looking at the persistence of metabolic adaptations six years after the biggest loser competition. So in this particular study, they are following competitors that were in the biggest loser competition. And if you don't remember, the biggest loser was a TV show where they were taking people that are very overweight and obese and putting them into very intense exercise and dieting programs and following them and seeing and weighing them each week and seeing how much weight they lose. And the person that loses the most weight wins the competition. And so in this study, they wanted to follow these people after they had left the competition, and see how their metabolism changed as a result of that. And what they discovered is that most of the participants regained their weight back after the biggest loser competition was over. And the reason or possible reason they're pointing to in this article is because of slowed metabolism. So they're tracking their basal metabolism or their resting metabolic rate. And the resting metabolic rate is basically how many calories you burn when you're at rest when you're just lying there. And what many research articles have shown is that when we go on a diet and reduce our calorie intake, our resting metabolic rate also decreases as well. And in this study, most of them gain the weight back after six years. And all of them still had a slow metabolism as a result of participating in the biggest loser Six years later. So participants regained lost weight due to slowed metabolism. And that slowed metabolism persisted up to six years later. So the biggest understanding of this is, is that when we try to dramatically change our internal system or internal balance, there are things in our body that try to fight against that. And I'm going to dig through those.
Brigitte Factor 5:09 So when we go on a diet, the purpose of going on the diet is to decrease our calorie intake lower than what we're expanding that whole positive versus negative energy balance. So, if we are taking in less calories than we are expending, then that calorie deficit is supposed to equate to weight loss. Now, we are more biochemistry than we are physics and thermodynamics. So there's a lot more complexity to it than just that. And I'm going to talk about some of those things. But what this is, what the research is showing us is that when we have that calorie deficit, that difference in intake of calories from what we're expending that our internal mechanisms that want to keep us in homeostasis, start to adjust, and that calorie deficit disappears. And so calorie restriction backfires. And like I mentioned before, we've probably all experienced something similar to that, where we go on a diet, we lose some weight, and then we go stop the diet, we gain the weight back, you know, I've tried a variety of different diets, I'm an experiment or like to try different things and see how it works for me. Yeah, I've done the Jenny Craig thing where I was on a really limited low calorie diet, and it worked for the time being that I was on it. But then the moment you get off of it, you go back to eating normally. And because of that reduced metabolism, you end up gaining more weight back. So other researchers found is that the metabolism and activity level adjust to match our caloric intake. So again, it goes back to those internal mechanisms that are regulating our own energy input and output that we don't consciously control. And so this other study that I wanted to mention was published in human physiology, it's looking at the effect of calorie restriction on resting metabolic rate and spontaneous physical activity. And what they have found is that metabolism and activity level automatically adjust to match our caloric intake. So if we decide to restrict our calories, our the amount of energy output is going to decrease over time. And that is done through decreased physical activity. And so some of what we see is part of our energy out equation is our exercise. And also our non exercise activity. Exercise. burns calories, we know that but sodas are non exercise activity and non exercise activity is the stuff that like walking, fiddling, sitting at your desk working, those kind of things where you're moving, you're up, you're around, and you're just doing normal movement, but you're not necessarily exercising and getting your heart rate up. And what it turns out that that non exercise activity plays a big role in our metabolism, and sometimes even a bigger role than just exercising for 30 minutes. It also depends on the type of exercise that we're doing. And I'm not going to get into the type of exercises that work at boosting metabolism too much today, that is a component of this, I really just want to talk about focusing on that this dieting in this diet mindset that we have and some of the misconceptions that we have around calorie restriction. But ultimately, when we decrease our calories, our metabolism will also decrease and that energy deficit will disappear. And so after a few months, we stopped losing the weight, our weight loss plateaus, but we're hungry. Because we're still extending these calories, we're still trying to burn this energy. And those hunger myth mechanisms go off. Also, our energy decreases, because we're not taking in enough to support our activity level. And so we have, we have low energy and we're hungry. And that just sets us up to to give up and not keep going. And so eventually, we can't fight this, what I call the body survival instinct to make sure we're getting enough food. And we will begin to take in more calories again, but at this time, our metabolic rate our resting metabolic rate has lowered because of our dieting efforts. And so we go back to eating the normal types of food or the normal way we were eating before the diet, but because of our lowered metabolism, we end up gaining more weight back then, that affects us because we feel like a failure or maybe the person or trainer we're working with thinks we're not doing it right. And then that just further feeds that negative mindset that we have about dieting, but I wanted to touch on what's going on inside the body that is directing this, why do we get so hungry, and what's really driving our hunger and satiety signals outside of our emotions.
Brigitte Factor 10:19 And really, ultimately, our hunger, like I mentioned before, is controlled by the brain by the hypothalamus, that Captain H, that surveying the landscape and making sure everything's where it's supposed to be to keep our body in homeostasis. And it's surveying the landscape, checking in on what our metabolism is how much energy we're expending how much energy we're taking in. And when we are not taking in enough energy, there's a hormone released in the brain that tells us that we're hungry. And this hormone is called neuropeptide Y, NPY. And it's secreted by the hypothalamus that stimulates hunger. And so that is telling our brain, hey, we're hungry, we need to take in food, or we need some energy here. We also have a hormone that's secreted in our stomach when our stomach is empty and growling. And this hormone is called I call it ghrelin, because it sounds like Gremlin, if you remember Gremlins, and they get hungry, and they're there very growly. And so when our stomach is growling, because it's hungry, that is the hormone that's telling us, hey, it's time to fill our bellies, it's time to take in food. Then as we start to take in food, other hormones are released that signal back up to the brain, hey, we're taking in food, we're getting enough food. Now it's time to stop. And so some of these hormones are released by the the small intestine, as the food moves through the digestive tract and tells the brain, hey, we've got food on board, things are going well, we're not going to starve to death, you can turn off your hunger signal. And so those are some satiety signals as well. Other hormones that regulate our energy intake are the amount of food that we eat our insulin and leptin. And leptin is a hormone that is produced by our fat cells. And so when we have enough stored fat onboard, leptin is released, and that tells our brain, hey, we have enough stored fat onboard, we're not going to starve to death where you don't need to eat anymore. So leptin really controls that satiety signal, as well. And, and that's really one of the main signals that is regulating our long term body weight, and how much we're keeping stored. Right. And what happens is, as we begin to lose weight, our fat cells are shrinking, that decreases that leptin signal to the brain, our metabolism also slows down. So our satiety signal isn't as loud as it used to be, or isn't as strong as it used to be with a decrease leptin, our metabolism slows down, so we're not burning as much as we used to be. And then our hunger increases, so the ghrelin and those other hunger, hormones are increasing as well. So this sets us up for failure off the bat.
Brigitte Factor 13:24 So we have these internal regulators that are regulating the amount of food that we eat, and the and how much energy we're burning. And this is happening internally. And it's nothing that we can control. And this is beautifully illustrated in a study that is in the New England Journal of Medicine, looking at changes in energy expenditure resulting from altered body weight. And in this particular study, they take normal weight individuals, and they separate them into groups and one group they over feed individuals. So these this group, they're eating more than what their metabolic rate is, and they initially gained some weight. And then another group, they under feed individuals, meaning they're feeding them less than what their metabolic rate is, and those that group initially loses weight. But over time, at that new calorie intake level, the metabolism adjusts to match what the energy intake is, and that the overfed individuals who initially gained weight, eventually return to their normal weight without adjusting their calorie intake. So they're still eating that higher calorie level and the underfed individuals, their metabolism adjusts to match their calorie intake at that lower level and eventually they return to their normal weight again. So again, this is beautifully illustrating the point that we have these internal controls that are regulating our body weight setpoint. This is called set point theory, where there are things that are happening, the signals and hormones that are happening inside the body that are regulating what our body weight setpoint is.
Brigitte Factor 15:22 Now you think, Oh, great. So how do we even get out of this, if I want to lose weight, and I've been this weight for so long? How do I even get around this? Well, there are things that we can do. So hope is not lost, we have to learn to work with the body and how it is designed. And so I'm going to talk about three things that get in the way of, you know, our body setpoint, what I call body setpoint elevator, so things that cause us to have an increase in our body weight setpoint, that makes it harder for us to lose weight. And one of the primary things that's happening is what I call brain inflammation or inflammation in the brain. And so what's happening is when our brain becomes inflamed, then this is disrupting that hunger signal that comes from the brain, and you never get the I'm full signal. So you're probably thinking, Okay, what is brain inflammation? What does that even mean? Well, essentially, it means that as we have chronic inflammation in our body, and it reaches the brain, then that triggers the brain's immune system, and some inflammatory molecules are released in the brain. And we can't feel this. It's not like our brain is on fire, right? We can't feel this, but it's subtly disrupting the signals, those inflammatory mediators are getting in the way of that signaling. And one of the examples of this is when we develop leptin resistance, and so leptin resistance means that our leptin signal can't be heard anymore, it's, the signal isn't being heard, we keep pushing the leptin button. And it's not doing anything we never get that says tidy signal turned off, and what the biggest contributor is to this inflammation that's happening, or this resistance that's happening is the standard American diet. So the standard American diet is full of processed and inflammatory foods. And these processed inflammatory foods, the main ingredients in the standard American Standard American Diet are refined sugars, refined flours, and refined vegetable oils. And all three of those do not send good signals to the brain.
Brigitte Factor 17:37 So processed food is playing a big role in our hunger regulation. And there's a study done on this in cell metabolism, looking at ultra processed diets, and how they cause excess calorie intake and weight gain. And I will post a link to all these studies. So you can check them out if you really want to go into detail. But basically, what they're what they showed in this diet is that the ultra processed diet caused increased energy intake and weight gain, despite being matched to the unprocessed diet for calories in macronutrients. So they fed two groups of people, the same calorie diet with the same macronutrient ratio, and macronutrient ratio just means the same ratio of proteins, fats and carbs. And one was an ultra processed diet. So think of a lot of refined foods, packaged foods, fast foods, and the other one was an unprocessed diet. So think natural whole foods that are minimally processed, like you would find them in the garden or in in the produce section of the grocery store. Okay. In the in those eating, the ultra processed diet gained weight, despite eating the same number of calories. And then when they stopped following the food plan that they were on, they allowed to eat freely, they ate more calories. So their hunger signaling was disrupted. And what this study shows is that processed food increases the hormones that regulate our energy intake, and decreases the hormones that tell us that we're full or for or for fat burning, so we end up eating more and burning less if we're following a processed food diet. And I want to explain a little bit about how that works. Dr. Lustig, who is a pediatric endocrinologist has this quote that says, “It's not about the physics of the calorie, it's about the biochemistry of specific foods.” And I think this is beautifully illustrating how it's not just about calories. It's more about what our body is doing with that food and the the external factors that influence our metabolism and fat storage. So I want to touch on this just briefly to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. And how are fat cells are regulated fat storage and fat breakdown. So hormones are the ones that are directing fat storage and fat breakdown. And when we produce insulin, insulin is our fat storage hormone This is produced in response to consuming carbohydrate. And the purpose of the insulin is to open up the cell to let glucose in, so we can use that glucose to make energy. Now on the flip side of that, whenever we need to release energy, stored energy that we have in our fat cells, there's another hormone at play. And that hormone is called glucagon. And then glucagon is unlocking the back door of the cells, how I explain it to let that energy out to let that fat storage out into the bloodstream. So that we can, it can be used in other places and or where it needs to be.
Brigitte Factor 20:52 So ultimately, these hormones are what are directing fat storage and fat breakdown. Four of the primary hormones that are regulating our weight gain or our weight setpoint are ghrelin, which is your I'm hungry hormone, leptin, which is your ime full hormone, insulin, which is your fat storage hormone, and glucagon, which is your fat breakdown hormone. So these hormones are signals in the body that are released under certain conditions and in response to eating certain foods. And we know where we now know that the type of food that you eat sends different signals to the body. And an example of this is a study looking at high glycemic foods and high glycemic foods are foods that increase our blood glucose really quickly. So glycemic is referring to that blood glucose. And so when we increase our blood glucose really quickly, our body responds to that by increasing insulin. In one particular study, where it illustrates the effect on food quality, or processed food on our hormones that regulate our weight and hunger, there are looking at teenage boys and feeding them, medium glycemic index meals and high glycemic index meals. And what they were finding is that even though these meals were matched for calorie intake and macronutrient content again, one was just more processed, meaning had a higher glycemic index and these higher glycemic index meals increased glute increased insulin, decreased glucagon, and glucagon, our fat breakdown hormone, decreased metabolic fuel. So when we have decreased metabolic fuel circulating on our body, we actually feel hungry that triggers part of our hormone hunger hormones. And as a result of eating a high glycemic index meal for breakfast and lunch, they ended up eating more calories five hours later, and thus ended up gaining weight. So overall, they were eating more calories, if they were eating higher glycemic index meal, for breakfast and lunch, because of this effect it has on these hormones that regulate our hunger and satiety.
Brigitte Factor 23:24 So this brings me to the second thing that really elevates our set point our weight setpoint. And that is our hormones, because hormones are what are directing our fuel usage and fuel storage, not necessarily the amount of calories we eat, although calories do play a role as well. It's not one or the other. But hormones are really, this the strong messengers here and the primary hormones that are affecting our weight. setpoint are insulin and cortisol and cortisol I've touched on before in previous episodes, it's our stress hormone. And when we have high stress, we have high cortisol. And when we have high cortisol, we have more cortisol receptors in our belly area. And that's why we tend to get more belly fat with high insulin and high cortisol. Secondary to that are our thyroid and adrenal hormones. So thyroid is primarily responsible for regulating our resting metabolic rate or regulating our metabolism. And so over time, things that can interfere with that signaling can are going to interfere with our weight setpoint. So addressing thyroid balance is very important. And then third, tertiary to that is our female sex hormones or our male sex hormones, but I'm mainly looking at talking about female sex hormones with estrogen and progesterone and their effect on metabolism, which has an effect on fuel usage and storage as well. And this is why we see weight gain as people go into perimenopause and menopause. So hormones play a profound role in regulating our weight. It's not just about calories. And I've seen this in my own clients who are following calorie restricted diets because they really want to lose weight. But they have these underlying hormone imbalances. And no matter what they do, they can't lose weight, no matter how much they exercise, or how hard they exercise or how little food they eat, or what kind of changes they make to their diet, that signaling isn't working as it should, because their hormones are imbalanced.
Brigitte Factor 25:35 And the third area or third thing that dramatically affects our weight. setpoint is our gut bacteria. And this is really fascinating. Again, you know, this is kind of my thing is the gut health and gut bacteria and, and how that plays a role. But the bacteria in our gut affect our weight setpoint. And the bacteria in our gut, influence our metabolism, they interact with those signals and the signals that are sent throughout the body, and have a profound impact on our weight. And there's an overview of this, called the gut microbiome and its role in our obesity. And I'll post the link to that, if you want to take a look at that showing how different types of bacteria in our gut are influencing our metabolism and our weight. And there's a lot to it. So I don't want to go into that in detail. I'll do that in a later episode. But I just want to mention it here. But one study that I wanted to mention is a study that was done on mice. And this is an obesity associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest is the name of this was published in Nature. And what they found is they took normal lean mice eating their normal mouse diet, and they transferred the gut bacteria from obese mice, and put it in the lean mice. And the lean mice became obese, without any changes to their diet. And then the reverse happens as well. So this is fascinating to me, that just by changing the bacteria in your gut, that you are affecting your metabolism and your weight setpoint that you in such a way that without even changing your diet. So this is an area that often gets overlooked in the normal dieting realm, or in the normal weight loss realm is the impact that our gut microbiome or gut bacteria have on our metabolism. These three things that I've mentioned that affect our weight setpoint, our brain inflammation, our hormones, particularly processed food, which relate to our blood sugar, like our insulin hormone and our glucagon hormone, when we have elevated insulin, we can't break down fat. And our gut dysbiosis are these gut bacteria, the balance of bacteria in our gut, these three things all affect our weight setpoint. And the one thing that links, all three of these is processed food.
Brigitte Factor 28:24 So the standard American diet is 60% Ultra processed foods. So the average American is mostly eating ultra processed foods things, breads, cakes, cereals, pastries, things that come out of a box, those types of foods. ready made foods, TV dinners are ultra processed foods, and they're impacting these three areas which are affecting our weight setpoint, which if these areas are not addressed, it's going to be difficult for some people to lose the weight they want to lose simply by changing their diet. So I really want to emphasize the importance of food quality. It's not a matter of just calories, calories do matter at a certain level. But when there's these mixed signals at play in the body, calories aren't going to matter. Food quality is the foundation that we have to set first. And there's several benefits to eating whole foods over processed foods. Let's say you don't have any mixed signals going on and you can eat 1200 calories of Twinkies and not gain a pound or whatever it is. Whatever kind of study you want to design, okay, fine, that's fine for you. But there's more to it than that. There's more to the reasons we eat food then just that.
Brigitte Factor 29:49 Whole foods have a variety of benefits. And I'm going to list some of those. One is that whole foods are more satisfying, more satiating than processed food, we naturally increase our satiety signals by eating whole foods over processed foods. They provide more nutrition per calorie than processed foods. So we're getting more of those micronutrients, vitamins and minerals and other phytochemicals and zoochemicals that are in the foods that aren't necessarily vitamins or minerals that our body needs and can use. They're more filling per calorie, so they have more fiber, more water and more volume. So they're more filling than processed foods, they have a higher thermic effect than processed food. So what that means is that when we eat whole foods, we actually burn more calories to digest those whole foods than we do if we eat processed foods. They're not as addicting as processed foods, processed foods are very addicting and light up that reward center in the brain. And I talked about that last time. Whole Foods don't elevate insulin, like processed foods do. And the other benefit of whole foods is that they feed our healthy gut bacteria. When we eat whole foods, we're feeding them bacteria that send good signals to our body about our metabolism. When we're eating processed foods, we're feeding the fattening bacteria in our gut. And they're we're sending that signal to increase our weight. So we really need to set the foundation with whole foods in my opinion, quality and quantity both matter. But when we focus on quality first, we can let the body do what it's designed to do, we can let those natural hunger and satiety regulation mechanisms play out like they're supposed to.
Brigitte Factor 31:34 Now think about this. Prior to knowing what a food calorie was, we were able to maintain our weight without even thinking about it. It wasn't that long ago, where we weren't paying attention to calories at all. And we were walking around as a leaner society with much less excess weight. And what we know is that cultures living in harmony with their environment, eating processed, unprocessed food that grew themselves, and getting exposure to sun and soil do not have chronic diseases. And so this is a profound statement that we need to understand. It's not just about our weight, it's about our health, and everything that goes into it. So I'm gonna say that, again, cultures living in harmony with their environment, eating unprocessed food, they grew themselves, you know, living in harmony with their community, supporting each other, they're getting exposure to the sun into the soil on a regular basis. Those cultures do not have chronic diseases. And now we live in a world where half of the population has some type of metabolic disease, like diabetes, or obesity, and 80% of the population has some type of metabolic syndrome. And 50% of our children have some type of chronic diseases as well. And that's pretty shocking. So this is why I am so passionate about food quality. And why I emphasizes so how do we get back to this point, this wisdom that has been instilled in us from the beginning of humanity? How do we find our natural rhythms again, and part of that goes back to getting back to the food that we are designed to eat. And then tapping into that internal regulation that exists within all of us and letting our hormones work for us our hunger and satiety signals work for us, our fat burning hormones work for us. And to do that, we need to tap into that internal intuition or what I call our innate intelligence that's built in.
Brigitte Factor 34:03 And this is the basis of intuitive eating. I mentioned last time, I used to think intuitive eating was dumb. But when you really understand it, and where we're learning to tap into that innate intelligence, that's really what intuitive eating is about is to get out of these patterns that keep us stuck to get out of the environment, this processed food environment that we live in, that keeps us stuck, and helped us to get back into that natural rhythm so we can find the weight that we're supposed to be. Of course, there are other lifestyle factors that play a role. And I want to just briefly mention these because they do play a role. And I'll spend other episodes talking about them in more detail, but things like sleep, affect our metabolism, stress, the types of movement and exercise we get and the toxins in our environment, toxins, toxin exposure can actually cause changes that make us have more fat cells. It's pretty, pretty interesting. But so if you need help implementing strategies to help you reset that weight point, you can reach out to me through my website and set up a free clarity call. My website is BrigitteFactor.com. If you are ready to learn how to eat intuitively and break that processed food addiction that keeps us stuck, you can check out my finally free program. I'm going to run that quarterly I'm starting a new one really soon. If you missed the start of that you can get on the list for the next one. Or you can reach out to me about doing it one on one. And again, that is at my website at BrigitteFactor.com/finally-free so check that out. And if you have any questions that you would like me to address in one of my podcasts, you can contact me through my website. I love getting feedback, love hearing what you want to know more about what you liked or didn't like. And so you can do that through my website at Brigittefactor.com. And I thank you so much for listening. And until next time, Grace and peace to you.