by Rachel Warner MAT, ATC, LAT

Have you ever been on a diet, spent your entire day thinking about that cake in the breakroom? You ate your “healthy” lunch and have demolished all your prepped snacks. You try to eat grapes, chew gum, chug some water (maybe you’re just thirsty), or brush your teeth (because that makes sense right?). You use all the normal diet hikes to curb your hunger and get past your craving. Then, 3pm rolls around and you find yourself scarfing the largest piece of cake with the most frosting because you just couldn’t control yourself. 

You swear you will leave work and hit the gym extra hard because you were “so bad”. 

You do just that. You spend an hour on the elliptical and dabble at the machines determined to “earn back” some calories for dinner. You will not fail this diet, again. It was going so well what happened. Why don’t you just eat healthy. You know you should eat more “good” food and less “bad” food, but every time a cake crosses your path you are helpless. 

Dinner rolls around and you eat your remaining 300 calories, and you are still hungry. You chug some water to diminish the feeling and vow to ignore it. Then your spouse comes over with that bowl of popcorn to watch a movie. You hardly pay attention, you are busy trying to keep from reaching for that popcorn. It smells so good, but no, all those calories. I’ve already had 1357 today. 

All you can think is, “Why do they have to do this, can’t they just be supportive.”

You hold out for a solid half hour, but before you know it you have devoured nearly the entire bag. The movie ends and you head off to bed angry with yourself and your spouse for sabotaging your diet, again. 

It is fine you have tomorrow, it will be okay. 

Weight in time, before hopping in the shower you step on the scale and you are up 3lbs! It is expletive and self hate central. You are in that downward spiral, once again. Why bother, you can’t stick to anything. You are never going to be healthy and thin. Your internal dialog is downright disgusting. Saying the things you are thinking to anyone else would be verbal abuse.  You spend the day binging on things to make yourself feel better. 

Might as well enjoy my weekend, diet starts on Monday. 

Have you been here? I have. 

If you know what you “should” do to lose weight why aren’t you doing it? Well, let me introduce you to a bit of science. For one you are not failing diets, diets are failing you. They don’t work. It isn’t you, they don’t work for anybody because- hormones. 

Your appetite is controlled by a collection of hormones that trigger hunger and fullness cues. Diets try to trick our body’s and really throw a wrench in this feedback loop intended to keep us from overeating. Over time, as we continue to ignore and manipulate those hunger and fullness cues they become harder and harder to recognize and respond to. 

Meet Ghrelin, your hunger hormone. 

It is produced primarily in your stomach. It is responsible for telling your body that you are hungry, among other functions. It is not your enemy. The amount of ghrelin actually increases in chronic dieters. This is what causes the yo-yo dieting and makes it harder to keep off your weight loss. Ghrelin is actually thought to be lower in obese individuals because they are more sensitive to it. This is a complex hormone that we need to study more to fully understand. See, diets set you up for failure. Science says so. 

Next up- Leptin- your satiety hormone. 

It is released from the fat cells in your adipose tissue. This means the more fat you have the more leptin you have. The release of leptin should tell your brain you are satiated and to stop eating. However, leptin works on overall long term energy expenditure, not meal to meal intake. You can however develop what is called a leptin resistance, which leads to ignoring your body’s fullness cue and overeating.

Now we have insulin and glucagon (incretin) 

These two hormones work together in a constant cycle to maintain blood sugar and energy levels. The glucagon signals your pancreas to produce insulin which tells your muscle cells and liver to begin changing glycogen cells to glucose to be utilized. Insulin is the opposite and tells cells in your body to take in glucose and lower your blood glucose levels.

Your appetite is controlled by a collection of hormones that trigger hunger and fullness cues. Diets try to trick our body’s and really throw a wrench in this feedback loop intended to keep us from overeating. Over time, as we continue to ignore and manipulate those hunger and fullness cues they become harder and harder to recognize and respond to. 

So are you just doomed? Is your body trashed and your hormones totally out of whack?

No, you simply need to learn something diets will never be able to teach you: how to acknowledge and respond to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. This is the cornerstone of intuitive eating, and you CAN DO IT! You can learn to appreciate and honor your body. Want to know more? www.intuitiveeating.org and the book INTUITIVE EATING A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach are a great place to start.