More than 70 per cent of the people in the world are obese and knowing that obesity is the door to many uninvited health problems, people are desperate to lose weight. They are so desperate that they are ready to be beaten black and blue (fat-breaking treatment) if that can help them lose weight.
All the marketing gimmicks that claim to make one lose weight are successful because people are gullible. People go through extreme diets, extreme treatments and extreme teasing just to lose weight. But before understanding anything else and acting upon it, one needs to understand why are they fat?
The answer to the above question is, ‘our ancestors’. But how?
The human species evolved in the time of desperate famine. Our ancestors only ate on days when they could hunt a deer or find some fruit. And these kind of days were rare. So, how did they survive on the days when they could not find anything to eat? Fat. Their bodies stored fat to survive the way a car stores petrol in its tank.
The humans who could not store fat perished away earlier than the ones who could. So, the stored fat gave our ancestors the energy required by them to walk, breathe and think on the days when they couldn’t find anything to eat.
Thus, the need to store fat is deeply rooted in humans to survive. Food consumption stores fat in our bodies in preparation of days when we won’t get food, which is not the case anymore.
Why do we go to eat in a restaurant? Some of us would believe it’s necessary for our survival to treat ourselves with a lavish meal while most of us would say it’s for unwinding and socializing and not sustenance. It’s like we have built a culture around food, which was ideally only for sustenance.
Eating food gives us pleasure even when we are not hungry. But why does this happen? Humans survived famines only because of our traditions emphasizing the acquisition of food by making it tasty and enjoyable. We get pleasure by eating because our bodies are designed to eat for pleasure. We cannot control or help it. Same like sex. Nature wants us to reproduce and thus sex was made pleasurable so that we do it and procreate.
But the change now is that there are no famines, which is a good thing though but it has affected us in many ways. The food high in fat (the reason why it’s delicious) is available in just one click, unlike the olden days. We have access to a variety of foods, which our ancestors did not have. But the drive to seek food has remained the same, which has complicated nature’s job of fat accumulation.
Nature ensures that the fat storage is not too much nor too less as both situations may result in ill effects. Too little fat can disable a woman to carry a child and too much can lead to problems like birth defects in kids.
How does our body tracks fat and controls its accumulation? The brain produces two hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. But if the brain can control hunger and fullness and the accumulation of fat with the help of these hormones, why do some people have normal fat stores while others have too much?
Everybody’s body is different. So, in some people, their body stores fat under check, while in others this control does not work perfectly. Like some people are born without the ability to make any leptin. The brain of these people thinks that the body has no fat storage despite the body having a lot of it. The brain in such cases encourages one to keep eating.
Another reason why people get fat is when their hormones are malfunctioning. For example, when someone is born with an ability to produce too much ghrelin, which tells you when you are hungry. These people won’t stop eating as they perpetually feel hungry despite eating regularly. Some people’s body has the ability to burn out excess food. But then there are people whose bodies are not good at burning fat, which gets stored in the body and makes them obese.
Because of the different biology in different bodies, some people gain weight while others don’t.
With Inputs from the book ‘Fat loss diet’ by Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar.
Dr Dhurandhar is a physician, nutritional biochemist and the former president of the Obesity society (2014-2015).