WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO REDUCE SIZE AND LOSE BODY FAT?
How many times have we heard (if not experienced for ourselves) of someone who with all the conviction in the world, starts an exercise or nutrition plan and after a short time gives up?
Why is it so difficult to reduce the size or weight that we want to eliminate?
What makes it even more difficult to lose those extra pounds of fat that diminishes our physical performance and affects our health?
In this blog, we will seek to explain the most important reasons that prevent us from reaching our ideal body composition and losing those dangerous “extra fat pounds.” For this, we will talk about the way in which the body “defends itself” from the changes we seek to impose on it.
WEIGHT AND BODY COMPOSITION
Before continuing, it is important to note that most people talk about “losing weight”, when in fact they should be referring to reducing fat tissue; since this, by existing in excess, is responsible for deforming the body's aesthetics and putting the individual's health at risk.
If we only look at weight loss, we could cause severe damage to our body by losing functional tissues, such as skeletal muscle. That is why it is important to focus on our body fat percentage rather than our weight.
Putting it another way;
- A person who weighs above what is considered "normal" but with a low percentage of fat turns out to be STRONG AND HEALTHY;
- An individual who weighs “normal” and with a poor muscle percentage turns out to be WEAK AND UNHEALTHY.
Thus, instead of seeking to "lose weight" we should try to reduce our percentage of fat, transforming it into energy through oxidation.
THE CALORIC COUNTING APPROACH
Many people seek to lower their fat percentage by considering the simple equation of expending more kilocalories than they consume. This causes them to focus on comparing the number of kilocalories consumed against the count of kilocalories expended.
For example, they argue that if someone consumes 1,100 kilocalories and spends 2,000, then they must have expended 900 kilocalories (or lost 100 grams of fat).
This reasoning, while apparently consistent, is only partially complete. The fault is that the expenditure of kilocalories depends on multiple factors, mainly internal, that keeps the human body (and its percentage of fat) in a difficult balance to break.
In addition, it is important to note that not all the kilocalories expended come from fatty tissues, since the body gives priority to different energy sources depending on;
- The duration and intensity of physical activity.
- Consumption of nutrients.
- The quantity and distribution of energy sources.
THE HOMEOSTATIC APPROACH
A more comprehensive approach involves the Theory of Control, the concept of Homeostasis, the understanding of the Endocrine System and Hormonal Regulation.
Let's briefly analyse each of these concepts;
- Control Theory explains how a dynamic system can maintain stable behaviour over time, despite the disturbances it encounters. In other words, it tells us about how dynamic systems can keep their functions in balance no matter what happens.
- Homeostasis is the set of regulatory processes of the body that keep the properties of its internal environment stable. This means that the human body is a dynamic system that obeys the Theory of Control, thus keeping its processes and functions in balance.
- Endocrine System - It is the set of glands that produce the chemicals responsible for controlling the functions of the body. We know these substances as hormones.
- Hormonal Regulation - It is the process by which the different hormones respond to internal stimuli and external disturbances to maintain the body's balance, adapting it to changes in the environment.
From the above, we can appreciate that the human body always seeks to maintain an internal balance (Homeostasis) where many variables are involved, including weight, fat percentage and body composition. This balance is achieved through the functions of the endocrine system, which works as the Control System of the human body, acting in defense of any disturbance that affects Homeostasis.
The body functions then as a stable equilibrium system, that even if it moves to one side or the other (lower or higher weight), will seek to return to its initial point, functioning as an object held by a fixed spring at its base (Figure 1). This phenomenon of stability is what makes it so difficult to eliminate body fat, since the body always seeks to "defend itself" from the changes we try to inflict on it.
(Fig.1 - An object in stable equilibrium. By applying a force in any direction to the object "A", it will move to a certain point and then the spring will act as a stabilizer, forcing it to return to the initial position "x")
In this way, if we reduce the consumption of kilocalories or if we increase our energy expenditure without adequate professional knowledge, the Endocrine System will activate the hormones necessary to counteract these actions being able to;
- Increase the amount of the hormone Ghrelin, to make us more hungry, forcing us to eat and break the diet.
- Decrease the production of Thyroxine to reduce our basal metabolism and spend fewer kilocalories.
- Change the production of the hormone Cortisol to increase our feeling of fatigue and decrease our physical activity.
All of the above indicates that homeostasis can turn out to be a great disadvantage when wanting to lose weight. However, if we have the correct advice, we can achieve our desired fat percentage and in addition, if we maintain it for the necessary and sufficient time, homeostasis will be very positive since the body will understand the new fat percentage as the balance point to defend against any change, helping us to maintain our body as we wish.
In this way, any training plan and diet must consider hormonal processes and promote the correct adjustments in the Endocrine System in order to "move" the balance point, from where it is in the body, to the point we want to reach.
In addition to the difficulty that homeostasis presents to reduce the percentage of body fat, there are other processes that, if not well understood, also represent a barrier to reduce fat tissue. In future blogs we will talk about these processes and the importance of knowing them in order to achieve our objectives.
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The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Healthy Options Market. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright. They are solely intended to spark discussion and the thought process behind issues pertaining to general health, wellness and are for sharing knowledge and information on research only. They are not medical advice. Always seek the advice of a Professional Healthcare Provider when making any decisions regarding your health.