Off the Rails

I think the phrase "off the rails" is one of the ones I encounter most within my nutrition practice. People use this phrase to describe their relationship with the failure phase of their diet. I did okay up until {whenever} and then I just went off the rails. Going off the rails typically happens for a couple of reasons: >> You are feeling deprived, emotionally, of all the good things in life. Everyone else is having all the fun, and you're at home trying to avoid social interactions because there will be booze and snacks. >> You are actually deprived, nutritionally, at the cellular level. Hunger is, ultimately, a survival mechanism. Starve your cells long enough and they are going to kickstart one heck of a hunger sensation that will be hard to ignore. This just saddens me. What a brutal relationship to have with food. Good ol' food! Food: the thing that helped us rise to the top of the food chain and, depending on what you believe, sustain our species for millions of years. This is exactly the kind of behaviour/thought process/emotional response I want to help people QUIT. Gary Taubes is a health writer who I really like. He wrote this article for the New York Times: Diet Advice that Ignores Hunger. It's about the folly of calorie restriction as a means of sustainable weight loss and he had so many great soundbites.

  • "That humans or any other organism will lose weight if starved sufficiently has never been news. The trick, if such a thing exists, is finding a way to do it without hunger so weight loss can be sustained indefinitely."

  • "We believe so implicitly in the rationale of eat less, move more, that we (at least those of us who are lean) will implicitly fault the obese for their failures to sustain a calorie-restricted regimen, without ever apparently asking ourselves whether we could sustain it either.

  • "Much of the obesity research for the past century has focused on elucidating behavioral techniques that could induce the obese to eat less, tolerate hunger better, and so, by this logic, lose weight. The obesity epidemic suggests that it has failed."

  • "Asking people to eat less... is like asking them to breathe less. It sounds reasonable, so long as you don’t expect them to keep it up for long."

What these soundbites summed up for me, and why I so emphatically copied and saved them into my phone's Notes app for later use, is that YES, calorie restriction is the means to weight loss but NO, starvation and deprivation is not the way to make it last. You'll go off the rails. People who can sustain starvation for a long time without going off the rails are called "anorexics." I am allowed to make that joke, because I was one - and I really liked the feeling of being very hungry, so I sustained it for, oh, most of my teens and twenties. But anyway... The Theory of Snacking Let me blow your mind with THIS idea. I believe that going off the rails on your diet is in the same family as snacking between meals. You're going off the rails on your diet for much the same reason that you are going off the rails in between meals: because the food you have eaten has not sustained you nutritionally as a fuel source. I like to try to wean people off of the idea of snacking because:

  • Insulin sensitivity requires that food intake comes and goes at periodic intervals. The meal-snack-meal-snack-meal-snack philosophy creates a continuous flood of glucose in the bloodstream which completely effs up your insulin response which, in turn, effs up your appetite, your hunger signalling and your "willpower."

  • I want people to really begin to acknowledge their true hunger and satiety signals. The hunger signal comes on when you are depleted of food energy at a cellular level. And this can happen for a few reasons:

  1. Your cells are hungry because you're starving them intentionally on a deprivation-based diet.

  2. Your cells are hungry because you are insulin resistant and food energy is simply not getting into the cells.

  3. Your cells are hungry because they have effectively used up all of their food energy from the previous meal, and just need a top-up.

Scenario three is the way this is supposed to work. I know; you didn't see that coming. How this Anti-Snacking Theory relates to Diet Failure What if I told you I could feed you AND your cells and you'd still come in at a lower daily calorie total - without having to count, weigh, or measure any of it? What if I told you that I could get your calories and, therefore, your weight down without you needing to feel a sense of deprivation? Well, I am telling you that. There is a sustainable fuel source that will keep your cells well-fed, helping regulate your appetite so that you only need to eat when you are truly hungry. In this way, you will find that you are eating less often, smaller quantities of food - your calories will come in lower. This fuel source will not leave you hungry at the cellular level, and it won't leave you feeling deprived at an emotional level either, because this fuel source exists in delicious and rewarding things like steak and butter and bacon. Spoiler alert: this fuel source is fat. It's a little bit of a process to switch your primary fuel source from sugar (carbohydrate) to fat - in much the same way you wouldn't just start putting propane into your gas engine suddenly and hope for the best that your vehicle will just seamlessly run on this new fuel source. We need to tinker a bit. But in about two weeks, if you really put your mind to it, you can be on the path to never having to feel the deprivation of diet again. You can stay ON the rails. I can help you. I would LOVE to help you. As a closing note, maybe we need to rethink this metaphor. Rail transport is really kind of an archaic method, amiright? What will our children's children's children say when they go off of THEIR diets? By then we'll have flying trains and nobody will know what a "rail" even was. Sorry. I'm not sure where I was going with that last bit.


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