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Dr. Binks Blog

Metabolism vs. Behavior: You still have power over your body.

Posted on July 3, 2012 by admin

In the past when people talked about metabolism they were often talking about a science in its infancy in relation to obesity. In recent years we have begun to understand the complexity of this term more and more. We have found mechanism after mechanism that influences our weight. Reputable scientists, clinical experts, and media spend a great deal of time focusing on this to remind the world that being overweight is not due to a lack of self-will, laziness, or lack of trying. They are right. For some people every calorie is not created equal. For most people, once you gain weight some of these biological mechanisms make losing it a little more difficult. For some it appears that sensory influences (taste, sight, smell) may activate the reward centers of the brain a little more; for others the mechanisms that influence fat storage may be more active; for others biologically driven hunger may be a bigger influence and so forth. We need to understand that these are important influences that represent barriers that may make it more difficult to lose weight. However these are not insurmountable obstacles.

For many who may be affected by these biological influences losing weight is more difficult, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that the answer still involves burning and consuming calories in a way that creates an energy deficit no matter what your biology/physiology looks like. If you are one of the many whose metabolic influences are working against you looking at all the new information about the metabolic influences on weight may leave you feeling defeated before you even start. You may believe that these metabolic influences on how much weight you lose, how fast you lose it, how much hunger influences your efforts, (and let’s not forget emotional influences also) make controlling calories you take in and trying to exercise daily a waste of time.

The reality remains that regardless of our biology, we still need to reduce calories and exercise consistently to create an energy imbalance and reduce weight. Maybe those of us with more barriers biologically need to be particularly vigilant since even minor deviations can have a greater influence (basically less margin for error). But if that is the case it is a fact that must be accepted and dealt with accordingly. In the context of one’s personal biology, we still need to identify just how much caloric restriction, how much exercise, and what types of foods are needed to cause one to lose weight – and set the goals accordingly. Of course for many who are severely obese, bariatric surgery in conjunction with positive lifestyle changes may be ideal but for others; lifestyle change alone or supplemented with medication to treat their obesity will provide results.

Most people have lost weight and are aware of what worked for them in the past. Similarly, if we think about what led to regain it will often come back at least in part to slipping in the things you did that led to the weight loss. So for example although 60 minutes of exercise daily worked when you did it consistently – have you kept it up? Skipping snacks between meals and reducing portions seems difficult but did it work in the short term – have your portions drifted up or the exceptions to your plan increased? In these busy times with all the influences working against you we know consistency is tough especially over the long term – but if it can keep your blood pressure, diabetes, weight and overall health under control – perhaps these things need to be non-negotiable items on your agenda every day. Yes we are surrounded by food and beverage choices that are damaging – but we still have control over our decisions. We can choose to drink water or non-caloric beverages instead of consuming empty calories in the form of sugar sweetened beverages and fruit juices. We do not have to have a snack simply because it’s offered and we do not have to eat out just because there are too many restaurants. When we do eat out we have choices that remain in our power both in terms of fast-food vs. family restaurants and what we choose to eat once in them. Of course we will never be perfect and sometimes it is extremely difficult to make the healthier choice. Perhaps we will improve availability of healthy options and reduce the bombardment with unhealthy ones. Hopefully we will be given better and better medical interventions to offset the “uphill biology.” Until then let’s not feel defeated – lets resolve not to let the forces that work against our behavioral lifestyle change success win. You still have a great deal of power to improve your health in spite of the barriers you may face!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


  1. Charlene says:

    Very useful perspective. – thanks

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