I recently took a course on Coursera called Weight Management: Beyond Balancing Calories. First, Coursera is a great platform with tons of various topics to read/watch through. I highly recommend it along with Khan Academy, Skillshare, Udemy.
The main takeaway of this course if Metabolic Adaptation. The course explains how metabolism isn’t fixed, and may actually change along with weight loss in such a way that is working against your efforts.
The first teaching point was that there are various hormones/neurotransmitters responsible for hunger. The culmination of these signals occurs in the hypothalamus – which is about as science-y as I’d like to get in my understanding.
The two main signals which are discussed are Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is a signal for hunger, and Leptin signals being full (satiated). The reason these are important to understand, is that leptin is produced in deep fat. So, when we being losing weight and fat is diminished, so to is our body’s ability to send leptin to the brain (hypothalamus). This gives Ghrelin more room in deciding how much we’re going to eat, and the studies presented in the course consistently show a rebound in weight once strict dieting is forgone.
One concept which I found very interesting was that of the Set Point. The course explains that this Set Point is where the body establishes normalcy. This point may not be healthy, but the body doesn’t necessarily see that being overweight is a abnormal set point. When weight loss begins, the body merely see’s a deviation from the Set Point and alters the basal metabolic rate in order to prevent starvation.
So, that’s a lot of doom and gloom in the realm of weight loss. The question is, what options do we have to ensure success?
First and obvious is to avoid obesity, which happens to mirror the strategies for losing weight. If you can work out and train, do work out and train. Gaining adipose tissue is a lurker, it sneaks up and beings compounding as it affects your mood and self image. So, continue hitting the gym regularly.
The role of dopamine and emotional eating was discussed in this course. I’ve said for years that food is a drug, as high energy foods can affect the same pleasure pathways as any street drug. Eating high sugar or high fat – high energy – foods can be yet another compounding and detrimental exercise. This is especially the case if these foods are being consumed to elicit an emotional state like not-sad.
Environmental changes are easiest to make. I’ll reference a book below, Atomic Habits, which discusses strategies for increasing efficiency. Simple things like food purchasing choices make a profound downstream impact on later choices.
The final point is on managing stress. My weapon of choice in that field is lifting heavy stuff for long a duration. Sleep is equally important, so ensure you’re getting around 8 hours if possible. I’ll also plug the video/write up I did on Medical Cannabis, which I have found to have a profound impact on my mental & physical state.
This book is a really great book, with strategies to increase efficiency in your daily life.
The number one take away from the book, is to make things that are beneficial easy, and things that are detrimental more difficult. This book is highly reviewed and James Clear is well worth a follow on IG & Twitter