Smart Fat Management

Watched a Horizon program on obesity yesterday and the new science of epigenetics. They basically claim that the appetite is controlled by the switching on or off of certain genes and that this is the cause of obesity. Personally I suspect that they may be confusing “cause” and “effect”. They mentioned that “stress” was probably the major trigger for producing genetic changes and the hormones that create obesity. But they didn’t mention that perhaps exercise and restricted diet could reset the genetic changes naturally. They make it sound like only doctors and surgeons can do that for you. What would you expect when a program is made by doctors and surgeons?  Are people a  certain weight because of the way their genes are active – or are people’s genes functioning in a certain way because of their weight? It was noticeable that this question was never brought up. Why is half of the US population obese today? There is no greater stress than before but there is a lot more food around and people don’t walk to work now – they use a car! Gastric surgery may reverse the genetic changes but is that the only solution?

People indulge in “comfort eating” when stressed – so it’s also possible that the rapid weight gain triggers a genetic switch or even the stress itself  – but exercise reduces stress and burns calories – so where is the study showing the interplay between all of those factors? Nowhere – but the surgeon proclaimed how she was really happy to do gastric bypass surgery for her patients now because that reset the genetic switch. Nobody asked if weight loss, diet change or exercise could reset the genetic switch – or perhaps even whether a certain level of all might be needed.

This winter I didn’t put on any weight whereas I normally put on about 8kg of fat during the ski season. Why? Because I managed to maintain a reasonable level of aerobic exercise and avoid eating deserts at meal times. One or two runs a week were all that it took and the eating was clearly related to the effect of the running. Hormones are not only under the control of genes but they are controlled by your activity. Aerobic exercise produces endorphine and that reduces stress almost immediately. Sustained aerobic exercise produces cortisol which accelerates fat burning. Anaerobic exercise has its own complex influence over hormones. My Android app “Endomondo” which I use for monitoring workouts always starts a session with the phrase “Release your endorphine”. It did worry me that this implies that I only have one endorphine. I could picture the single protein molecule floating around in my body having been released. During both gastric flu and ordinary flu this winter I lost weight due to stopping eating. During a a normal “cold” I gained weight due to lack of activity and compulsive eating. This issue is clearly an overall “management” one concerning many factors. The key appears to be to avoid thinking that the issue is just one dimensional – which is why “dieting” is wrong and also why surgery is probably wrong. From a management perspective there is always something appropriate that can be tweaked that will influence all the other things. Certain situations such as injury or illness can be accepted as temporary and kept in perspective.

We know that excessive fat causes many illnesses – so why can’t that itself be the trigger for genetic alterations? When you eat a lot of sugar you develop a “sweet tooth” – when you eat a lot of salt you need it in everything – so when you eat too much you probably create your own dependency on overeating. Perhaps all of those similar issues are triggering changes in hormone production though modified genetics – and perhaps exercise does that too.

One thing for sure is that all the gastric bypass patients that surgeon will see will be confirmed couch potatoes and all of the surgery will have probably been avoidable. No patients will have come from concentration camps or from having run a marathon.

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