Willpower not necessary.

“What if some of our fundamental ideas about obesity are just wrong?” – Dr. Peter Attia

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years researching nutrition.  I am significantly overweight, but unlike the sensational media would have you think, I don’t get up in the middle of the night and binge.  I don’t have a stash of chips hidden away for me to eat in one ugly sitting.  I absolutely love vegetables and salsa, and I abhor processed foods.  Yet, despite my dedication to following the recommendations of the FDA, I was not able to control my weight until this past year.

My big revelation came when I discovered nutritional typing.  The articles I read said that each of us process foods in different ways.  I was especially drawn to the protein type.  All of the foods on the list were the foods I craved while on a diet.  As I was eating my 100% whole wheat bread, I was craving butter.  As I ate chicken breast, I was craving chicken thighs.  I was such an extreme protein type that I craved vegetables, but have no taste for fruit.  Then I realized that all of the food that the “diet” companies told me that I should eat were not on the list.  I was overweight because I would eat what I was told, but my body’s essential needs were not being met, so I was in a constant state of hunger.

I think that a high number of overweight people experience the same feelings, but we are told that our weight is simply due to a lack of self-control.  I have watched many thin people (my husband included) eat a bunch of junk food all day and not gain weight.  My parents were very conscious eaters, yet quite overweight–my dad had a rule that he had to have a salad AND a vegetable at every dinner.  I knew that this issue was much more complex than it seemed.  We do not need more willpower.  We need to eat the food that satisfies our body’s needs.

About a year ago, I cut pasta and most breads out of my diet.  (The funny thing was, it was easy to do.  I always would take my hot dog out of the bun, because the bun didn’t do much for me.  I never liked spaghetti–I just ate it because it was cheap and easy.)  As a result of just these changes, I stopped gaining weight for the FIRST TIME in my life.  I wasn’t losing weight, because I was still ingesting sugar and flour, but I had figured out how to stop gaining weight without trying.

I have told a lot of people about my new discovery, but no one wants to believe a fat person when it comes to nutrition.  Then, I ran across an interesting TED talk today about the misconceptions that surround obesity. Dr. Peter Attia shares his journey from being a judgmental thin person, to an overweight, insulin-resistant patient, back to a thin, more open-minded doctor.  The most interesting thing was that he gained 40 pounds while following the FDA pyramid and exercising three hours a day.

The most significant part of the talk for me is when he realizes that he was following the guidelines that we all have been taught, and he was still sick.  He asks the questions:

“How did this happen to me when I was supposedly doing everything right?”

“If the conventional wisdom about nutrition had failed me, was it possible it was failing someone else?”

These are the same questions that prompted my own personal research into nutrition.  Now, seeing that someone else who was trying to follow the rules has the same questions, I felt almost vindicated.  I also was relieved that I had a “skinny person” that could lend credibility to my argument that the FDA food pyramid is not for everyone.  He even talks about eliminating a lot of the food that I have cut out of my diet.

So, if so much that we know about nutrition could be wrong, where do we go from here?  I still think that the answer lies in finding out what kind of food your body operates best on.  What do you crave when you are limiting your calories?  That can be the first step into changing your lifestyle.  If you are eating the foods that your body really needs, then you should be able to find a balance with food.  That’s what I am betting on.  Willpower is not even necessary.

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