Imagine it: tens of thousands of years ago our Homo sapien ancestors roamed the Earth hunting and gathering for food. There were periods of ravenous feast interspersed with periods of stark famine. Often, days would pass without a single calorie.
Surely, their tummies growled!
Certainly, hunger pangs gnawed!
Absolutely, they became hangry!
BUT, did these early humans keel over and perish from a temporary absence of calories? Hardly.
In fact, this lack of calories heightens cerebral function--for, without the ability to think clearly in the absence of food, these humans would starve to death.
The human body and brain are well equipped for scarcity of food.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Ask an American: What's the most important aspect of healthy eating? The most common answer you will receive:
Eat Three Meals A Day
Without breakfast, you will overeat later. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Without lunch, you won't be able to think clearly in the afternoon.
Without dinner, you might starve to death overnight.
Although Americans know little about nutrition, they hold one principle to be true: You must eat three meals a day.
But, if three meals are ideal, then, four, five or six must be even better, right?
Mid morning snack so you don't get hypoglybitchy by lunch.
Afternoon nosh to keep the blood sugar up.
Post dinner postre because you, literally, can't go to bed hungry.
Americans eat all. day. long.
Pause for a moment.
Is this constant grazing throughout the day based on scientific evidence or were these alternative calories incepted into your brain?
Americans are overweight.
Americans are obese.
Americans are fatter than they have ever been.
For far too long nutritionists have espoused a doctrine of caloric balance:
Calories consumed minus Calories burned
If the difference is a positive number, weight will be gained. If the difference is a negative number, weight will be lost.
For decades, this was the leading theory about body weight.
But, this equation is overly simplistic. Caloric restriction--underconsuming calories--produces short term results at the expense of unsustainable, long term rebound. Your body isn't dumb. If you start feeding yourself fewer and fewer calories, your body will simply adjust by decreasing your basal metabolic rate. Your body learns how to function on fewer and fewer calories, which means that you have to eat even fewer and fewer calories in order to continue losing weight.
Eventually you fail to maintain this caloric restriction and your weight balloons.
This is why dieting fails.
Of course, calories play a role, one role of many in your weight orchestra.
Other members of this symphony include:
Timing of meals
Perhaps you're overweight not because of the calories you consume, but because of when you consume these calories. Every calorie that enters your mouth produces downstream hormonal effects throughout your body. Hormones like ghrelin and insulin determine how hungry you feel and how you process energy, respectively.
Perhaps hormonal imbalance, not caloric excess, is preventing you from losing that stubborn fat around your abdomen, hips and thighs.
Perhaps constant grazing is creating an insulin storm, a hormonal imbalance leading to excessive body weight.
So, what do you know for certain about nutrition?
Should you really eat three meals a day?
Should you really snack between meals?
Is what you believe evidence-based fact or propaganda promoted by an industry who has everything to gain by you becoming as fat and as hungry as possible.
In the epicenter of the diabesity epidemic plaguing 21st century America, let's visit the wisdom of Hippocrates: when sick, don't eat.