It's not what you eat, but when you eat
If you have struggled with your weight for a long time, you probably blame your diet failures on a lack of willpower. Let me tell you, willpower has nothing to do with it. I’d wager that the problem isn’t what you eat, it’s when you eat it. Our circadian rhythms regulate our eating patterns. In simple terms, our eating patterns are screwed up. Think of jet lag, only with food.
Most overweight people become out of sync because they either skip breakfast or they eat too little in the morning. They go against their body’s actual needs (fuel in the morning) and make up for it by over-fueling later.
When your body awakens from its eight-hour slumber, it is primed to seek food. Your metabolism is revved up, and levels of certain hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) are at their highest. Your brain needs energy (glucose) immediately.
If you don’t break your eight-hour fast or you eat too little, your brain needs to find another source of fuel. So it activates an emergency system that pulls energy from muscle and destroys muscle tissue in the process. Then when you eat later, the body and brain are still in high-alert mode, so the body saves energy from the food as fat.
Compounding the problem, serotonin levels are highest in the morning. This means that you’re least likely to crave sweets and starches when you first wake up, and you may not feel much like eating. But as the day wears on, serotonin levels dip and the cravings kick in. If you eat these foods, brain serotonin rises, and you begin to associate good feelings with them. This connection between carbs and calm creates an addictive cycle.
People who skip breakfast or engage in other out-of-sync eating behaviors (see box above) set themselves up for metabolic disaster. Their metabolism sputters. They’re plagued by midafternoon fatigue and/or moodiness, so they rev up or unwind with candy bars and sugary coffee drinks. Their bodies burn less of what they eat as fuel and store more of it as body fat. Their bodies lose muscle and gain fat - lots of it.
The Big Breakfast Diet: Eat Big Before 9 A.M. and Lose Big for Life
Written by Daniela Jakubowicz MD
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (December 15, 2009)