With Will Ross
Meaning of Life
What colour is your hair? You might be blonde, brunette, or a redhead. No matter what colour your hair is, you can change the colour by dyeing it. But the change you make will only be temporary. Unless you dye it again, your hair will revert to its natural colour. The colour of your hair is determined by your genes.
Genes are tiny particles inside your cells. They are your blueprint. They are nature's way of passing information and design specifications from one generation to the next.
Your genes determine not just the colour of your hair but your height, the shape of your nose, even your IQ. Research has also shown that your genes play a major role in the make-up of your personality. For example, your genes influence whether or not you will be an alcohol abuser, a criminal, a homosexual or an atheist. Genes also determine your natural weight.
Your natural weight is your weight when you are neither dieting nor force-feeding yourself. Your natural weight has nothing to do with your 'ideal weight'. Your natural weight is like your natural hair colour, it is the way your genes have designed you.
Your genes don't care about fashion, 'ideal weight' or even doctor's orders. Your genes have a plan for your body and they are going to see to it that you stick to their plan. Just as you can temporarily change the colour of your hair, you can temporarily change your weight. But in the end your genes will ensure that your natural hair colour returns and that you return to your natural weight. You may win a battle here and there, but your genes will win the war.
It doesn't matter if you're thin and trying to put on weight or if you want to lose weight, your genes will only allow you to gain or lose about 10% either side of your natural weight. Once you get to 10% you will experience what every dieter fears: plateau. When you reach the plateau level, dieting becomes like bashing your head against a brick wall. Most people usually quit at this stage and their genes win another war. Back to your natural weight you go.
If you think that's bad enough I'm afraid it gets worse.
Your genes are now aware that their plan for you has been threatened and might be threatened again. So they modify their plan to ensure its survival. They modify the plan by increasing your natural weight. Every time you try to lose weight by dieting, your genes increase your natural weight. Every time you start a diet and then quit, you return to your new, higher, natural weight. You might think your genes hate you, but they have a good reason for doing this to you.
Your body needs energy to operate. It gets the energy it needs from food that you eat. Once it has taken the energy out of the food, your body passes the rest as waste product. But your body also likes to store energy for a rainy day, just in case there is a food shortage. It stores this extra energy as fat. When there is no food, your body converts stored fat into energy. Your genes decide how much fat your body will store for that rainy day.
When you go on a diet, your body thinks there is a food shortage. Then, as soon as it gets the opportunity (i.e. when you quit your diet), it stores extra energy in case there is another shortage. This is great if you live in times of insecure food supply like our ancient ancestors, but it is a damn nuisance when food is reasonably plentiful and our culture encourages us to be thin.
Increasing your natural weight is not your genes' only method of ensuring you stick to their plan. As mentioned earlier, your body needs energy to operate. The harder you work the more energy your body uses up. Even when you are lying down your body is still burning energy (either food or fat). It's a bit like your car; the faster you go the more petrol you use. Even when you are stopped at the traffic lights your car is still using petrol.
Some cars use more petrol than others, even at the traffic lights. Cars that use less petrol are called fuel-efficient. In the same way, some bodies use less energy than others. They are energy-efficient. People who are not energy-efficient lose weight relatively easily because their bodies convert fat into the extra energy they need just to keep operating. Energy-efficient people don't need to convert fat into energy, they get enough from the food they eat.
When food is plentiful, your body doesn't worry about being energy-efficient. But as soon as you restrict your food intake, your body becomes energy-efficient. The more you diet, the more energy-efficient your body becomes. The more energy-efficient your body becomes the harder it is to lose weight. Once again your genes have gone into battle to protect your natural weight.
At the moment there is no known way to change your natural weight (other than increasing it by going on a diet). If you try to lose weight your genes will fight you on two paths. Firstly they will make your body more energy-efficient. Secondly they will increase your natural weight.
The message from this is clear. Dieting is a waste of time. Learn to accept your natural weight as your permanent weight. Look on the bright side; if you don't like your appearance you can always dye your hair.
Introduction to Psychology 4th Edition by Dennis Coon pp 287 - 291.
What You Can Change & What You Can't by M Seligman Chapter 12.
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