Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 8
Your brain regulates your energy balance and your body weight over a span of time. How this is done is complex, but a major influencer of weight and energy balance is an area of your brain called the lipostat, located in the hypothalamus. This is a non-conscious regulator of body weight and energy balance. That means you do not consciously control how this part of your brain regulates your weight. You cannot just change the setting and get a response the way you do with your thermostat in your home.
Lipostat, Hormones, and Regulation
The job of this area is to make sure you maintain a stable energy balance, and stable weight, over time regardless of external circumstances. This area of the brain will allow you to use stored energy when necessary, and allow you to regain stored energy when circumstances allow this to occur. Generally speaking, your genetics determine this set point for your weight. But it can be changed over time.
When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms.
One of the influencers is the hormone leptin, which we discussed earlier. Leptin is released by your fat cells, and its job is to tell the brain how much energy we’ve just consumed, and how much excess energy we have stored up as fat. The more body fat we have, the more leptin will be in our blood.
The brain makes decisions based on leptin levels about:
- Your hunger
- Daily calorie intake
- How much nutrients to absorb
- How much energy to use and store
Then, it cycles back to regulate leptin production in a loop that will help keep your energy and body weight balanced over time. Your brain can increase energy expenditure by making you fidget and sweat. It can also decrease energy expenditure by lowering your metabolic rate. I talk about this in my book, Authentic Health.
When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms. You think you have low thyroid, and in a way, you do. Your brain has downregulated thyroid function because it’s downregulating your metabolism to save energy. This is a situation we want to avoid. This is why we don’t recommend daily reduced calorie diets over a longer period of time.
Remember, when I say reduced calorie diet, I’m talking about for those who are eating appropriate calories. If you are consuming excess calories daily, you will need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight. I’m talking about eating in accordance with your energy demands. Long-term low-calorie diets will fail. Your body does not like this. It will regulate against it.
But right eating will restore healthy body weight over time in a natural way.
So if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin remain stable over time, then you’re going to be more easily satisfied during and between meals. You’ll be less hungry. You’ll naturally eat the proper amounts of food, and not eat again until an appropriate time interval. Also, your metabolic rate will stay high, and you’ll have good energy.
If stored energy and leptin drop over time, it’ll send a message to the area of the brain we discussed earlier that the body needs to start preventing starvation. The brain will use several strategies to do this.
It will make you hungry.
Like, really hungry.
Like you can’t control this level of hunger.
Also, you’ll move around less. You’ll find yourself wanting to just sit around. You’ll think you’re lazy, but you’re not. In addition, your metabolic rate will slow down, as I just discussed.
So you would think that if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin went up over time, you’d want to eat less. Well, that’s supposed to be true, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way. How much your leptin goes up when you eat will vary from person to person. How your brain responds to leptin also varies from person to person. Our physiologies vary a lot, as do our genetics. In some people, when the leptin rises, their brain will decrease their appetite, and it will increase their energy output. In others, it doesn’t seem to work the same way.
But for most people, most of the time, the leptin feedback loop works well to naturally regulate our energy expenditure and our consumption. Unless we disrupt it.
We’re going to discuss how we disrupt it in the next post. The point of this post was to give you a basic lesson in how your body is regulating its fat storage, and to let you know it’s not directly under your conscious control. Ultimately, your consistent habits over time will influence it, but today, you don’t get to choose. However, the choices you make today will make a difference a week from now, or a month from now. That’s good news.
As I emphasized, you do get to choose to choose. But you have to be willing to wake up and truly choose. Otherwise, your brain is going to continue to run the show, and as you’ll see in our next post, you will continue to struggle because the specific foods you choose to eat can actually change how the brain controls your eating behavior.
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