In last week’s post, I discussed why we need to maintain the brain, continuing the conversation about change and transformation. Dr. Daniel Amen points out in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body that the human brain, that little three-pound organ nestled between our ears, is the most complex organ and the greatest miracle in the universe.
In order to maintain our will power and self-control, we need to keep our brain chemistry balanced. If we want to change the body, we have to change the brain first. Controlling sugar intake is an essential part of maintaining or restoring proper brain chemistry.
Another important but overlooked factor is the role of fat, so let’s take a closer look at the role of fat in the human body.
60 percent of the human brain is fat. If someone calls you a fathead, consider it a term of endearment and drop that little nugget of knowledge on them.
Fat is adipose tissue that we carry around in our bodies. It produces a hormone called leptin, which is responsible for curbing hunger cravings in healthy individuals. If you’re overweight or stressed out, the brain becomes desensitized to leptin, making it more difficult to control our appetite.
The human body relies on stored energy in the form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Fat stores go up and down according to our fat-burning capabilities. Energy comes from readily available carbohydrates (blood glucose) and then from fat storage.
Once the body burns through the carbs, it will dip into fat storage for energy. As fat is burned, it releases cytokines. Cytokines are inflammatory proteins that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.
When we lose weight, we should strive to obtain better body composition, not just get to a lower number on the scale. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat, so measuring what you lose is far more important than dropping pounds.
When my patients say they lost 20, 30 or 40 pounds, I always ask, “How did you measure what you lost? Was it bone mass, muscle tissue, fat or water?” Specialized scales that measure body composition are the answer.
By following a proper body composition program as part of a wellness lifestyle, we can turn the leptin brain cycle back on so we can control our cravings. However, we need to make sure our body is getting rid of the cytokines that are being pumped out at the same time. Radical weight loss is so dangerous because it pumps those cytokines into the body and affects brain chemistry.
Recent research has shown that fat stores toxic materials. The more fat on body, the more toxins you have in your system. The goal should be to lose fat and monitor the weight loss over a period of time so we’re not toxifying ourselves.
We need to focus on losing the unhealthy fat, because it contributes to a higher incidence of heart disease and stroke. But we also need to be aware of how food affects brain chemistry.
Food is a drug. You probably never thought about it this way, but think about the kid who bounces off the walls after eating candy. That’s because sugar and processed foods cause a brain chemistry imbalance.
Food is a drug that can make you feel better, worse, sleepy or energetic. It affects our ability to think quickly and clearly, our energy level, physical and athletic performance, weight and appearance.
Let’s consume more good brain food, like water and green tea, essential fatty acids like fish oil, and good carbs from fruit and vegetables.
Let’s cut back on or eliminate the bad stuff that causes an imbalance in brain chemistry, like soda, trans fats and saturated fats, and the bad carbs from white bread, bagels and crackers.
To dig deeper into the role fat plays in our bodies, I highly recommend the book Know Your Fats by Dr. Mary Enig.
Fat is very important to the body, especially the brain. By recognizing that fat is more than fat, and understanding that fat affects much more than our appearance, we enhance our ability to change and transform our bodies.
Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician and health educator who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise for the past two decades has been in physical rehabilitation, and he has successfully established himself as a spinal specialist. In his practice, he advocates the science of functional medicine, which takes an integrative approach to treating patients by addressing their physical, nutritional, and psychological needs. Alarmed by the escalation of complex, chronic illness in our country, Dr. Proodian has been speaking to companies and organizations through his “Wellness at Work” program since 1994, motivating thousands of people to make positive lifestyle choices and lead healthier, more productive lives. He can be heard weekly on his radio program, “Proodian Healthcare By Design,” on Tandem Radio.