Frontier Movement, Health and Healing in Action


Successful Adaptation is why humans are still here and many other species are not. Species survive because they can adapt to changing conditions otherwise they become extinct, hence the saying “survival of the fittest.”

“Survival of the well adapted” would be more precise. Humans can survive for over 40 days on water alone. This adaptation evolved due to inconsistent food supply. Famine has been a fact of human existence for millions of years and we are well adapted to famine.

You can imagine that when we try to lose weight our adaptation to famine comes into play. What you probably do not know is that the entire weight loss experience, diet and exercise, is TOTALLY guided by this adaptation, and ignorance of this principle is the number one reason why people fail when trying to lose weight.

I refer to our collective adaptation to famine as the “starvation response” and following are the main components:

Lowered Metabolism:
As our food supply lessens our body begins the adaptation process by lowering our metabolism. Over time we will need less food to survive. While this is a miracle in itself, it becomes a curse for those trying to lose weight.

If you began your weight loss program needing 2000 calories per day to maintain your weight and you cut calories to 1000 per day, the process begins. Eventually you will stop losing weight and the body can live on 1000 calories per day. Dieters refer to this as a “plateau.” I refer to it as being fully adapted to your diet. To stimulate further weight loss, we must cut more calories.

Increased Hunger:
The second component of the starvation response is increased hunger. In 1846 a group of immigrants, known as the Donner party, were migrating west and became trapped in a snowstorm and as they ran out of food they resorted to cannibalism. This was only 160 years ago.

Humans will kill each other for food. When we are hungry, food takes precedent over all other needs, even shelter. This is tough enough when no food is present, but try doing it when your cabinets are full!

I loathe to hear weight loss “experts” speak who have never had to lose weight. They tend to make you feel weak for breaking your diet. Possibly when hungry enough we should consider eating them!

More Efficient Storage:
Again, we can easily see how valuable this adaptation to famine becomes when food is in short supply. Our ability to store more easily becomes evident when we give up our diet and begin to eat more food.

In our earlier scenario, we went from 2000 to 1000 calories per day. If we fully adapted (weight loss had stopped) to 1000 calories per day, we will now re-gain weight while eating only 1500 calores per day. If we return to 2000 we will gain back more weight than we lost. How many of you have had that experience? When I give weight loss lectures, it is at this point that heads are nodding and some tears are evident.

Lose Less Weight On Your Next Diet:
As we become better adapted to famine we will lose less weight and lose it more slowly with each successive weight loss attempt. In a kind of “fool me once” scenario, we learn that our first weight loss attempt was the easiest.

In our example we cut from 2000 to 1000 calories per day and hit a plateau (fully adapted). Then we ate more (1500) and re-gained some weight. When we went back to 2000 we eventually regained more weight than we lost. As we make another attempt at a 1000 calorie diet we lose weight more slowly and we fully adapt (weight loss stops) much sooner. While veteran dieters are all too familiar with the starvation response effects, it should serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us.

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