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Skipping Meals Just Makes You Eat More

 By Marian Burros
New York Times


An obesity specialist in Washington says we can make it easier to
stop pigging out or we can make it harder. Naturally, many of us make
it harder.

Unlike those who are always exhorting dieters to use willpower, Dr.
C. Wayne Callaway, an endocrinologist and weight specialist at George
Washington University, says that it is not really a matter of
willpower. Or at least not willpower alone.

"Sure it's nice to have willpower and eat less and exercise more,"
Callaway said, but many people undermine their good intentions by
failing to understand their bodies.

It seems logical that if you are expecting to eat a lot at a party at
night, you ought to cut back on breakfast and lunch. You could starve
all day and splurge on drinks and desserts, right? Wrong.

"The optimal thing is to have a regular breakfast and lunch,"
Callaway said, "so that when you sit down and eat you are not
fighting genetically ingrained signals that cause your brain to get
hungry after a meal."

Because of chemical changes that take place in the body after the
first meal of the day, if you skip breakfast or skimp on it you will
end up compensating later, he said. "Any time you under eat, you will
eat the ordinary amount at the next meal, but shortly thereafter you
will have the urge to keep on eating," Callaway said.

Humans, like animals, have a mechanism to help them compensate when
food is in short supply. Our distant ancestors probably did not have
a proper breakfast when they woke up in their caves, so they gorged
whenever they made a kill. Even though there aren't many of us
scratching out a living in the forest anymore, our brains are still
wired for that potentially life-saving response to under eating.

Callaway explained: "In our world, when we try to skip or under eat,
we are actually setting ourselves up for brain activity that produces
an urge to eat that isn't satisfied by eating. It is not associated
with an empty stomach. So the best thing to do is have regular meals
and then you can enjoy the dessert without having three pieces."

Callaway added, "It's a lot easier to use willpower when you don't
have that compensatory mechanism kicking in." Basically, our brains
know how to prevent us from starving but not from getting fat.
Wouldn't you know.

For the person who isn't overweight, overeating at holiday parties
doesn't matter much. But for those who have a tendency to gain
weight, it can send them down the road to ruin.

Temptations abound this time of year. Sweets and savories are often
part of the holidays, even at the office, turning dedicated workers
into grazers. "People who graze do not get the clear signals that
they get at the end of a meal," Callaway said. So grazing often means
eating more.

Another frequent trouble spot at holiday parties, increased
consumption of alcohol, also contributes to weight gain in three
different ways.

Alcohol, of course, adds calories. It also makes it even more
difficult to exercise willpower. And when the liver is working to
metabolize more than a moderate amount of alcohol -- defined as two
glasses of wine or beer for a man and one for a woman -- its ability
to make sugar is reduced. It makes fat instead.

"If you have several drinks a night for six weeks," Callaway said,
"you will increase your inter-abdominal fat because the liver is
making fat instead of burning it." Nice thought.

So if you don't want to store fat, Callaway recommends eating an
adequate breakfast and lunch, limiting the alcohol and having a bowl
of healthful soup before the rest of the meal.

Because, he said, Auguste Escoffier was right. "Soup calms down the
violence of hunger."

 

 

 

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