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Weight Control 101: Does Starving really work?

Divine Nshuti Muheto is nothing short of divine. Lovely shiny eyes, overall pretty face, with a lovely smile to match. She is one lady that comes to mind when Beyonce’s Brown Skin Girl comes on the airwaves. The cherry on the cake? She has an absolutely banging body, and as they normally say these days: Go Figure! 

To satisfy your curiosity, Divine was crowned Miss Rwanda 2022 on March 19, 2022. At the point of this writing, that was yesterday. From the moment she got crowned, she became a role model to teenagers across the country. From the moment she took that first queenly step with the crown on her head, she became a body goal for many.

Suppose one of Nigeria’s top brands takes a shine to this young queen for one reason or the other, say, ambassadorship deal for instance, all it will take to endear her to the hearts of Nigerians is just one image splashed on a billboard of a notable Nigerian city, like Abuja, and voila! A cult following! Her press reveal will be nothing short of exciting: beauty tips will be the first question on some lips; while weight control questions and workout tips will definitely be on many other lips. 

But some lips will ask no question at all. You see, this last group of blessed folks, burning for an answer to their weight loss challenges, will rather take ‘destiny’ into their hands, and, in a bid to achieve something close to Divine’s figure, will go the easiest route they believe will help them lose weight easily—-Starving. Now the question is: does starving work?

Maybe starving is a good weight control method. 

Afterall, it’s all about calories going in versus calories coming out. When you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. On the flip side, when you burn more calories than you take in, you begin to gradually look more like those models you idolize on TV, at least the ones with healthy weight, of course. But before you adopt this method of weight control, you might need to consider the fact that your body may well be your enemy of progress. Its tool of attack: the set-point weight.

THE SET-POINT THEORY

Have you ever wondered why your 15-mile workout on the tread-mill never seems to make any difference to your weight when you gobble down that sweet pound of cake? Or why your weight often swings more or less within a weight range, despite your best efforts at losing fat? You may conclude that your exercises have been inconsistent, or that pound cake is just too irresistible, so you eat one too many. Which may not be too far from the truth. But there’s a reason your body, more often than not, fluctuates within a certain range of weight. And this reason has its roots sunk deep in Set-Point Theory.

Set point theory states that the human body, under normal circumstances, all things being equal, always tries to maintain its weight within a certain range. This is as a result of a preset. weight ‘coded’ into your DNA, a baseline weight range your body fights to adjust to, when your weight goes up or down temporarily. 

The body is armed with a regulatory system (an intricate system consisting of the hypothalamus and fat cells, plus hormones such as insulin and leptin) and a signalling system (mechanism through which hormones alert the brain to a needed action), in addition to your metabolism, with which it achieves this feat. So what has this timely information got to do with starving as a weight control method? A lot.

THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARVING

It’s a cause-and-effect loop. Why? When you starve yourself, your body’s survival mechanism kicks in: your body turns to its fat stores for its energy needs. This body’s response to starving works on the fat you want to get rid of‌. Sounds like a win, doesn’t it? Not really. 

Starving gives your body an impression of looming disaster because of a shortage of food, an illusion that your demise is approaching. At least, that’s how it looks to your body. That may be due to starvation being one of the greatest threats to human’s existence from the days of the ancient man. The human body has adequately evolved to stop that from happening. And because your body wants you to stay alive, funny as that sounds, it slows down your metabolism so as to conserve calories, regardless of whether or not your activities change. Your fat cells become depleted, and that causes a serious dip in leptin, the ‘satiety’ hormone. 

Leptin signals your brain of the need to eat. Hunger signals are activated, in the form of hunger pangs ‌we know so well. Much more than usual because of your body’s urgent need for calories intake. This hunger causes you to binge on food, and you’ll end up eating and taking in more calories. Which takes you right back to your set point weight. A hopeless situation, wouldn’t you agree? 

There’s a biological possibility you may not be prepared for. There’s a chance that, due to insulin or leptin resistance in your body, your signalling system may not be as effective as it should be, thereby causing you to gain weight. Or it may be a gain in weight because of external influences or factors. This gain in weight, according to set point theory, could push your set point weight higher.

At a new set point weight, starving is useless as a weight control method, just as it is for a lower set point weight, because your body will just fight to go back to the new set point weight. However, at this point, set point theory is still under further scrutiny, as scientists don’t really have all the answers to the intricate mechanisms of weight loss. As such, research is ongoing.

SO IF STARVING DOESN’T CUT IT, WHAT WILL?

It’s easy to adopt starving to lose weight, as it’s as simple as going on hunger strike for a period of time. But from the above information, there’s nothing simple about the human body. So, as starving is counterproductive, what can you do to get your weight under control?

You have two options:

  • Seek external help, or
  • Do it your own way

External Help

This comes in the form of professional help. There’s no better person to help you fashion out a suitable weight-loss diet for your body than a dietician. A dietician can work with you to understand your nutritional needs. From there, he or she can design a nutritional plan tailored to help you lose weight and achieve a desirable figure. 

Do it your own way.

Even without a dietitian or any other professional help, there are things you can do all on your own to help make your weight loss journey a smooth one. A carefully planned home-cooked meal can give you the required nutrients you need. In addition, you can enrich your diet with generous helpings of fruits or smoothies to make your meals more rounded. Coupled with constant exercises and adequate rest, you can gradually shed some weight, gradually reducing your set point weight until you get to your desired weight.

Starving does more harm than good. But with a keen understanding of your body and a choice of a proper weight control method suits you, coupled with the determination to stick to it at all times, you can rock a healthy new you daily. In the end, you may not look like Divine Nshuti Muheto, but the goal is your bubbling health and pleasing appearance. But who knows, you may eventually become more pleasing to the eye than Divine Nshuti Muheto. Now, wouldn’t that be awesome?

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