Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I've Heard Of Muscle Memory, But What About Metabolism Memory?

Does the body get used to eating the same foods?

The inner workings of the human body are some of the most complex mechanisms you will ever see. The astonishing resiliency and ability to withstand the daily punishment we deliver to our bodies is something to behold. I know all those years of torture I placed on my body weighing over 400 pounds are living proof that the body can overcome just about anything for a period of time before it starts breaking down. Thankfully I made the necessary changes to lose weight in time before anything major ever happened to me.

But I've been pondering something in my mind lately that I'd love to throw out there to see what you think about it. I recently interviewed Jackie Eberstein (I'll be sharing that two-part interview on my podcast show the week of June 23, 2008) who worked with the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins for three decades and we were talking about my 30-pound weight gain this year and the reasons why it may have happened. She brought up an interesting point I had never really thought about before and it was about my daily eating habits.

Looking at my daily menus blog, Jackie noticed that I tend to eat a lot of the same foods. This is true! I'm such a creature of habit that getting into a groove of eating similarly each day is just easier for me. I know some people like to have variety in the day-to-day, but I'm happy enough eating virtually the same meals all the time for weeks on end before switching it up. Jackie said that it is possible that despite the fact that those foods I have been eating are low-carb, perhaps my metabolism has gotten used to them.

Say WHAT?! You have GOT to be kidding me!

She went on to encourage me to change it up a little--have a steak one night, try some pork tenderloins the next night, maybe some lamb chops with broccoli or grilled chicken breasts with cauliflower on the next and so forth. The point is that perhaps your body can get used to the same foods if you never mix it up. Now, I've heard of muscle memory, but what about metabolism memory? Is it possible your body can "remember" what you've eaten before and therefore respond differently over time as it gets used to the foods? Let's explore this issue a bit.

It makes total sense in the fitness world when you talk about muscle memory. That's why ever since I started lifting weights in December 2007, I am happy to report that my personal trainer has NEVER repeated the same routine with me. EVER! That's a smart trainer because he knows if your muscles become too used to the same workouts, they'll stop responding to the stimulus you provide them. The point of resistance training is to keep the muscles guessing and growing as you become a hunka hunka burning muscle! :D

So why wouldn't this same thing apply to metabolism? Several years back, I blogged about a study that found your body's cells "remember" being fat even after weight loss and respond accordingly. I dismissed that idea as ludicrous at the time, but maybe there is a little something to it. Maybe, just maybe, at the cellular level we can become so accustomed to the same foods--even low-carb ones--over and over again that they don't have quite the same impact as they did before.

In this case, I'm talking about weight loss specifically, but maybe it can have some health implications as well. I'm not suggesting everyone stop their low-carb lifestyle or anything silly like that. But there's no denying the POSSIBILITY that sticking to the same routine day after day could possibly tell your body to stop shedding the pounds despite doing all the right things. It's a working theory and I'm all ears to hear what you think about this.

With the price of food these days getting more and more expensive, keeping your low-carb meals simple and similar is more affordable when you can stock up on key items. That's my biggest reason for eating the same way often--I see a good deal on a food and I buy a bunch of it. I've always been that kind of shopper and it would be such a shame to learn that my efforts to save some money were preventing me from experiencing the weight loss I desire.

So, what say YOU?! Do you think there's such a thing as metabolism memory? Leave your comments and tell us what you think. :)

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Blogger SusanJ said...

Immediately head over to Seth Roberts' site and read about the Shangri-La Diet or SLD.

Seth published a short, easy-to-read book on this about two years ago. I definitely recommend this.

Seth was formerly a psychology professor at Berkeley. He has a theory that eating the same foods all the time raises your set point so you gain weight.

On the flip side, eating unfamiliar (or tasteless) foods has the opposite effect: it lowers your setpoint and even suppresses your appetite.

His forum has a huge number of people who've lost weight following his ideas.

SLD principles can be used together with low-carb.

It's not clear to me what the explanation is. It may be that when food tastes the same it's some sort of trigger that there is an abundance of food so now is the time to start storing fat.

6/11/2008 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Teresa H said...

You know, it would explain so much. I have found that when I change up my menu I always seem to be able to drop a little more weight or jump start the weight loss again when it stops. I believe it could be true.

6/11/2008 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have long suspected this after reading the low carb forums. When people say that cheese or artificial sweeteners stall them, or when Intermittent fasting works or eating several small meals like Jimmy is doing or high fatting jump starts weight loss I have been wondering if it is just the changing of eating habits that actually is at work.

6/11/2008 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Mel said...

Hi Jimmy,
I agree with Susanj. Seth Roberts is on to something. I use his idea of crazy spicing just about everything I eat to keep my gut guessing. If I print out a recipe and like it, I throw it away so I'll make it different the next time. Fast food specializes in tasting exactly the same every time, maybe the body learns to crave the repeat flavor that brings lots of food energy and releasing insulin, puts it in fat storage immediately!

6/11/2008 11:51 PM  
Blogger speak in doodles said...

hmm...never thought of it that way...guess I should start "trickin" my metabolism =)

6/12/2008 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived for two years in a healthy hunter/gatherer culture and they ate the same thing for every meal: breadfruit and coconut, once in a while some fish. I lost 30 pounds (I think, there was no wheel let alone no bathroom scale.)

I suspect most of these healthy hunter/ gatherer cultures, both the low carb ones and the high carb ones, ate a monotonous diet.

I think Gary Taubes was right the other day when you asked him why studies show that vegetarians are a lot skinnier than omnivores: he said because they eat less processed food. In other words, he thinks processed food makes you fat.

The Chinese were healthy and skinny eating rice every meal before they started over-processing it and eating other western food.

I think this is an idea that a lot of people who write about food from different viewpoints agree on.
Taubes, Ornish, Michael Pollen, for instance all say don't eat food made in factories and feed lots.

6/12/2008 7:26 AM  
Blogger Dave in Ohio said...

I think the body adapts to best use the food available. That may mean that over time, you are better able to utilize what has been in the food all along.

I know that after several months on Induction level carbohydrate, with excellent weight loss and appetite control, ketosis no longer seems to curb my appetite as well as it once did. I get very hungry now after 4 hrs. where as before I might forget the time and find that 5 hours had elapsed with no hunger whatsoever.

If your favorite food is hamburger, it is probably not a bad idea to switch to perhaps shrimp and chicken or tuna or a week or so. See if you notice any difference. Then switch back to your regular diet. Same with the level of carbs, keep the body guessing by raising the level for a few days (I mean a significant change, >75 g.).

just my thoughts...

6/12/2008 11:18 AM  
Blogger Regina Wilshire said...

Metabolism memory? I'm not so sure, it seems like a stretch to me...what I would think could be a definite possiblity with maintaining a limited dietary selection - falling short on one or more nutrients, possibly even unknown co-factors, enzymes, etc. that eating the same thing over and over would continue to exacerbate...increasing variety to include more foods allowed would resolve that if the wider variety has the missing element needed!

6/12/2008 12:08 PM  
Blogger SusanJ said...

All of these issues have been clearly and repeatedly discussed at Seth Roberts' forum that I gave the link to earlier.

Seth also did a great interview with Gary Taubes that he published online.

Sort of like we all keep saying read Taubes before you argue against low carb, I definitely think it is worth the time to study Seth Robert's ideas rather than dismissing them with an anecdote or two.

The SLD forum has been going for 2 years or so and now has almost 4000 members. Read some of the entries; read some of the success stories -- you will be impressed.

Unfortunately, not all SLD-ers appreciate the importance of low carb. But low carb plus SLD is a very powerful weight-loss tool and it's very easy to try.

6/12/2008 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definetly makes sense to me, when I got to a maintaining point I started adding a lot more veggies, and fruit back in and even grains, this caused my carbs to go up from 20 to 50 even 65 and started loosing weight again, I bet it was from the change in eating and my metabolism kicked in again.

6/12/2008 1:35 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

I love Regina Wilshire's comment in that it does seem to be a bit of a stretch and that perhaps there is some necessary nutrient that's being missed. One could argue the other way that even the limited number of carbohydrates in the diet contains one that leeches that necessary nutrient which would otherwise be present.

Epidemiology teaches us that many isolated peoples such as the Tokelauans, Aboriginees, and Native Americans of Great Plain and others ate diets that only consisted of that which was indigenous to their location and were very healthy as a result. It was the addition of strange foodstuffs that led to deterioration of their health.

Based on this, we know it's possible to eat a monotonous diet and be healthy but if that diet contains any carbohydrates or artificial inagredients it's difficult to know whether those things are subtracting necessary nutrients from the diet.

6/12/2008 4:01 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

It could also be the low-carb processed products that may have caused the weight gain. You do seem to eat a fair share of them on a daily basis. Even though they are low-carb products perhaps the fake sugars are still illiciting an insulin response?

6/12/2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for sharing your opinions about this, Sue. But I don't think it's the products.

I've been eating small amounts of these for the past four years with virtually ZERO problems before. And, like I said, I'm not downing gobs and gobs of low-carb products at every meal.

Most of my meals are very healthy whole foods as you can see at my menus blog.

Also, a few weeks back I gave myself a 2-week test to see how giving up all of the low-carb products I was consuming would have on my weight loss. I didn't lose a pound in two weeks despite being in ketosis, so there's something more going on besides the products.

I can appreciate your perspective, but that's obviously NOT my issue. :)

6/13/2008 9:53 AM  
Blogger SusanJ said...

I wonder if you can get Seth Roberts to do a podcast on "ditto foods"?

He has a theory that eating what he calls ditto foods, which are foods that taste exactly the same every time, can affect weight loss.

Fast foods and prepared foods are purposely designed to taste the same whereas it's almost impossible for home-made foods to taste the same every time.

You would need to give up all prepared foods to test his theory, not just low-carb products.

6/13/2008 12:17 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I could ask him, Susan. We'll see.

6/13/2008 12:46 PM  
Anonymous jennifer said...

i agree with regina--it is a big stretch with no science to back it up. other people have also posited that almost infinite dietetic variety is the source of america's obesity problem. interesting ideas, both, with no hard science.

the more reasonable conclusion is not whether the foods are monotonous, it's that the body adapts to a particular caloric level and responds poorly to large volumes of food.

atkins et al did not have access to the current research on food volume--large volumes of food (particularly calorically dense ones) have an effect on insulin and metabolic process. eating low carb is not enough. to maintain optimal insulin production and uptake, after a certain point, requires attention to frequency of meals, caloric intake, and food volume.

your earlier menus used to concentrate a huge number of calories into one very large meal.

you will see a greater impact if you space your calories throughout the day--which i see you have done.

if you pay attention to your appetite signals, you will likely see a natural caloric drop because your blood sugar will remain more stable than when you calorie/volume loaded.

calorie loading into a big high volume meal creates spikes and valleys in insulin production, too--hence reactive hypoglycemia and higher than necessary caloric intake.

there is no real set caloric number--appetite should give you a good gauge, but meals should be spaced evenly throughout the day and one should avoid becoming ravenously hungry and/or overly full. both these appetitive signals suggest that your blood sugar is spiking and bottoming out.

6/15/2008 11:07 PM  

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