Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Ms. Neha Kapadia - https://www.linkedin.com/in/neha-s-kapadia-12932614b/
Assistant Professor (Ad-Hoc),
St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
The lockdown era of 2020 has initiated the get-fit movement within all of us, kindling a new fire to burn down the extra fat and calories. But, without getting out of the house how we break the unbreakable adipose depositions that restrict our choices of clothes, and modern-day fashion. But, is burning the belly only about fashion? I think it's a whole lot bigger than that. Urban lifestyle, stress, and food habits coupled with the psychological challenges to beat temptation have set in a new trend of obesity and other health issues involving cardiovascular issues. But, here today we are going to find the answer to this problem.
Burn the Belly:
There seems to exists a very simple equation which could decide whether you gain or lose weight. The equation is primarily focused on the number of calories lost and the number of calories consumed. With the understanding of this equation, it can be concluded that weight can be lost if the number of calories burnt exceeds the number of calories consumed. To implement this idea, a diet on calorie intake is the ideal solution, however, it is seen that people tend to regain those shredded pounds over time. One of the reasons to explain this phenomenon is the decreased metabolic rate an individual acquires while losing weight. This is strongly supported by research conducted on the contestants of ‘The Biggest Loser’ show. Many of the contestants showed weight regain and when their metabolism rate was compared with people having the same BMI, it was found that the contestants showed a surprising decrease in their metabolic rate. Also, another key factor to weight regain after a long term dieting (low calorie) is the decreased levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone called Leptin. A low level of Leptin causes an increase in hunger sensation and cravings and this may lead to binge eating thereby counterbalancing the effects of diet.
Neuroscience of Hunger:
It can be thought that the brain works in two ways on food and hunger. The metabolic brain, the first type, involves the interaction of the hypothalamus and the hindbrain, and various other hormones. The second type of brain, the emotional brain, integrates, and stores memory which a particular food that is consumed. Food that has a strong positive pleasure activates the reward system of the brain which involves the release of dopamine (the happy hormone). The need for food which leads to the production of dopamine (pleasure pathway) increases appetite which would cause a sense of reward.
Hunger is one of the ways that nature has devised to ensure that species of a particular race continue to exist. The brain is the most developed organ in humans which governs many vital processes, one of them being hunger. The feeling of hunger and satiety is controlled by the interaction of the hypothalamus and the hindbrain coupled with several hormones. Within the hypothalamus, there are two groups of nerve cells, located next to each other, activation of either of them initiates or inhibits hunger. The group of cells in the hypothalamus which secrete two different proteins, Neuropeptide Y and Agouti-related peptide, results in the onset of hunger sensation whereas the other nerve cells produce two different proteins, CART and alpha MSH, inhibit hunger. The dominance of which a set of neurons is decided and controlled by the hormones which circulate in the bloodstream. Ghrelin is the hormone which is synthesised in the stomach and its secretion would trigger hunger by interacting with the hypothalamus, when its concentration increases and as soon as the stomach is filled, its level decreases which inhibits hunger. Another important hormone is Leptin which is the appetite-suppressing hormone and is made in adipose cells. When the levels of Ghrelin are low, then the concentration of Leptin increases in the bloodstream thereby suppressing hunger. The other set of hormones produced in the pancreas are amylin, insulin, and pancreatic polypeptide, all of which are involved in inhibiting hunger. Another interesting fact is that the hypothalamus also receives a signal from pleasure pathways that use dopamine, serotonin. Foods rich in fats and sugar have shown to have a great influence on these pleasure pathways thereby causing increased consumption of such foods which leads to weight gain.
Genes are the structural and functional unit of life which have all the information of an individual. Genes also decide how an individual would respond to changes in their environment. It is found the obesity can be a result due to an alteration in a gene or genes or expression of genes. Studies have shown that there are variants in many genes that cause an increase in appetite and thereby an increase in food intake. Variation in genes has shown to influence metabolism, which would affect the ability of the body to use the stored fat fuel, and also on an individual’s behaviour like to walk up the stairs or use an escalator. All these factors sum up and decide whether a person could suffer from obesity. However, genetics alone cannot be blamed for the increased risk of obesity, it the environment which plays an equally important role as our genes do. Individuals carrying the obese gene can still combat this disease if the food intake is taken care of with regular exercise.
We all may have used these many months at home to shift from XXL to L, but the quest is sustainability as we resume our conventional work lifestyle. The simple answer, maintain one's habits to small-regular portions of healthy food options involving fruits and fresh vegetable juices and turn your face away from the junk of processed foods. Have a good breakfast and make short walks a regularity at your workplace; don’t butt-glue the chair. Have a light soup/salad early dinner. Give your body a regular time to peak its metabolism cycles, so digestion would be effective.
For many of us going to a gym, evening brisk walk, or a swim would not be suitable options at this hour, but basic meditation and yoga would keep us mentally fit, while simple skipping or stretches would function as a good cardio and muscle loosener for us all. These forms of workouts would be short and less taxing; at the same time elucidating the desired effects.
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