Metabolic brokenness (this is not a term used by the medical community, but one I have adopted from talk among theorists and bloggers) is the crux of the problem that results from eating too much toxic food. It is the general state of the body failing to respond appropriately to meals. There are countless different things that go wrong in metabolic brokenness. The primary one of concern for weight gain is called “leptin resistance.”
Leptin is a hormone whose primary role is to regulate appetite. Leptin signals to your brain how much you’ve been fed and how much you need to eat. It does so simply by being produced by your fat cells. The more leptin you have in your blood, the more leptin your brain detects. It then uses this information to increase or decrease metabolism. This is how it works:
Say, for example, that you have 10 units of body fat. This makes your fat cells secrete 10 units of leptin. If healthy, the hormone command center of your brain, the hypothalamus, hears this signal, and thinks, “Yes! 10 units is the amount of leptin I want!” It goes on to sustain normal metabolism and appetite. If you have eaten a lot of food over the holidays and instead have 12 units of leptin in your bloodstream, your hypothalamus reads this signal as “too much leptin.” It will kick-start your metabolism, decrease your cravings, and cause you to lose weight. Conversely, if you ran a marathon yesterday and are short a few pounds of body fat, your leptin levels will be lower than your hypothalamus finds desirable, causing your metabolism to slow down and your appetite to increase.
In other words, your body has a “set point.” Leptin tells your body whether or not you are at your set point. If you are under it, your metabolism slows down and you crave more food. If you are over it, the opposite happens.
In healthy individuals, this process works so well that their cravings are relatively stable and they never fluctuate much in their weight.
In less healthy individuals who are leptin “insensitive,” the hypothalamus stops hearing the signal from the fat cells. Leptin levels keep shouting at the hypothalamus to burn more fat, but the hypothalamus has ear muffs on. It continues to tell the body to slow down and to eat more. You keep gaining weight, no matter what you do.
Of course, if you ran 10 miles a day it would make a difference — particularly in the short run.
But if you cannot increase your leptin sensitivity, you will almost certainly be shit out of luck in the long run. Of all the fat loss that happens on diets in America, the best estimates state that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent is usually gained back by dieters. This is not necessarily at any real fault of their own. They may be completely loyal to their low calorie diets and still fail to find success. This is because they need leptin sensitivity to sustain long-term weight loss. The body does its best to be a healthy weight; it just needs the leptin signal to properly get through to the hypothalamus.
So how does one become leptin resistant?
People become leptin resistant as a result of inflammation. Inflammation damages the hypothalamus. If you have systemic inflammation in your body, your hypothalamus will not be able to properly hear leptin signals and regulate appetite and fat mass.
This is a somewhat simplified version of the weight gain and weight loss model, but it is essentially correct. So far as I (and my favorite theorists like Masterjohn and Guyenet) can tell, inflammation is the leading cause of leptin resistance. Inflammation — a direct result of an unhealthy diet — is the primary factor (in addition to simple overeating) that makes America so sick and so fat.
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