Dieting Starves Your Brain Cells, Turning Neurons Into Self-Cannibals

By Joseph Castro | August 4, 2011 10:14 am

spacing is important

What’s the News: Trouble sticking to your diet? It may not be entirely your fault. Scientists, reporting in the journal Cell Metabolism, have now learned that when  you starve yourself of calories, your brain cells also starve, causing your neurons to begin eating parts of themselves for energy. The self-cannibalism, in turn, cranks up hunger signals. This mouse study may lead to better treatments for human obesity and diabetes.

What’s the Context:

  • Autophagy, which literally means “self-eating,” is a common process in the body where cells form internal sacs of digestive enzymes to break down and recycle used parts. Cells will ramp up the process when they are starved of nutrients and need a boost of energy. In 2008, researchers found that a certain protein can induce autophagy in ovarian cancer cells, essentially causing the cancer to cannibalize itself.
  • While the self-eating process occurs throughout the body, scientists previously believed that autophagy in brain cells remains relatively constant, even in times of starvation (via LiveScience).
  • But there is a part of your brain—the hypothalamus—that monitors the nutritional status of your cells. Previous research has suggested that the levels of small fat molecules, called free fatty acids, in your hypothalamus may play a part in regulating hunger.

How the Heck:

  • Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine decided to investigate agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons, a type of hypothalamic neuron involved in food intake and energy balance. The researchers found that when they starved neurons in vitro, autophagy spiked. Researchers then withheld food from mice and saw the same effect in their AgRP neurons. Moreover, as the cells began to munch on stored fat, they released free fatty acids, which in turn boosted the levels of AgRP, triggering hunger.
  • The researchers then repeated the experiment in mice lacking the autophagy protein atg7 in their hypothalamus. The mice had lower levels of AgRP and free fatty acids, and higher levels of certain hypothalamic neurons and hormones that suppress hunger and stimulate exercise. The mutant mice ate less after fasting, were able to burn more energy, and were more active, leaving them about 10 percent leaner than the normal mice.

The Future Holds: The researchers think that the work could help humans suffering from obesity and diabetes, if scientists are able to develop treatments that selectively control autophagy in AgRP neurons.

Not So Fast: Not everyone is convinced that the research can be translated into treatments. “Perhaps the biggest [challenge] is that autophagy is a cellular process that happens in dang near every cell,” neuroscientist Randy Seeley told The Scientist. “There is no way to control the process in only AgRP neurons.”

[via LiveScience]

Image courtesy of malias / flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • Ryan

    This explains a lot!

  • Cathy

    This is why crash diets are so bad for you…

  • Pauline

    That makes a lot of sense! Excuse me, I am going to go make myself a sandwich now….

  • John

    “suffering from obesity”…really? Most cases are caused by increased caloric intake, plain and simple. Diabetics from non-obesity causes are the ones that are suffering.

  • Susan

    There is nothing “plain and simple” about obesity, and the sooner we recognize it as a disease condition the better. John obviously has never had a weight problem; good for him! I’ve never met a fat person who hadn’t tried to decrease caloric intake or who wanted to be fat.

  • ganesh

    Although such research is only helpful in the cause of curbing obesity, let us not forget that people are dietary generalists and that obesity can arise from a great many causes. Over-eating is only one of a number of ways to get fat. Many metabolic process lead to a sensation of hunger and many more are involved in digestion, absorption, and metabolism of food. It seems unlikely that any one research-correlated discovery will be a “magic bullet” any more than a fad diet will.

  • TheCritic

    That is at least one example of one person who WANTED to be fat.

    However, while I agree it’s not AS “plain and simple” as John may have put it (and he may have just neglected to say the following), obesity as the epidemic it is is NOT caused by genetic disorders or eating disorders or metabolic disorders in the VAST majority of people who are obese. Much less so in people who are overweight. So, while susan is right in her point, John’s has truth, as well. For the most part, caloric intake > caloric expenditure is the number 1 reason why most people are overweight and obese. Yes, that’s obvious. And, yes, people make excuses for why they have that increased intake over expenditure. However, there are alternatives and, from a logical standpoint, if you don’t choose those alternatives, then you choose what you have.

    Plain and simple, for the MAJORITY of overweight and obese people who do NOT have any pressing health issues causing their weight issues (logically speaking), they do choose their weight issue by their NOT choosing the alternative of eating better or exercising more for whatever reasons.

  • lyllyth

    …And then there’s the elephant in the kitchen: the GRAS chemicals that no one knows if they are endocrine disruptors in addition to the known endocrine disruptors that are in…well…everything. Everything from food to clothes to water, soil, and air.

    But we won’t look at that. It’s not really there…there couldn’t be an ELEPHANT in the room.

  • floodmouse

    The epidemic of obesity & the epidemic of motorcars both hit around the same time. I wonder if there could be any connection . . . hmmmm . . .

  • Techs

    Over the years I have gotten several overweight friends to start just walking regularly. They started to feel more energy and to lose weight. Then winter hit and they stopped walking and never restarted walking the next year. Got one of them to restart walking but winter again and again no walking the next summer. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink I guess.

    I used to be very active, Karate, swimming, hiking, big garden, playing with my kids, etc while my friend did no exercise. When we ate together he ate 3 times what I ate. I never said a word to him about that. He is the one I got walking several times and he said he enjoyed it.

  • Naveed

    to 4.
    ““suffering from obesity”…really? Most cases are caused by increased caloric intake, plain and simple. ”
    Ya John they are, no s**t. But what causes people to take in too many calories? This report explains that your brain makes it extra hard to take in less calories because it forces you to feel hungrier when dieting….which many people who have tried to lose weight already knew for sure but it’s interesting and perhaps helpful to know why.

  • ganesh

    I don’t know that it’s appropriate to insist that people are intentionally choosing to be overweight. Aside from metabolic processes of one kind or another, numerous things play into how, when, what, where, and why a person eats. Since it seems like we’re talking mostly about the US obesity problem, let’s focus on that. Here in the US socio-economic status may inhibit or prevent purchasing of healthier, fresh food which is often more expensive than highly processed products. There are also areas (usually inhabited by the poor) in both rural and urban locations where fresh food is in limited supply because retailers are few or far away. Ethnicty plays a role in susceptibilty to health problems from certain diets; the fastest growing demographic among diabetics is Hispanics, while African Americans frequently have a higher-than-average BMI with less likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. Finally, simple ignorance may have a lot to do with it. What if you don’t know how to cook? What if you don’t understand why this food is healthful and that food isn’t? Not everyone has access to this type of information, and even when one does the information is contradictory, confusing and often wrong, Usually people find out what is healthy by seeing or hearing advertisements from businesses who want consumers to purchase their product. Ever see an ad with a bogus claim or one that omits important details? The info from the government is often just as confusing to a layman. That last pyramid said virtually nothing. When it comes right down to it, how are you supposed to know that you need to know something if you don’t know that you’re supposed to know it?

    This isn’t saying that adults aren’t responsible for their own actions. People should try to be more aware of what they are eating (and doing in general) but the issue is way more complex than just personal choice. What about children? Are they responsible when they get fat?

  • Clem

    For God’s sake, can’t we even admit that obesity has a 100% cure rate if a very simple proscription is followed? That makes it one of the best diseases to have. You know that if you follow a certain path, you will lose weight. Don’t tell me how hard it is, that’s beside the point. The point is there is a 100% proven cure, you just have to do (and not do) certain things. For almost any other disease, you have to hope that you get better or that science comes up with a cure. Obesity has a simple, irrefutable cure available to anyone that can manage to stick to the plan, no drugs required.

  • JJet

    In every discussion relating to food and obesity there always seems to be fat-apologists that give medical or social excuses for the obese. No one ever denies there are examples of ‘genuine’ reasons for being overweight, but the percentage that fit into this category are few and far between.

    The majority of overweight are the way they are, not because they choose to be fat, unhealthy or wish for a shortened lifespan, but because they don’t care to help themselves, or blame personal circumstances or simply do not have the willpower and determination to resolve the issue.

    I think this is where sympathy is lost on most people. For example, if I smoke 80 cigarettes a day and it results in cancer, I don’t think anyone would suggest I wanted to kill myself. But everyone would accept, and I would have to admit that I had done little to help myself, and by continuing with a habit that everyone knows is dangerous and increases the risk of cancer I would have to admit that I didn’t really care enough to help myself.

    I think it’s time fat-apologist faced the facts that apart from a small percentage who genuinely have medical reasons (who everyone understandably have sympathy for) the majority of overweight simply don’t care enough to help themselves.

    Education and budget are no excuse at all. All adults have a basic understanding of what foods are bad and what are good. If not why aren’t more people poisening themselves with their lack on knowledge? I accept that people may not know as much as they should, or may be inept at cooking healthily for themselves, but if people really cared it isn’t difficult to resolve this? Everyone knows that vegetables, for example, are good for them. Vegtables need not be expensive and the fact they can be grown in peoples own gardens, bought fresh in most places, or at worst bought frozen and stored makes the excuse of not eating this type of food absolutely void.

    Changing the style of food you eat, reducing your calorie intake and exercising may not be the easiest or the most pleasant change people can make in their lives, but compared to people who are genuinely in difficult situations brought upon by no fault of their own, losing weight is a walk in the park (pun intended!). If the overweight genuinely want to be healthy and feel better, they need to stop finding excuses and put more effort into helping themselves.

    The simplest, easiest and least strenuous form of exercise, as mentioned previously is FREE… walking. I accept there are some genuine cases where even this isn’t an option, but those cases are rare. For the majority of overweight they have no excuse. Excercise doesn’t need to cost anything. Healthy food can be purchased instead of unhealthy food. Anyone can learn to make better meals for themselves either by taking advantage of community services, the internet, etc. And everyone absolutely has the time for as long as they have time to spend half an hour watching TV, they have the time.

    I’m sorry but the majority of overweight people choose to be that way by not caring to do anything about it.

    Obese children are a more difficult problem to resolve. For me a parent who allows a child to become obese is abusing the child! And local authorities need to step to help resolve this too. Sadly these children are also being let down by their local community, the education system, the government, the law enforcement agencies, and their non-immediate families. Again, people find excuses for why they can’t help. A more honest way to describe turning a blind eye to the issue is to admit you don’t genuinely care to get involved or help. It’s not something to be ashamed of… it’s a common and normal reaction to have when it comes to others, sadly.

  • angi

    I am fat. I do not want to be fat. I feel horrible about myself because I am fat. People judge me because I am fat. People think I am stupid because i am fat. Aholes like some of the ones on here think it is an easy fix – JUST STOP EATING. Well, for some of us, it is not that easy.
    I was always very thin until I had my child 8 years ago. Now, I cannot lose weight, and only gain. Yes, I have had some stress which may have played a part in it, but still, I eat less than I used to when i was thin.

  • Andromeda18_

    As usual, when it comes to this subject people tend to only adress the issue of weight loss but no one really talks about not gaining weight to begin with. Obesity is a real issue and while I believe in most cases people are to blame for their own predicament I do understand that losing weight is no walk in the park. Let’s face it, losing 100+ pounds takes a lot of time and dedication. It should be done but it’s hard. But what about avoiding the weight gain? People who are already overweight or obese will have to lose weight, but like people who aren’t overweight they can at the very least make an effort to not gain anymore weight.
    If losing 100 pounds is hard, losing 5 pounds isn’t. Controlling one’s weight is much easier than losing it. If people took care not to gain weight, by eating and drinking healthily and exercising regularly, they wouldn’t have to go through extremes such as dieting (often synonym of starving). Maintaining one’s weight is relatively easy, you can eat the things you like in moderation and you don’t have to exercise as if your life depended on it (as is often the case with obese people trying to lose weight), it’s all a matter of balance. More than anything this is the reason why I don’t understand obesity. Why do people allow themselves to get to that point when preventing it is so simple?

    Although I’m not a US citizen I’m aware of some of the issues surrounding the obesity epidemic, such as the high price of vegetables and fruit and the low price of processed food. However, in the end I don’t think that really matters. Where I live vegetables are cheap and fruit isn’t particularly expensive yet people keep getting fatter and fatter. Our traditional diet (Mediterranean diet) is thought to be one of the healthiest in the world but less and less people eat that way. One could say it’s a consequence of modern times, but personally I think it’s a matter of personal choice. Heating up some pre-cooked, processed food rich in fat and sugar and therefore rich in flavour, is simply much quicker and less troublesome than spending an hour in the kitchen preparing and cooking several ingredients. I do it because I care about myself, because I love eating the delicious meals I prepare and because I love cooking, but I realize not everyone feels that way.
    There’s much that could be done if people really had the motivation to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Like JJet said, vegetables can be grown in people’s own gardens. I myself have several herbs, such as basil and thyme, growing in small vases and I also have a huge cherry tomato plant growing in an equally huge vase, which has been yielding dozens of delicious tomatoes. Don’t have the time to exercise? How about purchasing a stationary bike and cycling for half an hour a day while watching tv? Can’t afford the bike? Buy a jumping rope and jump for 15 minutes twice a day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk if your destination is within 1 1/2 – 2 miles of your job or home. That’s not your case? Then make it your case by parking your car 1 1/2 – 2 miles away from your destination and walking the rest of the way. Do you have the time to exercise but can’t afford a gym membership? Go for a run in your neighbourhood. The options are endless…

    By the way angi, oftentimes it’s not about the amount of food you eat but about the quality of what you eat. Perhaps nowadays the food you eat is richer in calories than the food you used to eat. You must also consider that as we age we lose muscle which decreases our bodies’ ability to burn calories, so even if the food you eat now is similar to the food you used to eat, it’s possible that the amount of food you eat today is actually too much whereas the amount you ate 9 years ago wasn’t. The bottom line is, unless you have some sort of contidion that’s making you gain weight, you’re eating more than your body needs. You need to do at least one of three things: eat less; eat food that’s lower in calories; exercise.

  • Andromeda18_

    Can anyone tell me about the consequences of neurons eating themselves? I’m no expert but I would guess it’s not a good thing. If that’s the case, should we temper with the mechanism that tries to stop the self-cannibalism by telling the body it’s time to eat?

  • JJet


    I don’t think anyone believes that by stopping eating (or eating very little) you will help yourself. It’s unsustainable, it can be dangerous, it’s miserable, and will ultimately lead to failure. But if you don’t mind, I have some tips that you might want to consider.

    The biggest problem I think isn’t whether people have time, money, or knowledge, but their willpower and determination. This is the biggest stumbling block; our mind. Our body tells us we’re hungry or tired, but it’s our mind that’s decides how we control these affects. An overweight body is like an out of control kid. We can give in and let it control us, or we can put our foot down and get a little strict with an aim to having a happier time in future.

    There’s a useful trick to learn from one ‘professional’ diet; the Atkins diet. While I don’t think anyone with any common sense would recommend that diet, what it demonstrated though was that protein increases the time it takes for our bodies to feel hunger again.

    For example, a slice of toast, lightly buttered has about the same calories as an egg. So two poached eggs on toast have the same calories as four slices of toast. But because of the protein in eggs having that meal will fill you up longer than just four slices of toast. Try it. Or try it with other carbohydrates. Pasta, cereal, whatever. It all tastes good, and can be good for you, but without enough protein it’s not going keep you full up for long. So while fresh fruit and vegetables are the excellent foods, they should be replacing bad food in your diet, but not necessarily replacing protein (as long as the protein is good; fish, eggs, white meat, etc).

    For me eggs are the best friend of anyone who wants to lose weight. They’re so versatile and there are so many ways to cook them. I’m never worried about frying stuff but I use extra virgin olive oil because I know it’s better for us than most other oil. It may taste different to what you’re used to, but like any food, give it time, once you get used to it, you end up prefer it and don’t look back.

    This may be hard if you have children, but the easiest way to avoid eating bad stuff is to simply not buy it. Although I don’t need to be particularly careful about what I eat, I have zero willpower when it comes to chocolate, cakes, biscuits, etc. So I have no choice and won’t ever have them in the house. When I do get a craving I can usually have honey on toast, or a bowl of cereal with some honey. And because I don’t have the temptation at home, on occasions I treat myself when I’m out to bad stuff. Oh, never get a takeaway (take-out). If it sounds like I suffer it’s because I would have to exercise more if I ate more bad things. I prefer less excercise and less sweet stuff than having to increase my exercise to burn off the bad foods. It’s a simple balancing act.

    It’s important to consider how much you eat too, and whether you need to cut down a little. I think too big a change too quickly is too easy a way to fail. Make the changes slowly.

    The easiest way to instantly reduce the amount you eat is this; have one day when you’re prepared to spend some of it a little hungry and eat less for that day. I’m not suggesting a whole day without food (that would be miserable), but a day with less than you’re used to. It’s not comfortable, but it’s one tough day that’ll help reduce what you’re body is used to and get you on track for eating less afterwards.

    On this day eat as late as you can. Forget breakfast… and eat lunch but wait as long as you can bear. And when you do eat, forget about having anything special. For this day you want to eat little and so this is the perfect time to ensure you eat some protein. This is no luxury food day. It’s purpose is to shrink your tummy, so to speak and get your body used to less intake. So eat the equivalent of a very light meal. Enough to take away the feeling of hunger. And stop. The next time you eat you want to do the same. You should easily be able to get through two meals for the whole day like this. Drink as much as you want (obviously, not alcohol!).

    The next day you can go back to eating normally, but ensure you eat less than you would have normally. The whole point of one reduced food day was to shrink your stomach and get it used to eating a little less. The technique, which is easy to do and at worst only slightly uncomfortable for one day can be useful in future when you decide you want to eat a little less, maybe a month or so later.

    I’m no medical expert but I would assume you could do this a few times over the space of a couple months without any troubles. If you’re worried you can always ask a doctor what they think of you reducing your intake for just one day! You may not even need to do this if you don’t actually eat that much. And if that’s the case it’s just a case of perhaps changing what you eat, or increasing your exercise routine.

    It’s an incredibly effective way of reducing the amount you need to eat by only suffering for one day (and like exercise, you decide how much you can take and for how long you want to feel hungry for).

    Incidentally, if you find yourself on an occasion (wedding, party, Christmas, birthday, etc) when you don’t want to be careful about what you eat, and let your hair down and eat what you like. Do so. And to get back into the swing of normal eating again, do the reduced food day routine again, and you’ll be back on track. I do this after every Christmas because like everyone I over eat at this time of the year, and now I don’t suffer as I used to.

    I’ve never heard of this technique before, but if people can fast for a whole day, being strict and massively reducing what you eat for one day can’t be bad. And if it’s a technique that allows you to join in parties and go to restaurants without feeling guilty or having to be careful, it has to be worth trying. I like it because it’s not going without food completely, it’s only for one day, and you choose when you’re ready, you can stop at any point, it’s not difficult and it does have an immediate benefit the next day of helping you reduce what you eat.

    Repeat that process on occasions if you feel you need to, but amazingly you soon find a really nice balance of eating the right amount, and by eating more sensibly and adding exercise, it all becomes a way of life and you can forget about the obsession of losing weight or feeling guilty about breaking the rules and eating out on occasions.

    Of course the easiest way to lose to weight is to exercise a lot. But exercise is understandably torturous when we’re not used to it. So it has to be increased over time. Ignoring gyms, and any exercises that can be strenuous on the body or expensive on the bank balance, walking is the safest, easiest and most natural exercise going. But to get real benefit the walk should be brisk, not a slow shuffle. Walk with purpose, but not uncomfortably fast. Walk three or four times a week minimum. Increase it to every day as soon as you can. Walk for 15 or 20 minutes at first. Build it up to half an hour as soon as you can.

    I’ve no doubt if you cut out as much crap as you can from your diet, bare in mind that protein will keep full longer, ensure you walk for a few hours every week, and keep an eye on your calorie intake, you’ll be amazed what you can do without any form of professional diet, or eating miserable food, or torturing your body with exercise. Forget worrying about how you are, start concentrating on how you can help resolve the situation. It’s now just a matter of time.

    Slow changes may yield slow results, but they’re easier to implement, easy to stick to, and soon become a way of life that’s sustainable and enjoyable. The ultimate plan is to not even think about diet and exercise, but develop a slightly different lifestyle to the one today that automatically keeps you in check without you even thinking about it!

  • http://DiscoverMagazine Templar 7

    This does make alot of sense…coming from a type 2 diabetic, this is very promising.

  • Cathy

    Many people posting here do not seem to know as much as I do about changing metabolic rates (how fast you burn calories) and I am certainly no expert. The number of calories a person burns when doing some activity is NOT fixed. It can vary and how it varies depends upon many things including how many caloires we take in.

    Before I would take the more drastic advice being given out by some people, in particular the advice to fast or skip meals, I would discuss your plans with qualified medical personnel trained in dealing with weight loss and nutrition to ensure that these measures are (1) safe and (2) will not backfire and have the opposite of their intended effect.

    I have read in many places that if one does not eat within the first hour or 2 of waking up, one’s metabolism slows for the day. In other words if you skip breakfast you will burn fewer calories throughout the day than if you don’t skip breakfast.

    I have also read somewhere that lowering our caloric intake can reduce our metabolism rate. In other words, trying to reduce the number of calories you eat to be less than what you burn isn’t as easy as it sounds, because as you reduce the calories you eat, you are also reducing the number of calories you are burning.

    Fasting used to be quite popular, but research has shown problems with that both for general health and in terms of weight loss.

    Our bodies can go into a sort of starvation mode where we become more efficient users of energy, using fewer calories to do things. This was good when we were hunter-gatherers and our food supply was uncertain, but in today’s world it works against us because it means reducing calories can backfire.

    Please seek professional advice before making any drastic change in your eating style to ensure the change you make is indeed safe and will not backfire and end up working against your goals.

  • Anno

    You all have good points and there is some very good advice here also. Thank you!

    One thing that everyone seems to be overlooking or discounting is the mental/psychological aspect of being overweight (or being anything else for that matter.)

    If it truly is a matter of “just don’t eat” or “just dont gamble” or “just dont work so much” don’t you think we would all be completely healthy and happy? There are factors that we need to control first before we can ‘just do’ those things.

    I read a book that explains how your thinking controls everything. As children we are blank slates and everything we come to believe about ourselves is due to what we are exposed to. If somehow we grow to truly believe we are a certain way (are you fat, thin, a bully, dumb, smart, deserving of wealth, a good cook, a green thumb, successful, or have a bad temper, just to list a few) then that is what our mind seeks to achieve.

    Have you ever heard the sales story of the man who truly believed he was a $5000 salesman? No matter how easy or challenging a sales area was that he was assigned to – he made $5000 – because that is how he defined himself. He was a “$5000 salesman.’
    I am sure you can find something about yourself that fits into this – it can be very positive as well as negative. If you listen to your own self-talk (the dialog that goes on in our mind all the time) you will hear yourself reinforcing this.

    Before you can change yourself, you must first truly believe that you deserve what you are trying to accomplish. You have to stop being the ‘$5000 salesman.” When you can’t change your inner self image – or accept yourself the way you are, you are working against yourself and the odds that you will succeed are overwhelming.

  • JJet


    You completely misunderstood what I was suggesting. I didn’t say fast. I suggested, for one day only, to reduce the calorie intake by eating less.

    All I’m suggesting is the opposite of what happens on days, like Christmas for example, when we eat far more in a day than we would normally. And we’re all aware that the day after we always feel more hungry than normal, and need more food to feel satisfied. Which can slowly escalate.

    By reducing food for one day you’ll reduce what you need to eat the following day. Continue that and you’ve very quickly and simply reduced the food you eat in a day. The body responds very quickly to overeating and undereating. I’m suggesting we can take advantage of that.

    I can’t believe you you think one day of eating less than you’re used to is dangerous!!! I’ve done this before and I know it works. Yes the body reduces the calories it burns for that day but that’s not an issue as it’s such a short time. If it were a problem you’d expect the people who fast for a day to all turn fat afterwards. After the reduced food day you eat as you would normally, but having reduced your stomach intake you can eat less than you’re used to without feeling hungry. That’s all the process is for.

    I didn’t suggest keeping this up, as I know the body would adapt and your metabolic rate would slow down and counteract the benefit. The technique isn’t about the metabolic rate. So yes, I am ignoring it for a day. It’s simply about reducing the amount you eat. With a healthier diet, a little exercise and by eating a little less it’s not necessarily to worry about your metabolic rate. If you want Angi to get bogged down in the science of metabolic rates and think that’s her answer to a slimmer, healthier person, by all means give her your advice.

    I wouldn’t suggest anything that’s dangerous, and besides I don’t think anyone’s stupid enough to take advice from a stranger if they believed it could be bad for them. I don’t want to sound like some money-making commercial weight loss scheme, but what I’ve suggested works. It’s sensible, it’s easy, and it’s sustainable.

    Sure, if someone wants to exercise hard to burn calories, fine. I haven’t suggested anything drastic. I haven’t suggested anything strenuous. Sure, alternatively people can join gyms, do lots of exercise, buy diet books or join groups, see specialists, have surgery, but those things take up lots of time, money, can be extremely hard work, or dangerous and prove unsustainable for many.

    Sure, you’re right, you can increase your metabolic rate by eating more. And extremely overweight people who eat tons probably have higher metabolic rates than the rest of us, but it’s hardly doing them any favours. If Angi feels what I’ve suggested is dangerous she’ll ignore it. I was only trying to help after working out a few simple techniques. At the end of the day I don’t know her, and never will, but her message suggested to me she does want to help herself and so I decided to share a few techniques that work.


    As I said in my initial reply to Angi, willpower and determination are the biggest challenges. If they weren’t we’d all just train to run a marathon and be fit within months.

    Exercise, as I described, can be torturous for most of us. Sure, eventually it can become a habit and can also turn into an obsession, but it’s the starting out that’s the difficult part. And as I’ve tried to explain to Cathy, the techniques I’ve used take very little willpower and hardly any determination. I know because I barely have any myself, as I alluded to by explaining that I cannot have cakes, biscuits, chocolate or deserts in the house.

    I suggest walking as the key starting exercise because it’s easy and cheap. And although I suggest a brisk walk it’s still the most natural and safest form of exercise, even more so when I’m only suggesting people start with fifteen minutes and build up to half an hour.

    I admit I’ve changed and adapted the techniques and prefer to do weight training sometimes as an alternative to walking. But I wouldn’t suggest that to anyone because I know how dangerous it can be and how easy it is to get injured without properly warming up and performing exercises carefully and correctly. Equally I haven’t suggested moving on from walking to swimming or running because again, they’re much more involved, and have risks and take a lot more willpower.

    If a person hasn’t the willpower to walk a few hours a week, eat more sensibly and reduce the amount they eat a little, then they need to be honest to themselves and accept they don’t care to help themselves (obviousy I’m not talking about people that genuinely can’t do these things). I know there people like this and I have absolutely no advice for them. I don’t care about people who don’t care about themselves. And for those people I’m sure there are a whole number of experts willing to take their money and promise results!!! I’m not running a business I’m just passing on a little knowledge and a few techniques that have worked for me.

    The way I see it is if people can train for marathons, or put themselves through the training regimes required for sports or join the armed forces, whatever, the rest of us should at least be able to make a few corrections to our lives in order to be slimmer and more healthy.

  • Anno

    I’m not talking about having willpower and determination. You can accomplish your goal if you can focus on yourself as already being the way you want to be.

    If you spend time everyday envisioning yourself the way you want to be, it will happen, without the striving and the willpower and determination. It has been proven.

    There were three sets of people who were tested. The test was shooting basketballs. Baseline data was collected (how many baskets everyone was able to score.)
    One group of people practiced every day for 20 minutes in the gym.
    One group did nothing. The third group just spent 20 minutes envisioning themselves shooting baskets. They thought about every aspect of the activity: how their arms would feel, what it looks like to make a perfect basket, what the gym smells like even.
    When the groups were tested again after some time, the group that did nothing made no improvement. The group that envisioned making baskets made the same amount of improvement that the group who had physically practiced in the gym!

    I remembered the name of the book! It is Psycho-Cybernetics, written by Maxwell Maltz.

  • JJet

    Yes Anno. I’m aware of the basketball technique you’re talking about. I’ve heard it called visualisation.

    I’ve actually used the visualisation technique before, and it does work, it’s quite clever. It’s good for gaining a new skill quicker and to be improve efficiency at a task, like sport, as you mentioned. I’ve seen sportsmen and race drivers do this. I’ve used it for driving and flying lessons, and videogames too!

    And I also agree with your previous message that if you actually believe something can happen it’s much more likely too. I’m a big believer in this. Anything in life I can’t imagine happening, never seems to. Everything I believe can happen, within reason, seems to.

    I’ve always assumed both techniques are forms of manufacturing and increasing confidence and self-belief. After all, if you’re convinced you’re going to fail, can’t imagine being successful, then you surely stand little chance of succeding. So maybe there’s something within them that could benefit those wishing to change their lives and lose weight.

    It’s fair to say if you believe you won’t ever lose weight and that it’s beyond you, you’ve already failed. I gain confidence in my own abilities by knowing someone, with less ability, or less fortunate, or who starts off with less of a chance of succeding has already done what I want to do, and that gives me the confidence to know I can do it too.

    I gain confidence knowing others have done whatever I’m trying to do. It goes without saying it’s all within realistic confines though. Something that requires a person to have started something as a child, or require intelligence for example higher than mine, are clearly beyond my capabilities. But if I chose to be an improved person in some way or another, I know most things are possible.

    Oddly enough I’m in the process of making a couple of substantial changes in my life right now which are only possible because I believe I can do them. A bit like the visualisation technique, I think it’s important to be able to see that future you’re after to stand a chance of achieving it. Oddly, one of the biggest negative effects, beyond our own belief though seems to be others. It’s amazing how negative others can be, but their warnings, lack of faith and cautious words I take as a reflection of their own failings or lack of self belief (or maybe it’s me, I prefer to seek advice rather than be given it!).

  • Anno

    That is a big distinction that you point out – how you take others negativity as a reflection of themselves rather than a reflection of yourself. The hardest part of using the visualisation technique to lose weight is overcoming that negativity (labels and definitions) that surrounds being overweight today, after all, that negativity very well may be where our negative self image or feelings that we can’t succeed came from in the first place, and from the very same people.

    It is also hard to let go of the ‘doing.’ It is easy to focus just on that (strict diet and exercise regime) and give the small failures too much importance. The path to success with visualisation is to focus on the results for 20 minutes daily and let your actions come naturally. This is going to sound backward, but give it some thought.

    Once you can see yourself as you will be once you have achieved your goal, your actions will fall in line to make that goal happen. So, if you want to be a healthy slim person picture in your mind all aspects of being a healthy slim person. Visualise yourself making healthy food choices, enjoying activities, include bodily feelings, emotional feelings and even smells. Be there in your mind, the more detailed and real you make it the better. When you believe you really are a healthy slim person you will just start to do what a healthy slim person does. (It is like the sales training that teaches that you have to ‘fake it until you make it.’ )

    At that point, all of the great advice that everyone has shared will be invaluable to you as a healthy slim person!

  • JJet


    I’m sure I’m reading between the lines, but you do realise the advice and techiques I’ve described I used to lose weight I use to stay slim. I’ve never actually been overweight as such. The reason I’ve taken interest in such things is because I’m not big on sport, have an incredibly sweet tooth, and can put on weight easier than I’ve ever known anyone else doing. And also I actually come from a, let’s say, heavy family. I broke the mould as it happens, but I guess it’s in my genes or certainly in the culture of my family to not be slim so I have to be more careful and more aware than most!

    So I have tried to find the easiest way of staying slim without worrying too much about diet and exercise. The only reason I made those suggestions for Angi was because I know what works for me would work for anyone. After all I don’t like exercise, have very little willpower and love sweet food. Anyway, I’m only saying that in case you didn’t realise. I just wanted to clear it up in case you thought I battling a weight issue myself. I’m just battling the potential of going that way!

    I forgot to mention in my original advice to Angi to ignore weighing scales and avoid mirrors as much as possible. I really disagree with those slimming programmes that have people weigh themselves or take note of their weight. Weight loss is such a slow process it must be utterly disheartening and have such a negative effect to try to do the right things for weeks on end and barely watch the scales change. The best judge results, in my opinion, are feeling clothes get looser and generally feeling better. Even as someone who’s only ever gone maybe a stone over what I should be, when I’ve finally lost that it’s an amazing feeling. I can only imagine how people feel who lose more.

    I don’t remember ever spending more than a few minutes at a time when I used the visualisation technique to help me learn stuff. But it was always to help with a specific manual task rather than a state of mind. It was just a case of spending a few moments here than there (before sleep was a good occasions too) and going through the motions in my mind. Personally I can’t imagine how it could help someone lose weight, but I’ll take your word for it that it improves their mental state and makes them feel more positive. Maybe I’ll try to visualise being happy next time I’m not. It could be a great technique to get over ex-girlfriends in future.

    And as I said in a previous message, when it comes to taking on new tasks or changing elements in my life, or whatever, the technique I employ takes a couple of seconds… I have the attitude that if someone else can do it, I can do it too. It’s worked so far. But you’re definately right, you need to imagine and know that you can succeed to succeed.

    On a slightly different note; I do wonder if the issue with many people trying to lose weight is that they get sold the idea of all these plans and get bombarded with ideas from ‘experts’ and businesses with financial agendas. I know why they exist, but I find incredibly sad anyone buys magazines or goes to groups to resolve this. There’s a lot of overweight people in the world, and for all the diets, schemes, experts and advice available it doesn’t really seem to be making much of a difference! But I’m still convinced most continue to eat badly or do no exercise and they’d be better off being honest to themselves. And those that are trying, well, they’ll all be slim one day if their current gameplan is working and they continue.

  • Anno

    I understand JJet, and it is good information either way. Visualisation is good for anything you want to do, including exorcising ex-girlfriends!

  • JJet


  • Susan

    Okay, just an example: 1000 calories a day of mostly raw vegetables and a little lean protein and 5 MILES a day of jogging at 265 lbs. Over the course of 8 months, I lost 22 lbs. that came right back after I increased the diet to 1700 calories a day of “healthy” eating. In the meantime, my doctor wanted to know if I was trying to give myself a heart attack at the age of 22.

    I’ve been overweight all my life, and you can’t tell me that it’s not a disease syndrome. And I’m tired of being one of the last socially-acceptable targets of prejudice. If I had a birth defect, no one would blame me . . . . John!

  • black hat seo software

    Very efficiently written post. It will be beneficial to anybody who employess it, as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

  • Emi

    I believe the simple solution would be giving the brain every couple of hours (even every half an hour if cravings are severe) just the smallest amount of food possible to prevent from starving, like 3 grams sugar or a tiny bit of oil. I tried it and my cravings went away when I was trying to establish a healthy diet for myself. Brain needs about 100 grams of sugar daily. If you devide it by 16 hours awake time it is about 6grams per hour. People who don’t struggle with weight control already derive this hourly sugar content from their bodies but obese people generally can’t because of insulin resistance.

    That’s why they feel always hungry. However the more they eat the more insulin resistance they have. Meanwhile all they are trying to do is to feed their starving brain. But they tend to overeat because during the starvation their brain cells die and they can’t remember their goals and motivations any longer.


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