Put on The Shoes and Do The Work

Read time: 3 minutes

If you are, or have been, as overweight as I used to be, then you know the insatiable feeling even after a full meal.

A new study shows that obese people fail to activate their “will power centers,” the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which inhibit the drive to eat. Further, postprandial (post-eating) blood sugar activates the PFC and ACC in order to stop cravings, but this fails to happen in obese subjects, leaving them with less will power against further consumption.

It’s well-known that low blood sugar naturally stimulates the thalamic and hypothalamic regions to activate the drive to eat, thus promoting survival. After eating, however, the natural increase in blood sugar deactivates this drive while stimulating the PFC and ACC to return will power against further cravings.

This study demonstrates that postprandial blood sugar and the insulin response trigger satiety in lean people (yes, insulin triggers satiety) but fail to do so in the obese. It appears that, even after eating, the obese cannot turn on the PFC and ACC to inhibit food craving. In fact, in the obese, the very regions that drive food craving fail to deactivate.

What’s interesting — and what’s important in our culture — is the relationship between blood sugar and external food cues. It seems lean people are more sensitive to external food cues only when their blood sugar is low, while overweight people are sensitive to external food cues when blood sugar is low or normal. In other words, obese people have lower will power agains external food cue, regardless of blood sugar.

This speaks volume about our culture’s obesogenic environment. There’s food everywhere, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is one of the contributing factors.

Cyber Space Pseudo-Science

The differences in mechanisms between the lean and the obese are not well understood in serious science, yet if you suspend yourself long enough in cyber space you’ll read claims to all kinds of theories and hypothesis at war against each other. And this unnecessary war has left the world in weight-loss chaos.

The reality is that no one in the area of obesity truly has a single patent on causality. 100 experts will give you 101 reasons. And they’re probably all correct to a degree.

At the risk of sounding guru-esque, I’ll throw in my small, common-sense list of reasons for overweight or its perpetuation, with the stance that overweight is actually a multivariable phenomenon with endless contributors. But, for brevity, a few reasons for the flab:

  • Food availability and abundance
  • Low-quality, low-cost ingredients
  • Commercial, social, and familial pressure to eat
  • Conditioned belief and perception of eating
  • Diminished demand for continuous movement (total 24-hour energy expenditure)

The Typical Environment

Most of us dedicate an entire room in our homes to store food; in fact, in America, the primary living-space to consider when buying a home is the kitchen. Shopping malls dedicate an entire wing to food. Cities and towns dedicate entire blocks to food.

Commercial food enterprises enjoy profits that are proportional to their sales of cheap calories. Many of us have an instinct to get the most food for the lowest dollar, with buffets, super-sizing, and $1.99 flap-jacks leading the way.

Many of us believe we must eat all day because our body is incapable of using stored calories, and we must eat seconds and thirds because there’s a famine lurking behind the Golden Arches and beyond the food court.

And there are those of us who will use reasons of metabolic disorder, genetic deviation, or evil food groups to avoid the actual work required for self-improvement and to maintain the status quo of excess flab and diminishing health.

Put on The Shoes and Do the Work

Look, no one understands why the obese cannot inhibit their food craving, and one more study won’t change the fact that, if we want to lose weight, we’ll still have to put on our shoes and do the work. We know what that work is and I’ve been saying it here for a couple of years now.

To lose weight, find a way to eat less. Chose mostly quality, whole, real ingredients. Stock your kitchen differently. Stay away from food court. Allow yourself to enjoy a delicious desert here and there. Find a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life, without becoming socially maladjusted, or a militant.

Sustainability will get you there… and keep you there. Intermittent fasting helps.

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27 Responses to Put on The Shoes and Do The Work

  1. Matt L says:

    Another great post as always Johnny. Sadly most of the people that need to won’t be the ones reading it.


  2. Tracey says:

    Really missed your posts..thank you for sharing your words of wisdom:)

  3. jaysond says:

    take the stairs at work. find the farthest parking space at the mall or shopping center. its ads up!

    • Johnny says:

      It certainly adds up, jaysond. movement of any kind keeps you healthy by maintaining blood flow and tissue aerobic metabolism. It also adds up to 24-hour energy expenditure. It’s not the only factor, but definitely a contributing factor to general health and long-term management of body weight.


  4. jaysond says:

    i turned my x-wife onto your site and she loves it! i always let her know when you update it. she loves the way you explain

  5. TrailGrrl says:

    Great post. Whenever I get away from the basics of IF and eating less, and start worrying about whether I’m eating enough protein or too many carbs, my pants start feeling a little too tight again. Ditto for too much concern about which exercises to do. I am much better off when I just DO and don’t think. I think it resets my calibration for what is hungry and full and wow that was too much. Somebody remind me how much protein shakes suck…every now and then I forget and start to contemplate their return. Really, a good slice of tiramisu would cure that whole issue…

  6. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/july/food/protein-drinks/overview/index.htm

    This is a link to an article on protein shakes from consumer reports on how bad some of them are. I fell into that trap years ago trying to bulk up for powerlifting, all I got was fat. Funny thing is that I deadlift more now at 160 then I did 10 years ago at 205….and that’s drinking wine and having some chocolate:)

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks for the link, Audley.
      This is one of the reasons why I refuse that we sell protein powder and protein drinks at our private gym, even when members previously asked for it. I believe in turning people into fans of the truth (and thus of our business), rather than making a quick buck.


    • Thats funny Audley.. I tried the same and ended up gaining very little muscle, but a rather large amount of fat. I remember running from the bench to the Locker room so i could chug down my Protein drink within 5 minutes.. lol. Looking back, I was such an idiot. Wish I just ate whole and living foods instead..

  7. Hi Johnny, sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but I couldn’t find any contact info for you. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in having a guest post on your site. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some ideas I could pitch to you! Thanks, Emily

  8. lolo says:

    my reasons: naivety, ignorance, laziness, apathy, stupidity, bad habits, bad luck, bad advice, bad genes, bad people, advertising, bad food, timing, etc basically leading to never-ending:


    failure to -acquire- nutrients

    failure to -absorb- nutrients

    failure to – process- nutrients

    failure to induce satiety

    failure to control hunger

    failure to maintain mental health

    failure to maintain physical health


    but what the HELL do i know, (dogmatic @pontificator) im still drinking gallons of milk
    ( hormones! insulin!) and eating chocolate and fat like a piggy every day. love it

    • Jordan says:

      Hi Lolo,

      As it’s not the first time you claim being able to eat daily tons of milk and chocolate as part of a big snack, I was curious and was wondering how do you manage to do that and still remaining pretty lean (based on your pictures)?
      Do you track your daily calories? Outside of that “binge”, do you have any other meals daily? In summary, how your eating plan looks like?

      Also, maybe you could share your workout/activities you’re engaged in daily.

      You seem pretty stress-free and cool with your diet (enjoy all kind of supposed “sinful foods”) while maintaining great leanness. I would like to adopt that kind of stress-free attitude as I’m in a quite stressful environment right now and it will lasts all my student years. So, if I don’t want to throw up my leanness and health I must take action right now.

      Thanks in advance!

      • lolo says:

        First .Wiiiii got a new jacket ( stupid gratuitous pic) http://img274.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=361380348_DSCN0344_122_591lo.jpg Ok The answer you are looking for is… right here! Read Johnnys post, all of them. There is always something good going on. Ok my story: I dont claim to eat chocolate. I eat chocolate. Every day. Almost a 2 years now. and 1 year constant. And milk, ice cream, and cheese, And fat. Etc. But im always in control. Huge difference. BIG eating =/ = BINGE eating. Stay in control. How? Lots of ways. Mine? Satiety. Eat the best proteins. (yolks! cheese! every single cheese in the planet, meat, etc) Eat one meal per day. try to eat the same meal. Eat lots of FAT. Stop thinking about calories ( never track a thing) Stay constant. ( training, menu, fasting) Sleep. Wake up. Move your ass -before- breaking your fast, nothing fancy ( chins, push ups, squats, pick one movement and do just that for the day etc) Then eat. big. If you feel sleepy after eating you did something wrong. find out. ( 2 much protein? 2 much carbs? ) Then live. If you feel hungry after eating ( like 6 or 7 hrs) you did something wrong, find out, fix it. Then go to sleep and repeat again the next day. Ah, also No rest day over here (every day is a training day, every day is a rest day!) But im super sedentary ! ( and used to be waaaay leaner, but i didnt eat like this!)

  9. Dale says:

    Johnny –

    Sorry if I missed it, but is the take-home here that whereas we do not know if these sorts of endocrinal responses to food are the CAUSE of obesity, we do know that they are ATTACHED TO being obese ?

    Presumably, losing the weight may foster a more benign reaction to food. I’m guessing this is the case due to the number of folks I’ve spoken to who attest that, having lost a bunch of weight, they are no longer tormented by food like they were.

  10. jaysond says:

    jordan i also eat chocolate everyday. i eat dark, 86% or higher. i usually have ice cream or a milk shake once per week. latley i have found myself eating drumsticks on the weekends and i have not gained a pound either. i am at 7-8% body fat and i am not a naturally skinny person. i was always over weight. i dont want to flood johnny’s blog with photos. you can see my before and after pictures from going paleo/primal then i found the IF lifestyle. there are three sites that i pretty much check daily. its leangains, jenn’s fitness safari and johnnys. i do this just to have a fresher course everyday and remind myself to keep up the IF life and im not the only one thats crazy LOL. lolo brings up a good point, stay active and stay in control. mon-thursday i am a robot when it comes to fitness and nutrition, its the same thing everyday! people even ask me if i ever get board having meat, eggs, brussells and berries for lunch everyday and i tell them no because on friday, saturday and sunday i change it up but i still fast and i still eat clean. here are my before and after pictures. i started the inital diet on feb 2010 and found fasting in may 2011. the last photo you will see was me in the bathroom and that was taken 1yr from starting my diet. i have also recently had the scar removed from below my belly button and have made a wonderful recovery. its because i eat well!


    i am jaysond, obviously LOL haha

  11. jaysond says:

    this was my heaviest weight!

  12. Joe says:

    Johnny, Real nice post. It’s been awhile since I been here but glad to hear your all doing well. Any word on the leather medicine balls?
    Keep on Keep’n on….

  13. sandro says:

    hi Jaysand
    keep on it Mate!IF isn’t for everyone:(.who don’t do that or at least give a shot to it will never know what are they missing:FREEDOM…


  14. jaysond says:

    yesterday i had a follow up dr’s appt in palo alto and anytime i am in palo alto (thanks to johnny) i stopped by ricks rather rich ice cream. i always pack a great lunch so i parked out front, sat down on the picnic bench on the side of the building and enjoyed some chicken salad made with olive oil, egg whites, brussels sprouts and some fresh raspberries. then i topped it off with a vanilla bean milk shake from ricks rather rich ice cream. god i love that place!

  15. Thuy says:

    Hi Johnny, I’d like to email a photo of my success so far, is that ok? I’m just so excited :]

  16. jaysond says:

    johnny, just wanted to drop in and say best wishes for the holidays to you and your family. thanks for all the advice this year. have a wonderful holiday season!

  17. Paulina says:

    Your ideas are so simple, but for some reason so difficult to put in practice! I actually had similar thoughts about the quantity of food people ingest. Namely, too much food! I actually wrote a few words about it as well http://www.fatlosscheetah.com/fatloss/1129-daily-fat-loss-challenge-wait-until-you-are-hungry-to-eat/

  18. This is a great study to report on. It brings up a question in me:

    If the process of being obese prevents someone from making good decisions around food, how does anyone ever decide to lose weight?

    Sounds paradoxical to me.

    What are your thoughts?


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