Like practically every woman I know, I have a complicated relationship with food. I know what I should eat; fruit, wholegrains, vegetables, healthy but limited carbs, fish, lean meat & poultry etc, and mostly I stick to that but every now and again - as in, every now and again every day - I cave. I try to keep a sense of perspective about that, telling myself that as long as I follow the 80:20 rule (80% good stuff, 20% indulgence) I'm not doing too badly, and yet, in the last few months a little bit of extra padding has appeared. Not a lot, admittedly, but it's 2 or 3 kilos that weren't there at the end of last year and which I really don't want to become my new 'normal'. I can hear you scoff from here; "2 or 3 kilos? That's nothing to worry about!" and of course you're right, except... Well, what happens when I gain the next 2 or 3 kilos? And the next 2 or 3 after that? Before you know it an extra stone and a half will have crept on whilst I'm busy trying to reassure myself that as long as I follow the 80:20 rule I don't really have anything to worry about.
So I've been thinking that it's a good time to try and shift back to my preferred 'normal' before the current one settles in for the long haul and starts to invite it's mates, (kilos 4, 5, and 6) over for a visit and before they hold a party to which kilos 7, 8 and 9 turn up and decide to stay as well.
But even losing just 2 or 3 kilos can be a bit of a battle at times.
I was wondering why that might be, and then had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a nutritionist for the World Bank (because that's an obvious career path, right?) and she told me about some fascinating studies that have been done on Fat recently. Note the capital letter - you'll understand why I use it in a moment.
We all know that one of the reasons human beings can struggle with their weight is because our lifestyles have evolved more quickly than our bodies. In fact Slummy Single Mummy just wrote about it today (click here to see her very interesting piece). To put it simply, our bodies seek to store fat at any opportunity because historically humans did not know where the next meal was coming from. If there was an opportunity to calorie-load, we were programmed to take it. There was no question of Neanderthal or early Homo Sapiens Woman looking at bush full of berries and saying "You know, they look great, but I'm still full from yesterday's roasted possum, and I've been feeling a little bloated recently, so I'll pass, thanks all the same..." No, they would have eaten as much as they could and then taken what they could carry with them. And that was fine, because they probably would have run it off escaping from marauding dinosaurs or boars or sabre toothed tigers or whatever.
Luckily for us, however, marauding boars are thin on the ground these days, and our fridges are stuffed full of berries and roasted possums (well, you get the point), so not only do we not need to do a great deal of escaping, but we know exactly where our next meal is coming from; that big white box humming gently in the corner of the kitchen. At least - mentally, we do.
Our bodies, though? Not so much. We are still programmed to stuff as much as we can into our mouths at the first opportunity, even though we don't actually need to anymore. So we do that, and put on Fat. And here is where the capital 'F' comes in. My nutritionist friend told me that when you gain Fat, your body rejoices (again, we all know that), and tries to maintain it. And it does that because - here's the scary bit, which I didn't know - Fat can develop a life of it's own. Your Fat, essentially, is an organ*. Like your heart, lungs, digestive system, liver, skin etc. And also like those, it gives out hormones. Hormones that encourage you to eat at any opportunity, not only because subconsciously your body doesn't know where the next meal is coming from, but because Fat - the sneaky little beggar - wants to ensure it's continued existence.
Your body plays along with this because of it's innate survival instinct and even misses Fat when it's gone. Once you've had excess Fat, even if you've lost it, your body will seek to regain the status quo it previously enjoyed and felt safe with. Which is a bit of a kicker when you've worked hard to lose a significant amount of weight and succeeded, but unfortunately is how life is as an un-properly evolved Homo Sapiens in the modern world.
And which may also explain why, having read Slummy Single Mummy's piece, the next post that I read - as it was at the top of my Blog Roll - was all about chocolate, and also why I then googled the name of the store it referred to and added it to my mental 'must do' list for the next time I'm back in London.
Fat, eh? Who knew that it's such an evil mastermind..?
* Fat as an organ is not in itself a bad thing, by the way - click here to see the good stuff it delivers too.