Human Hyperphagia – How to control binge eating!

Do you often just keep snacking uncontrollably? “I’ll just have one more biscuit” or when eating a takeaway eat more than you thought you would? Often it’s even stronger after a crash diet.

Don’t worry, it’s a normal part of being a creature from planet earth, especially if your ancestors adapted to seasonal climates.

This week is fat bear week and they can put on an incredible 4lbs a day before hibernation. This is so they can survive a cruel winter and sleep for up to 6 months. They undergo hyperphagia, an uncontrollable instinctual desire to eat  in order that they can survive winter.

Though we humans do not hibernate, we are seasonal creatures too to varying degrees. It was recently discovered that adult humans can develop brown adipose tissue or BAT FAT, a special type of fat that has thermic properties that assist winter survival.  There two ways to develop this are via autumnal triggers from diet (high insulin and leptin levels, pointing to autumnal carbs+fat) and exposure to cold (also autumnal).

We don’t need to develop BAT any more (modern heating, and food availability) and typically we never do as the conditions for it do not ever happen in the modern world. However, we can develop the precursor to brown fat in abundance i.e. white adipose tissue (WAT, the stuff that jiggles), which is necessary in order for brown fat to develop.

I propose we suffer from hyperphagia collectively because of our modern food environment, and I believe many of us trigger it daily because of the hormonal and chemical impact of the foods available to us.  Essentially, we trigger ancient autumnal instincts that encourage us to develop fat because our bodies believe winter is coming, just like bears instincts are telling them this week.

The main food available to bears at the moment is ACORNS… a fun acronym for acorns is Autumnal Causing Rapid Obesity in Nature.  Check out the chart from  on the Wise About Bears website, courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources…

A Bears Quest for Food

From the chart you can see that the main food bears are eating during Fat Bear Week (#fatbearweek), is acorns, and it seems this food from the great oak tree protects these vulnerable creatures through fat storage for winter survival. The profile of acorns has been discussed often on this site and in  ‘Don’t Eat for Winter’.  It matches just one other natural food in an uncanny way: Human Breast Milk! A food designed to help human infants become hardy and survive a vulnerable period (a perfectly healthy food for vulnerable infants of course).  The only other foods matching this signature from the USDA food composition database is a list of junk foods.  Energy dense and hyper-palatable triggering fat storage instincts.

This food macro ratio is good for bears and babies through natural foods like acorns and breast milk, which have other nutrients they need too, but for adults who are no longer vulnerable in winter time, perhaps not so much.  I suggest that this is why junk makes us gorge and become fat. They trigger these instincts within us and you simply cannot outwit instinct with willpower. It is therefore ridiculous to blame obesity on lack of willpower or laziness.  Squirrels and bears are anything but lazy as they gorge in autumn to survive the winter, if anything they’re more active than ever before they begin resting up.  If they cannot out run autumn, how can we, when we have sedentary jobs which compounds the issue.

Although humans don’t eat acorns (some tribes did over winter like celts and native americans), we do eat combos with the exact same signature, and these are the foods that do the damage to out waistlines.

E.g. popcorn on it’s own is meh, butter on it’s own is yuck, but together (carbs+fat) and you’d eat a whole bucket of it and we pay through the nose for the privelege for something that costs close to nothing to make. A recent scientific paper shows how we value such foods more, and other papers show cafeteria diets cause excessive eating in rodents.  Yet another paper shows how fats increase the dopamine effects of carbs through endocannibanoids.

Others notable combos include…

Donuts (carbs+fat)
Chocolate (carbs+fat)
Pastries (carbs+fat)
Buttery popcorn (carbs+fat)
Crisps (carbs+fat)
Syrupy coffees (carbs+fat)
Pizza, burgers and fries (carbs+fat)
Biscuits (carbs+fat)
Ice cream (carbs+fat)

There are also more natural, nutritious combos too that hit this formula like fruit and nuts, apple tart, potatoes and fatty meat etc. that we should be careful of too if management of bodyfat levels is sought.

These sort of foods set me off into a gorge frenzy because they prime my instincts, my pupils dilate and it doesn’t matter how much willpower i have, I’ll make excuses to get more of it into me… a little demon on my shoulder having a dialog with me whispering, “one more will do no harm” until I get to the last one and then it’s “sure you might aswell eat the last one, what difference will it make?”

I don’t feel guilt when this happens anymore, I know it’s not because I’m weak, it’s because millions of years of evolution lead to me liking foods like this more than others because they assisted my ancestors survival and I inherited the gift to be able to survive times that were less plentiful.

High carb+fat foods and food combinations can only exist in nature in autumn and so what is happening is the earth itself becomes a protective mother for her inhabitants and we gorge and get hardy for winter. Nowadays, foods that traditionally would only appear in autumn are now available all day every day, all year round.  I believe this is a major factor in, if not the fundamental cause of, the obesity and the world’s ongoing battle with weight.  Most of us find it difficult to get into really good shape and it is the environment, not us that is to blame.

This is what DEFoW is about more than anything else. Avoiding hyperphagia, and controlling appetite, so that we’re not continually snacking for the sake of it. This is what I mean by anti-autumnal eating and why it’s the lowest common denominator of many diets that people swear by like low carb and low fat (which are at loggerheads for this obvious reason – they both avoid simultaneous carbs+fat).

DEFoW is the first method of eating that consciously removes the formula that causes this gorges by avoiding the autumnal combo of carbs+fats in the same sitting.  It doesn’t avoid either carbs or fat just the combo (which you can then choose to savour from time to time in moderation, we all need to cut loose now and again).

The data, the science, the deceptions, the commercialism, the law changes, the diets and the problems we face with weight globally all point to this highly palatable combo as being the key to the problem we need to solve.

Knowledge means avoidance is possible and you can choose when to indulge and when to stop through preventing triggering of instinct on your terms.  As stated in Don’t Eat for Winter, we cannot fight instinct with willpower alone and things can be a lot easier once we stop triggering these instincts buried within our programming.

I hope this helps people out there. Eating anti-autumnally has freed many from the infinite autumn we are subjected to daily and continues to receive positive feedback, which is hugely encouraging.

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Cian Foley is a Software Engineer from Waterford, Ireland and also a 2 time European, pan-American and World amateur kettlebell champion. Cian was a 115kg (256lb) obese 35 year old and has completely transformed into to a fit and healthy 78kg athlete through his 8 year journey of discovery around nutrition and exercise. He now competes as a natural bodybuilder at the age of 43 to prove that it is never too late to get into great shape without the use of steroids.