Monday, September 28, 2009

The Voices in Your Cells

I don't suppose I'm going to come up with a better analogy -- ones about the same, but no better -- so I'll just go ahead and use it. Think of the food you've just eaten, the available calories, as fluid in a bucket. Let's say the bucket is your bloodstream. All those wet calories, waiting in the bucket of your bloodstream, waiting to be used. Now let's suppose that the bucket has a bunch of tubes in the bottom, through which the calories are diverted to various tasks. There's a tube to the brain for thought, to all the muscles for movement -- tubes for heat and digestion and libido, for the immune system, for growth and repair, for hair, skin and nails. Everything that needs energy has a tube to it. Of course there is a tube to bodyfat as well.

Now let's say that everyday the bucket is filled with 2000, uh, calories, and these calories drain down the various tubes in a predictable and healthy way. Homeostasis. Everything is going along fine. Sure, some calories pour down the adipose, fat tube, constantly filling up those fat cells -- but the fat cells do their job, and drain back into the bucket. Fat cells after all are just a storage system -- not forever, just as a buffer. For a few hours after a meal, there's too much available energy, so the fat cells sop it up, like a sponge, and release it drip by drip until they're not sopping any more, just damp. It's a cycle, a healthy cycle, with adipose tissue expanding and contracting slightly to meet the needs of normal variation. So, uh, like, there's a bucket with tubes, and one of the tubes leads to a sponge that drips back into the bucket. Clear?

Now let's suppose that something goes wrong with the fat tube. The opening gets bigger, and more calories pour down it into the fat sponge. That means there is less energy in the bucket, fewer calories that can go down the other tubes. Because one of the tubes is bigger, the bucket drains faster and gets empty sooner. This means that less energy will have gone down one or some or all of the other tubes. That's thermodynamics. Because, while more calories are entering the fat sponge, the sponge drips back into the bucket at the same, old, slow rate. The sponge gets bigger and wetter, more coming in than leaving. It's a ShamWow sponge, that really really holds on to that fluid! Such a deal! Act now!

Well? That's how obesity seems to happen. It's not that more is being poured into the bucket. You're not necessarily eating more. Calories are not being forced down that fat tube by increased pressure -- they are not forced into fat cells. The tube is bigger -- the propensity to store fat increases, for whatever reason.

But now the other systems, the other tubes get less energy. They were getting what they needed, and now they are not. So the bucket needs more calories than before. If it got 2000 calories before, of which 200 went down the fat tube, but now 400 calories are -- well, then the rest of the tubes have to deal with a 200 calorie shortage. So appetite increases, as a homeostatic adjustment, and now the calories bump up to 2200. Great. Problem solved. Except the fat tube gets bigger again. So you either supply even more calories, or just put up with the shortage. Meantime, the fat tube keeps on shunting away too many calories that are not released, creating a constant shortfall for the other systems. Even if the problem doesn't get worse, 200 necessary calories are being misdirected, and simply hoarded. Your are eating the same old amount, always hungry, and getting fatter. Lucky you.

So that's the analogy. Not very pretty, sort of mixed and casual, but see if you can do better. I will use it and not give you credit. You owe me.

What makes the tube bigger? Disrupted hormones. What disrupts the hormones? Bad carbs. If you try to fix the calorie shortfall by eating more bad carbs, you just make the fat tube bigger -- you disrupt hormones even more. Meanwhile, ignoring increased appetite, the body has to prioritize, trying to compensate for the missing calories by economizing in other areas. I think that list was pretty good, don't you? I just made it up off the top of my head. Man I'm smart. Thought, movement, heat, digestion, uh, immune system, and all those other things I thought of. Libido. Hair. They get less energy. Foggy thinking. Lethargy and fatigue. Feeling cold. Illness. Meantime, the fat cells just hoard the treasure. It's not greed. The Bad Carbs are telling them to. Fat cells are very obedient.

Sometimes I just can't get to sleep, thinking about how smart I am. And wonderful. You should compliment me more. I get tired of hearing the same old voice in my head, over and over, telling me how great I am, and how I should get an ax and kill people. Because they're all so fat. I hate that. It's evil.


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