If you’ve been following our series “The Skinny on Obesity,” you’ve heard Dr. Robert Lustig explain what happens to the body and the brain when faced with processing excess sugars. But what do we do with our minds to try to mitigate the problem?
As Dr. Robert Lustig explains in the “The Skinny on Obesity: Hunger and Hormones – A Vicious Cycle,” the sensation of hunger has less to do with will power and more to do with the body’s biochemical processes, over which we have little control. But there are some steps we can take to get a handle on the signals our bodies are sending. Here’s what UCSF’s Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) recommends. Are you physically hungry? Physically full? Our bodies send messages that tell us when to eat, but sometimes it can be hard to separate whether we are physically hungry or emotionally hungry. So how hungry are you? How full are you? Yes,
these are two different concepts.
Use this helpful scale to observe your experiences and notice the extent to which they overlap or not. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Just simply explore your own feelings and awareness related to these experiences.
There are ways in which our bodies tell us that we’ve had enough food, but when we overeat, we are often disconnected from these important signals. Only you can tell you when these signals are occurring. This is your “inner wisdom” which, in turn, will make it easier to use your “outer wisdom,” such as meal planning and being aware of caloric intake. You might ask yourself, what types of situations, feelings or thoughts might get in the way of paying attention to fullness? Some common situations might be socializing, watching TV, super-sizing your servings, not wanting to waste food or eating your favorite foods.
There are two distinct processes controlled by different parts of our brains and there are relationships between experiences of hunger decreasing as you eat, and experiences of fullness increasing. For some people, these seem to be easiest to understand along a continuous line, and for others, they seem to overlap but not be the same thing. For example, it is possible to be hungry and experience a sense of fullness in the stomach if, for example, you just drank a tall glass of water. Because it allows for flexibility, consider how your body might feel at various points, such as immediately after eating, a half-hour later, an hour later and two hours later. What are the differences at these points if you overate, ate the right amount, etc.?
We posed some questions to Mr. McGlothin and CR Society Board Chair and The CR Way Longevity Center Program Director Meredith Averill (also a CR practitioner), about “The CR Way” and what their research suggests.
UCTV: First of all, tell us what “living the CR way” entails.
Paul and Meredith: Living the CR Way is a healthy, happy lifestyle based on a delicious, low-calorie diet and understanding how calorie restriction (CR) works. Researchers have identified many of the biochemical pathways that CR activates, so to create the CR Way lifestyle we added practices that increase the likelihood that those pathways will be stimulated. This practice includes moderate exercise, sound sleep strategies, stress management techniques like meditation, and some additional dietary features, e.g., blood glucose control and avoidance of advanced glycation endproducts.
Another important characteristic of the CR Way is its flexibility: All of its features are beneficial and can be practiced in whatever combination and to whatever degree feels comfortable. As a favorite meditation teacher says, “The best practice is the one that you do.” We love to see people follow the CR Way – their Way.
UCTV: How long has CR been around?
Paul & Meredith: It was 75 years ago that the great scientist, Dr. Clive McCay*, discovered that limiting calories could extend life and prevent disease in his lab animals. McCay’s historic study sparked thousands of research studies, touching upon many aspects of calorie restriction science and benefits. However, historically, the studies were on lab animals – giving them limited relevance to humans. Humans are very different: we do not live in cages, nor do we eat rat or monkey chow (LOL). We are demanding, free thinking creatures with emotional needs. So this became the mission of the CR Way – to integrate human needs with CR science so people could have a holistic and enriching way to approach low-calorie living.
*The effect of retarded growth upon the length of life span and upon the ultimate body size. 1935, C.M. McCay, M.P. Crowell, and L.A. Maynard. Nutrition.1989 May-Jun; 5(3):155-71; discussion 172.
UCTV: What inspired your interest in CR as a lifestyle?
Paul & Meredith: Our first interest in CR was sparked by Paul’s internist, a life-long CR practitioner. A bright, extraordinary physician, he challenged Paul one day by giving him a Scientific American article written by the eminent CR scientist, Rick Weindruch. In the article, Dr. Weindruch explained how humans might practice CR and it made so much sense: we love life, so why not try for more of it? From that point, we were hooked.
UCTV: Not everyone expresses their interest in a lifestyle by studying it. What roused your research interest?
Paul & Meredith: Paul’s father inspired his interest in scientific research. A master of biochemistry and pharmacology, he helped Paul understand the importance of using scientific studies to support any biological intervention. That background, along with Meredith’s love of the biological sciences, prompted us to look more carefully at the cell signaling patterns of our CR lifestyle. As more are identified, the benefits will be huge. This research could take us a long way toward providing a cell-signaling panel of tests from which other longevity and disease prevention interventions could be judged. This would help millions, who are limiting calories sensibly, to live better and possibly longer. Indeed – a cell-signaling panel, derived from successful human CR studies could become the gold stand for healthful eating.
UCTV: Followers of CR are passionate believers. Yet, there are some negative perceptions about the lifestyle. What is the controversy about and how does the CR Society respond?
Paul & Meredith: One controversy is the negative perception that calorie restriction is hard to do. One need only watch the video about The CR Way on UCTV to see how easy CR is to start and to practice as a lifestyle. Imagine, starting a diet – any diet – without limiting one calorie!
After helping thousands of people lose weight healthfully and happily, we are convinced that the best way to begin a CR diet is by understanding how to use diet and lifestyle to increase happiness. That empowers people to make good dietary choices, as the emotional need for comfort food disappears.
UCTV: You called that “one controversy.” Are there are others?
Paul & Meredith: Yes, another controversy is whether CR has been proven to extend human life. Many serious CR practitioners feel strongly about this from two perspectives. The first: so what? The point often missed is that when your health is terrific, you feel so good that life gets better. And that’s why people follow The CR Way: because it makes their lives better right now. CR practitioners have terrific energy. Our hearts function like those of much younger people. Our immune-system function is preserved, and the list goes on and on. Having few physical limitations – you can climb a mountain, make love – do whatever you want to do to live life to the fullest.
The second perspective: Anyone concerned that CR doesn’t extend life should look at the 2007 Wilcox study, cited in the UCTV video. It is an excellent epidemiological exploration of elderly Okinawans who limited calories by only 11% for 60 years and attained the highest life expectancy in Japan – a long-lived society – and possibly the highest in the world: predicted lifespan at age 65 — 89.1 years for females, 83.5 years for males. It seems definitive to us, especially when compared to the U.S. data discussed in the video.
UCTV: Your research asserts that CR does more than just help with weight management. What other benefits have you seen?
Paul & Meredith: The studies we have been involved in have shown that human CR has phenomenal benefits, similar to those confirmed in animal studies:
· Better cardiovascular function
· Decreased inflammation
· Increased energy
We included a more comprehensive list in the UCTV video. We might add anecdotally that we know many calorie restrictors who are centenarians. Our guess from observing them and others is that you don’t get to be a centenarian unless you limit calories some, whether you call it CR or not.
UCTV: Where do you hope your research with UCSF will take CR in the future?
Paul & Meredith: This is an extraordinary time in human history. Probably within this century, healthy lifespan will be greatly extended, while chronic diseases are mostly eradicated. CR is the only reliable bridge to this great new era. This is one reason why tens of thousands of people have started a CR lifestyle, and the number continues to grow. Yet they are bombarded with misinformation – even disinformation – about what is healthful and what is not, what might extend their life or what just might kill them.
Of course, we are excited about seeing the results of comparing our telomere length to those of controls who eat ad lib. Besides this, we need to identify cell-signaling patterns that are associated with successful CR. This will provide a means to judge what may enhance a CR lifestyle and what may negate the benefits CR provides. At first, this may seem daunting, but great work by the scientists involved in the UCSF projectand others has already identified many of the cell signals that should be considered. So ultimately, the work at UCSF should produce something of a roadmap for anyone who wants to live a longer, better life.
UCTV Video: The Other Side – Chronic Calorie Restriction for Healthy Living