Inside the rubber bag

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Intake, burning, and excretion determine, in large part, how you look, how you feel, and how many years you'll live. They do this because, through simple arithmetic, they control the contents of the rubber bag. Living, as we do, inside the bag, it's worth understanding how we're affected by these processes, then using that understanding to gain control of them.

Assume you eat just enough every day to meet the needs of your body. What goes in is broken down into the molecules to power your body and the result precisely equals what you burn. The residue, what comes out, is discarded to make room for the next day's food.

This is the condition of stable weight. The entire purpose of this book is to allow you to attain this state. Regrettably, many of us have spent most of our lives oscillating between the following two situations.

Too much goes in

You eat too much. "How could I have finished that entire pizza?" "Those doughnuts cried out, 'Eat me!' ". When what goes in exceeds what you burn, your body has left-over nutrients floating around in the bloodstream.

We evolved in a world where the normal conditions of life were hunger and cold. On those rare occasions the body enjoyed a feast it, like the prudent squirrel, made provisions for the hard times that would surely follow.

Fat cells are the body's equivalent of a piggy bank. Fat cells sit on the banks of the bloodstream and, whenever they see excess food, snatch it out and build molecules of fat to stuff in their little cellular storehouse. Each fat cell is, in essence, a little rubber bag: when it sees too much food it snarfs it up and expands.

When this goes on, the larger rubber bag expands: you gain weight.

Too little goes in

You skip a meal, or decide that a scoop of cottage cheese is a wiser choice for lunch that a double beef bozoburger with bacon, guacamole, and cheese.

Before long, the energy-distributing molecules in your bloodstream start to become scarce. Your body starts slowing down to adjust to the situation. You may feel cold, since less energy is available to be burned. Your stomach starts sending telegrams to central control, "Hey, what happened to lunch?"

As the bloodstream becomes depleted in energy, the fat cells notice this and respond; now's the time to draw down the reserves. Perhaps the boss is stalking a mammoth and doesn't have time to scarf up some fruit and berries along the way (or maybe Monday Night Football's gone into overtime and the fridge is forgotten in the heat of the moment—the world of the fat cell is a simple one, hardly cognizant of such modern problems). Individual fat cells begin to tap their storehouses and release energy into the bloodstream to ameliorate the shortfall.

When this goes on, the rubber bag contracts: you lose weight.

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