The Piggy Bank theory is wrong. Let's learn to talk with our body instead.
I want my kids to have a positive relationship with their food. But, as a parent, this can be tough, especially when your 10yo starts gaining weight. Yup, that’s me right now!
Despite having a kitchen stocked mostly with farm-direct food, providing lots of opportunities for exercise, making home cooked meals, providing positive encouragement, limiting screens, etc, my children don’t make the best life choices all of the time. I mean, they are kids after all.
What’s a mom to do? Well, I chose to turn to education. I started reading Fat Head Kids by Tom Naughton with my kids. It’s fascinating.
Now, one disclaimer. He does talk a LOT about being overweight or “fat”. This irks me a bit. Not only do I want to foster positive relationships with food, but I also want my kids to have a positive body image, no matter their size.
But, I kept reading. And, I now understand where the author is coming from and where he’s going. Basically, it was Tom’s weight struggles that propelled him into thinking about health and nutrition in a new way.
The first thing Tom Naughton did was debunk the “Piggy Bank Theory”, and I was so happy he did this.
In case you don’t know, the Piggy Bank Theory is an idea of dieting that’s based on counting calories. The idea is that, if you eat more calories than you consume, you gain weight. If you eat less calories than you burn, you gain weight.
You can think about it like a piggy bank. You feed the piggy bank money (calories). It uses some for the building and repair fund, some for the daily energy bill, and the rest it saves for later as fat cells.
This is the basis for so many dieting programs that involve counting calories. Eat less (deposit less in your piggy bank by consuming less calories) and exercise more (increase your daily energy bill and use more calories). Then, you’ll have less to save as fat cells. Dollars in vs dollars out. If only it were that simple!
When you stop and think about it, the Piggy Bank Theory really doesn’t make sense. I mean, my husband stays a steady 142lb whether he eats a lot or a little, whether he’s training for a triathlon or being an Olympic couch potato. He’s just steady. But my body, on the other hand, does fluctuate in size. And, for both of us, our size doesn’t really indicate how “good” we feel.
How can this be!? There’s something else to it. That’s because weight gain isn’t about simple math, it’s about complicated chemistry!
Tom describes our body like a spaceship made by nature. This was an excellent analogy for my kids, who love video games. It clicked, and they got it.
We have our hardware (bones, muscles, organs, etc) and some really complicated software (metabolism, hormones, hunger, etc). It’s all run by a super computer (our brain and the connecting nervous system). And, then there’s the fuel (inputs of food, water, chemicals, etc).
In order to control our spaceship body, we need to understand how to communicate with it. We need to understand the code.
I mean, there are so many cool apps that our body runs - Get Taller! Get Hungry! Starvation Emergency! Get Fatter! This Tastes Good! Build Bigger Muscles!
Let’s take the “Get Hungry!” app as a quick and simplified example. When your spaceship body doesn’t have enough fuel, it runs this program. If you listen to your body’s code, you should eat more soon.
But, if you don’t eat, other programs will trigger to help your spaceship not break down, to help you survive:
- Slow down your metabolism to burn less fuel.
- Release chemicals to make you tired and depressed so you won’t waste fuel by flying around.
- Break down your muscles and burn the muscle tissue as fat.
- Reprogram the fuel system to make storing fat even easier than before to prevent the next Get Hungry! or Starvation Emergency!.
Keep in mind that each body may run different versions of these programs. This is because each body is a slightly different spaceship model.
So, if you don’t eat when you’re hungry, your body’s metabolism may have been slowed down. Sure, you might lose weight. But then, when you eat, your metabolism may still be programmed to be slow and store fat more easily. You’ll likely gain all the weight back that you lost… and maybe even more.
We can create these spaceship analogies from basically any nutrition concept.
Primal urges and the carnivore diet turns off the carb-burning program and turns on the fat-burning program. The fat-burning program turns off the Get Hungry! program for longer periods of time and turns on the ammonia-clearing program resulting in clearer thinking.
When you eat bioengineered corn and soy or conventional milk with A1 protein, the foreign protein invaders might trigger the Allergic Reaction! program. Your body might even reprogram itself to run the Allergic Reaction! program every time you give it corn, soy, or dairy inputs.
As you get older, your body slows down the Make Lactose! program. But, the microorganisms in raw milk can speed up the Make Lactose! program. This is why some people who are lactose-intolerant can handle raw milk but not pasteurized.
It’s important to note that our hardware and software is affected generationally. That’s why the Miller’s tagline is “Inspiring Health Generations”.
The book Pottinger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition describes this well through raw vs. cooked food experiments with generations of cats. The idea is that, if your body degrades in health over your lifetime, then your children will start their life with a lower baseline health. And, it can go the other way around, too. So, the better health you can attain before having kids, the better chance your kids have of even better health. Health is generational.
How has the Piggy Bank Theory affected your life? How do you help yourself or your family develop good relationships with food? Is thinking about your body as a spaceship helpful?
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