29th September 2019
A key component of short and long-term health is balancing the energy demands of day to day life. When trying to function over long periods out of balance - in either a deprivation or excess of calories - we end up causing ourselves undue stress, and some times irreversible damage.
Calorie restriction going west…
Prolonged periods of consuming too little – which can be combined with being physically over active – will activate adaptive thermogenesis (you’ll often here this referred to as starvation mode, which actually isn’t true when all’s said and done. True starvation mode occurs when no calories are consumed over a prolonged period, for example when fasting).
The brain realises you’re eating too little and slows things down metabolically to conserve energy, thinking your heading towards a period of starvation. The bodies is an extremely sophisticated piece of biochemistry even at times when we – thinking we’re being clever – can be pretty dumb! It will strive at all costs to keep us alive despite our best efforts to dismantle and decay it to oblivion.
Consciously and subconsciously your daily movement will start to decrease, along with your cognitive ability. Major changes will occur in the nervous system alongside the decrease in production of certain hormones. You’ll become weak and fatigued, your body will start to consume itself to meet energy demands, and your libido will be next to zero!
Say hello to more illnesses, both physical and mental (sounds horrific…that’s because it is!).
The ‘obesogenic’ state…
More common in industrialised nations is being in a high calorie surplus, often due to the ‘obesogenic’ environment we find ourselves in. Highly processed palatable foods – low on nutrients but bulging with calories – marketed extremely cleverly, combined with increasing levels of physical idleness is seeing waistlines expand and chronic diseases rise to unprecedented levels.
Consuming more calories than the body needs – in the absence of appropriate physical training – will lead to weight gain through the formation of fat. Again, the human body is not stupid. It’s storing energy through accumulating body fat (which can be stored abundantly, and is very calorie dense) in the belief that further down the road you’ll hit a period of famine, thus needing to rely on stored fat to meet your energy demands.
A highly refined mechanism that’s been with us for undoubtedly aeons of evolution as a homo species when feasting and periods of famine were a regular occurrence. Then the 20th century happened.
Industrialised farming combined with half a century of over consumption, where we can get cheap calorific foods delivered to our doors merely by pushing some buttons and walking a few yards, is one facet clearly bringing humanity to it’s knees.
The combination of over eating and physical ineptitude are two major reasons we’re becoming fatter and sicker than ever.
Being overweight brings with it a whole host of increased possibilities in developing chronic diseases; cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
The only guarantee living a life with one of these horrific diseases is suffering…haven’t we already got enough suffering in the world?
Balancing our energy levels naturally
On the surface it may seem simple; calories in verses calories out.
Counting calories may (and does) work for some. But when you start to pull back the layers, it becomes a little more complex.
Each of us is a delicate little flower that needs feeding (and training) in it’s own unique way. We’re not just some mechanical combustion engine – we’re human beings. We’re complex, dynamic, and organic, with many intricately sensitive systems that need to function effectively in order for us to thrive.
Factors affecting energy intake…
- Appetite – our biological need – or lack of need – for calories is triggered through the release of appetite regulating hormones gherlin and leptin. The balance of these two hormones gets disrupted through under/over eating, lack of physical movement, and poor sleep.
- Environment – the ‘obesogenic’ state we find ourselves in, where weight gain is systemic of the society we live in. Processed foods that are cheap, but highly profitable, are marketed cunningly, and physical activity is dwindling due to “advances” in technology.
- Palatability – we all have are likes and dislikes through flavour and texture. To some degree we all have a ‘sweet tooth‘ (it’s been biologically ingrained in us as a survival mechanism) where as some tend to favour foods that are fattier in nature.
- Psychology – mindset is everything. The stories we tell ourselves about food ultimately determines are relationship with it. Using food as a means to mask emotions, whether they be stressful or depressive in nature, can induce negative associations with foods, in turn ingraining life-long poor nutritional habits.
Factors affecting energy expenditure…
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – calories burnt at rest maintaining vital bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate and cognitive function.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – calories burnt digesting the foods we eat. Roughly equates to 10% of all calories consumed.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – calories burnt through fidgeting, changing posture, etc.
- Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE) – calories burnt through conscious movements such as walking, running, swimming, lifting, etc.
There’s actually a lot to think about when we’re striving to balance our energy needs, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
There’s no need for app’s or smart watches – they can be highly inaccurate and cost a small fortune – and the incessant tracking of numbers. I feel they also feed peoples insecurities and anxieties surrounding food and exercise.
So what is the best approach?
So this may sound a little cliched and something of a buzz word, but being mindful of the foods we eat, and the daily movements we make, will ensure we develop our intuition and start truly listening to our bodies, finding a natural way to balance our bodies and minds.
Where do we start?
Take control of the things you can, react positively to the things you cannot, and strive to find the best solution in any situation…
- DO listen to your bodies hunger cues (stomach rumbles, low energy levels, etc)
- DO have a glass of water before you eat. You may just be thirsty.
- DO eat nutrient dense meals that are portion controlled (more on this next week)
- DO eat slowly, chew your food, and take short breaks until you are full.
- DON’T eat emotionally. Feeling stressed? Get into nature and move your body.
- DON’T eat quickly…it’s not a race! Take your time and enjoy your food.
- DO stock you kitchen with 90% whole unprocessed foods.
- DO make a shopping list, budget accordingly, and choose quality over quantity.
- DO prepare food, especially when travelling.
- DO eat out, indulge every now and again, and share food with others.
- DON’T eat in front of the TV or other technologies.
- DON’T go shopping when hungry or stressed.
- DO meditation and set your intentions for the day ahead.
- DO develop self-love and respect for your body.
- DO focus on one day at a time.
- DO reinforce positive self-talk and actions.
- DON’T react badly to negative thoughts and self-talk.
- DON’T make excuses and hope for change tomorrow…ACT NOW!
- DO move more on a daily basis in any which way.
- DO find ways of moving that raises your heart rate, stimulates your mind, and you enjoy.
- DO make time for moving your body daily.
- DO have positive intentions and set goals.
- DON’T undertake exercise that you find boring.
- DON’T be physically idle for long periods, otherwise it will become a habit.
Yours in health and love,