Is your lifestyle making you fat?
Lifestyle is the keyword here. It is a fundamental pillar of Real Meal Revolution (RMR). Even though RMR will always be built around following a real-food Banting diet, losing weight and being healthy isn’t just about eating correctly; it’s about recognizing all the variables that affect the way your body runs and getting them to work together.
Why do we eat?
No prizes for this: we eat because we’re hungry. But why are we hungry? Natural hunger is the body’s way of telling us to obtain energy to fuel our physiological functions. It’s one of the basic drives we have from birth: we instinctively have to breathe, eat, sleep and be nurtured.
A region of the brain called the appestat controls appetite. This is roughly how appetite and hunger work in conjunction with it:
- When blood sugar and/or nutrient levels fall below a certain point
- Messages are sent to the appestat
- The appestat sends signals for the body to secrete certain hormones
- The hormones make us feel hungry so we eat
- Once we’ve eaten enough, the process reverses and we feel full
It seems simple, but there is a complex balance of hormones that your appestat must manage to get this right.
So what are you hungry for?
As we grow older the appestat and the body’s hormone levels can be affected by many other factors. The most notorious culprit, we believe, is the modern sugar-and-carb-laden Western diet, which promotes insulin resistance. In so doing, it “hijacks” the appestat into not recognizing when we’ve taken in enough fuel: we don’t feel full so we eat more than we need and the excess food is stored as body fat. The understanding of this mechanism is at the core of the movement away from destructive high-carb foods.
We may be preaching to the choir here, but there is also a large psychological aspect to eating and drinking, and we often eat for reasons besides hunger. We often eat as a coping tool to deal with sadness, stress or anger.
Any situations that feel beyond our control are likely to stimulate stress hormones that can upset the delicate hormonal balance within the body and affect the appestat. Ever taken comfort in a large chocolate when you were feeling down? Ever “needed” a glass or two of wine at the end of a stressful day? Ever eaten that sandwich just because you were bored or procrastinating?
Our bodies are designed for a simpler, more instinctive existence. In this fast-paced world we encounter situations on a daily basis that can throw our systems out of sync and encourage us to eat when, functionally, we don’t need to.
Feel right, eat right
When our relationship with food is a healthy one, we don’t obsess about it. We leave enough time between meals for our food to digest correctly and for all of our metabolic processes to receive the fuel they need to function correctly. We don’t feel the need to snack and our bodies are happy.
In short, we feel right so we eat right.
When we don’t feel right, we tend to eat badly. (Got Sunday blues? Order a pizza!). The powerful emotions associated with food are one possible explanation for this phenomenon. Memories of home, family, childhood, special occasions, safety, protection, abundance, and giving are all often linked with food, and so food can become a nurturing crutch.
Comfort eating is a real phenomenon and it can be triggered by many things in today’s fast-paced world. The good news is that it’s not just your mind, it’s your hormones. If your hormones are out of whack, they give your mind a hard run for its money.
Even worse, you’ve only got one body and one mind, but you have eight hormones swirling them both into a cluster f#$%.
8 Hormones that affect body weight
The first four directly affect the appestat:
- Insulin – The one we all know about; controls blood-sugar levels and promotes fat accumulation (among other things)
- Ghrelin – the hunger hormone, increases appetite
- Leptin – the satiety hormone; decreases appetite
- Adiponectin – regulates fatty acid breakdown; promotes fat retention
The second four indirectly affect the appestat (among other things) by affecting the previous four hormones:
- Cortisol – the “stress hormone”; released in response to stress, it raises blood sugar and thus insulin levels
- Adrenaline – the “fight or flight” hormone; usually released in response to danger, it prepares the body for imminent action by, among other things, raising blood-sugar and thus insulin levels
- Thyroid hormones – regulate metabolism, among other things
- Endorphins – uplifting hormones that depress pain and increase feelings of wellbeing
Too much work, too little sleep, rushing through meals, poor work-life balance, not making time to see friends and socialize, not making time for yourself and general stress are major contributors to comfort eating. And here’s the thing:
They all affect your hormones in some way;
You can do something about them.
Three lives make one
The three critical parts of your life that affect your weight are exercise, sleep and stress management. Individually they are worthwhile pursuits, and thus we recommend each one in and of itself. Get more and better quality of sleep. Make time to exercise and de-stress.
Even better – do them all.
Together they are exponentially more effective because they are interlinked and self-perpetuating. Sleeping well, exercising and de-stressing all make you feel better and better about yourself, raising self-esteem and self-worth.
And when you feel better you will sleep better, be more motivated to exercise and find more fulfillment in activities that help you de-stress – a complex virtuous cycle. So, in giving attention to one, realize that you are giving attention to them all – and by improving one piece of the pie, it will be easier to improve the others.
Consider a (simplified) example of a negative lifestyle cycle. Mandy sees her doctor because she feels constantly exhausted and run down. He diagnoses her with elevated cortisol levels, which are affecting various aspects of her life.
An effective intervention at any or all levels could change the cycle from negative to positive.
Besides affecting health, happiness, and quality of life in various ways, Mandy’s original cortisol imbalance also affects her insulin levels and thus weight – and so we see how important the bigger picture is.
Eat vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, little fruit and minimal starch. Eat real fats. Avoid sugar, grains, seed oils, and processed food. Taste new dishes. Protect your gut. Eat when hungry. Drink when thirsty. Fast occasionally. Sleep well. Exercise. Relax. Socialize. Listen to your body. Escape routine. Seek adventure. Keep improving.
And remember, as Leaine Brebner, our Banting guru always says:
“Our bodies are a physical representation of the way we have lived our lives. Each pound of flesh has its own story to tell of the choices we have made, the habits we have developed, our likes and dislikes and the relationships we have made with those we have met along the way. The only way to feel comfortable about your body and successfully keep off lost weight is first to become aware that being overweight and chronically unhealthy is a symptom of lifestyle imbalance. It is time to balance the system.”