Can we really outsmart the body? Probably not. Automatically closing our eyes when we sneeze is the perfect example of how the body just knows what to do. Less involuntary are the subtle cues that the body gives us to rebalance itself – thirst, hunger, exhaustion, and chills. How is it that we think we can just ‘Eat Less or Exercise More’ without the body suffering any consequences? We think we are outsmarting the body when we convince it to shed weight during a diet. But when it makes us pay for the inconvenience by returning the weight AND then some, who gets the last laugh?
The body seems to think that more is better and, as we age, our weight and body fat tend to increase. No doubt the body has its reasons. Our bones achieve their greatest density around the age of 30, so perhaps the addition of weight causes the stress needed to sustain bone and prevent osteoporosis through the later years. Muscle tissue develops until around the age of 40 at which point we generally arrive at our ideal, maximum weight. We forget that fat is very light and, though it looks plentiful around our bellies and hips, comparatively speaking, it weighs very little. If the above is true, convincing the body that it wants low calorie salads and fat free products to reduce weight would be detrimental to our health. Are we destined then to fatten? Do we have no defense against conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes?
Not exactly. Two things are certain. One is that the body knows exactly what it needs. Feeling hungry means the body needs replenishment and not a glass of water. If, however, you give it something it will readily digest, it’s going to ask you for more. Feed the body foods that slow the digestion process, and you will stay satiated longer. This means foods that have protein, fat and/or fibre in them. A food that is predominantly carbohydrate can cause the body to send the same hunger message over and over again. Secondly, looking at the impact that the food has on the body is far more important than looking at the food itself. Lean meats are a great source of protein but not as beneficial without the fats so essential for tissue repair and healthy skin. Fruits are chock full of vitamins and minerals but can also raise blood sugar and cause the body to produce too much insulin when eaten alone or in abundance. Grains, such as wheat, can cause similar effects but if we avoid them completely, we risk depleting our serotonin stores leaving our bodies very unhappy – literally!
50 years of diet promotion has taught us that unless a person’s food preferences are aligned with those of their body’s, weight loss is unsustainable. Reducing calories or burning too many through exercise clearly upsets the body’s equilibrium. Listen to what your body wants – stick to whole foods and take advantage of the benefits of activity when feeling energized. There is no doubt that if humans have been on this earth for 6 or 7 million years, the body probably knows what it is doing.