Unfortunately in the modern day environment with stress, intermittent eating and poor nutrient value of many processed foods, our bodies can get stuck in a mode of fat storage and starvation.
This can make us insulin resistant, mess with our blood sugars and make us feel downright horrible in spite of living a healthy lifestyle or at least trying to. The core problem comes down to processed foods failing to nourish our bodies leaving us hungry plus stress leaves our bodies literally starving and anxious. If the human body is significantly overweight it is likely to be starving of nutrients and has excess stress or constraints when it comes to food. So how can we solve this?
We need to shunt our bodies out of starvation mode, and this comes down to a few main factors:
Knowing we have access to food
Not fasting for too long
A Nutrient Rich Diet
Once these key needs are met our bodies will go out of starvation mode, our bodies metabolism will rise and it will become very proficient at burning fat rather than storing it which is what our body does in its starvation or stress response.
Feeling Safe - When we feel safe and secure our bodies will be happy to shed fat and function properly. On the other hand when we are under any undue stress whether it is coming from being chased by a tiger or feeling pressure at work they will both set off our fight or flight mode which in turn is a starvation mode. Cortisol (stress hormone) is pumped out and our bodies stop functioning effectively. This will cause us to hoard fat, accelerate ageing and basically stay in this unnecessary mode of living until the stress has passed. The problem comes in the modern world when we are under constant pressure and this can cause us to stay in some form of fight or flight mode for most of the day, which is definitely not a good thing.
The best methods our bodies have to cope with stress are activating the para-sympathetic nervous system which induces a relaxation response and this is the mode we want to stay in most of the day. Signs of relaxation are warm hands and feet, a calm mind, ability to cope with situations and a stable level of relaxed energy. Deep breathing especially through the nose can help induce this mode as well as eating which leads onto the next point.
Knowing we have access to food - Too much stigma is put on meal times in the modern “diet age” with eating late at night or between meals being demonised putting undue stress on our mental state. Food is a life force and if we are hesitant to have a snack or have rules about no food after 7PM then our body will be tricked into a starvation and or stress response as subconsciously we think that food should not be eaten at certain times. Here is a little example of what could happen…… Say for example you have had dinner then something stressful from work comes up a few hours later. Your mind starts racing, you can’t sleep and you feel downright horrible. The simple truth is that something small like a glass of hot milk and some nuts would do a great job at relaxing your mind and help you make a calm decision allowing you to get some sleep, unfortunately you have set a rule of no food after 7PM so the very thing that would take your body out of a starvation mode is barred…… Doesn’t make much sense does it?
“Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it.” -Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)
Food has long been known to calm the mind and help decisions. So the point is that simply knowing and allowing yourself to eat good healthy food whenever you like is a psychological key to stay out of starvation and stress mode.
Moderate Exercise - Not too much and not too little. Always the key when it comes to exercise and thankfully not as hard as it seems. The problem with too much exercise is that it will get your body used to an unnatural amount of stimulation which causes undue stress on the body and mind. Let’s say you run for 5 miles every day, without fail. This will get your body used to this amount of movement and it will expect the food to fuel the activity, once you stop this high amount of exercise the body will add weight without fail and probably more weight than you had before starting an exercise regime….
So how much exercise is good? Ideally we should be able to get to the point at which we can maintain a healthy body composition while eating good food to satiety and exercising when “we feel like it” which will probably come in the form of:
Sports (tennis, soccer, basketball etc)
Lifting some weights
Short runs and sprints
What do these all have in common, they are things you want to do and things you will be naturally inclined to do once your body is healthy and out of any starvation mode. Exercise should never be done out of guilt or feelings as if it needs to be done to compensate for lack of movement or feeling lazy.
Not Fasting For Too Long/Often - Currently there is a load of buzz going round the web about IF (Intermittent Fasting) which supposedly has a host of benefits from everything from blood sugar regulation, nutrient absorption and weight regulation. I have no doubts that these claims are true and that the odd fast can do the body a load of good, unfortunately they can also do a load of damage if not timed correctly or done when you are already stressed or run down. Don’t forget fasting goes about its “benefits” through putting stress on your body.
My take is that before you mess around with fasting or are skipping meals then get the following nailed:
Practice Stress Reduction
If you have those three factors firmly in place and are feeling great, then mess around with things like IF. If not gain the main factors nailed by eating nourishing meals and getting loads of rest, basically letting your body know it is in safe and has no reason to cling onto fat…..
A Nutrient Rich Diet – When we eat a wide variety of foods and nutrients and cravings subside you know that you are on the right path to good health. Cravings are a sign of wanting and needing something. Thankfully once we are well fed cravings usually subside and leave us enjoying food rather than craving it. To me the keys to getting rid of cravings are the following:
3 Solid meals per day – Think about what your Gran would feed you.
Cut out Liquid Calories Except good milk.
No fried foods or vegetable oils.
Eat when hungry and to satisfaction
Limit Coffee and Tea
If you are feeling any symptoms of stress (think: anxiety, cold hands and feet, indecision, tired, inability to cope with stress, losing temper easily etc) and you have been confirmed to be in good health by a physician meaning they can’t find much wrong with you. It is likely your metabolism is out of whack and your body is stuck in a fight or flight mode more than a relaxation response. Try some of the methods above and watch your health and life improve.