As discussed in the previous blog post, the environment in which we live promotes eating more than we should. But have you ever considered how your body itself affects how much you eat?
The human body is designed to survive and is designed to be nourished by food and drink. Not all that long ago, food was difficult to find (very different from today!). Our bodies like to hold onto the energy it gets, for fear that it won't receive anymore for a while! Chemical and hormonal responses that affect metabolism, hunger, and cravings can impact - and be impacted by - our lifestyle and eating patterns. Here are some examples:
- Skipping breakfast is a strong predictor for weight gain. Most bodies will react to skipping breakfast as a signal that there is not enough food (you've gone all night without food, and still nothing?). Because of this, metabolism slows (reducing the amount of energy/calories that it needs to survive). Not only that, but if you skip breakfast, you are likely to be extra hungry later in the day and overeat because of it. Try adding even a small snack (e.g. a small smoothie, piece of toast with cheese or pb, piece of whole fruit) to help boost metabolism.
- Lack of physical activity. One effect of inactivity is that our body becomes less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugars (but also encourages fat storage). This leads the body to produce more insulin, but this, in turn, encourages more fat storage an can make weight management more difficult. [A note: this is in relationship with energy balance.. insulin does encourage the body to store energy, but if you take in less than you burn, your energy reserves will be tapped into and overall should lead to gradual wt loss.] Our obesogenic environment promotes inactivity!
- Chronic stress. Stress and weight gain have been linked due to an increase in the hormone cortisol (a "fight or flight" hormone) and research is ongoing to discover the details. Stress does trigger overeating for some people, but it's not as simple as that due to the hormones involved. The latest reports suggest that stress is more strongly related to weight gain when the stress occurs at night. So try to relax in the evenings - perhaps write down your worries or set aside a time in your day to actually deal with some of them.
- Inadequate sleep. There are multiple reasons why you may gain weight if you're regularly missing out on needed sleep. Hormones involved in hunger regulation are affected and cortisol is increased in some people (lack of sleep can be seen as a kind of stress). Not only that, but you may be too tired for physical activity or preparing healthy meals! Turn off the screens, keep the bedroom for sleeping, and avoid big meals, alcohol, and caffeine in the hours before bedtime.
Next: Our learned eating habits..