Do you find yourself counting down the minutes until your next meal? Are you “tethered” to your appetite?
As a society, we have become programmed to eat on a specific schedule. Our bodies have become so accustomed to our daily eating routines that when we veer off our “schedule,” we often feel irritable, tired, and sometimes just downright “hangry.”
Think back to our ancestors – those who hunted and gathered. They were far more equipped to adapt to an irregular eating schedule because, quite frankly, they didn’t have a choice. We were created to survive for days without food – to eat and store in case food wasn’t available. This was possible in part due to their metabolic flexibility.
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What is metabolic flexibility?
Metabolic flexibility is the “holy grail” of wellness along with stress, sleep, and contentedness. It is your body’s way of burning energy – and the way it chooses to burn energy from a variety of sources: your belly, your hips, your food. It’s your body’s way of using what it needs (and has available) to live.
Those who are metabolically flexible have the ability to eat a varied amount and types of food and feel no different. In other words, some days they may be satisfied with small amounts of different foods, and other days larger.
Let’s transition to our modern society where access to food 24/7 has brought us to one in every three Americans is obese, heart disease is at an all-time high, and food has become way more than a source of fuel. We have become metabolically INflexible, and metabolic syndrome is becoming more prevalent.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as a combination of symptoms that together increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Between 30-40 percent of Americans suffer from it today.
The symptoms of metabolic syndrome can be unrecognized. However, even though many don’t experience the symptoms, one most notable sign is weight gain, a waist circumference over twice your height in centimeters, or both.
So besides avoiding that “hangry” feeling when dinner isn’t ready on time or your snack is further than a walk down the hall, becoming metabolically flexible can help with weight management, increased energy, improved mood, and sleep, and serve as one way to avoid metabolic syndrome. Being metabolically flexible means your body is operating the way it was designed. Being metabolically flexible means, for some (who truly take care for their sleep and stress, too!), that they are truly never hungry. I know it sounds impossible. Yet, with work, it is achievable. Ultimately freeing ourselves from the “live to eat” mindset and shifting toward the “eat to live” mindset is the goal.
So now you may be thinking, “that all sounds great, yet how can I achieve metabolic flexibility?” As always, I recommend starting with small, simple habit changes. Here are my top four tips:
- Approach your food differently. In so many ways, we are wired to overeat. Just to name three of dozens: a) Evolutionarily, we needed to store fat to survive days without sustenance. b) Our brains are inclined to continue to seek the pleasure of more sugary and fatty tasting foods. c) There is a whole science behind making food taste good. After the first tasty bite, we “chase” for that level of satisfaction until we “catch” it – yet we never do catch it since the first bite is the most pleasurable to the brain.
- Approach your body from a fresh perspective. Click here to read our love the body piece where we view food as a source of fuel for our beautiful bodies we are so Blessed to have. Being simply grateful for the life we have, how Blessed we are to be alive and thriving (consider the alternative!) in a small way can shift how we treat our bodies with foods that will fuel it for the life we have been given. Instead, consider what you really need to give your body as fuel.
- Don’t be afraid of hunger. Hunger can be a sign you are digesting food and can be a signal carbohydrates and fat are being utilized properly. Yet, warning: if you do not have a list of stress resilience tools that are working, fasting is not for you. Fasting is stress on the system. As one of my favorite nutrition experts, Robb Wolfe says, stress creates a physiological tornado in our bodies. It leads to a “tornado” of behaviors like stress eating, cortisol spikes, and lost sleep. The same rule goes for lost sleep. Just one night with less than seven hours of sleep can result in an increase in our hunger hormones, causing us to crave carbs and sugar.
- Make every bite delicious. Chewing food until it’s liquid is an AW Food 101 approach. First, it helps with digestion and can avoid a gassy feeling, yet it also gives our brain time to enjoy the bite!
Stay tuned for Part 3, where we will discuss how alcohol effects our metabolism. If you are interested in our newest programs like our small group fitness (above) or our concierge small group program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also subscribe to our newsletter below to get monthly tips about how you can reach the optimal in wellness.