Metabolism (Part I) – Getting healthy, staying lean, knowing your body
Following up on last week’s theme of resolutions, the most common resolution you hear about is people wanting to lose weight. Everybody has a new program, a new diet, a new concoction they’re ingesting to lose a few pounds. One of my friends asked me last week why his program wasn’t working? My first question was, “How long have you been following this program?” The reply – 3 weeks. 3 WEEKS! (That’s my brain talking, not my response to my friend.) You can lose a lot of weight in 3 weeks or even 3 days. Fighters regularly lose 10-20 pounds the week before a fight. What they’re doing to their bodies is not healthy and can lead to long-term complications with their organs. Losing weight is not always healthy. Shouldn’t that be everyone’s resolution anyway – get and stay healthy?
That’s what I told my friend. I can coach you to lose weight easily, but you won’t be healthy and that’s what he really wanted. To become healthier and eventually lose weight, you need to focus on the big picture of your health including increasing your metabolism. Food could be several chapters, so let’s focus on metabolism.
As a diabetic I have a unique perspective on metabolism. I do not make any insulin. My life-saving drug of choice sits on my hip in an insulin pump, which also displays a graph of my blood glucose values from the past 24 hours. I see the effects of my lifestyle on my metabolism on a daily basis with realtime feedback. What follows are some tips that I’ve learned, which I’d rather you read than have to try out diabetes for awhile.
First,keep your body consistently lean. Losing weight is hard. This New York Times article explains why. The short explanation is that your body always tries to return to its natural state (i.e. homeostasis). If you were recently overweight, your body will do everything in its power to keep you overweight. Your have to develop strong, healthy habits to overcome this, but it’s really hard and requires a lot of willpower. I know this from being a skinny twig trying to put on muscle. It took years of lifting weights and changing what I ingest to put on any muscle. Maintenance mode is much easier and requires a lot less energy. This is usually the last thing people worry about when they want to get healthy. I’m listing it here first, since I think it’s that important. You need to design a long-term lifestyle that allows you to stay healthy, not a short-term diet and exercise program that sheds a few pounds temporarily. Once you get healthy, be consistently consistent with your consistency.
Second, know your body and how it works. Insulin promotes fat storage in your body. Insulin is needed to let the blood glucose into your cells for storage when that glucose isn’t immediately used by your body. Your activity level and food intake directly effects the effectiveness or sensitivity of your body to insulin. For example, when I was at my heaviest weight of around 210 pounds in my junior year at Villanova, I was lean, mean, and strong as an ox. I was not healthy. I had to eat so much food to maintain that weight that I felt like I was going to explode. It was a very unnatural state for my body. Eating all that extra food led me to be a borderline double diabetic (i.e. not producing any insulin and not being sensitive to the insulin I was injecting).
That’s the background information. To decrease the amount of insulin you release into your system and understand how you can practically increase your metabolism, you’ll have to tune in next week to Part II.