Nic Naish's Weekly Exercise and Nutrition Tips - August 10th

Breaking Bad Habits #4 Crash diets

I"l be 47 in a couple of weeks' time and have never felt more eager to learn and understand. I took Biology O' level and A' levels when at school and thoroughly enjoyed them, but with age comes experience...and boy! What an experience cancer is! I learned a lot about myself and my coping strategies but I wanted to learn more about the science, the myths and the truth about cancer and our ability to give ourselves better odds in fighting or avoiding it!

I knew intuitively that exercise and nutrition HAD to play a huge part, and believed that mental health too could tip the balance, but I went back to "school" to make sure that what I was learning was based on science and not some large company's publicity or marketing campaign.

I marvel daily at the complexity of the human body. The more I learn, the more it amazes me.

And yet for all it's mind-blowing complexities, for all it's remarkable feats of engineering, it has a very simple goal. The goal is HOMEOSTASIS.

Basically this means balance or equilibrium. The body runs like clockwork when all its functions are working at the correct speed and temperature. When all the levels are correct, all the bodily functions are harmonious. Just like any other machine, imagine if the fuel line is won't be long until the machine breaks down. This is the same with the digestive system. Equally a car mechanic will look at oil filters when the engine isn't performing correctly. In the body our blood needs to be filtered by well functioning kidneys.

Think of homeostasis this way.

  • Every process in the body requires a very particular environmental condition and must therefore be regulated

  • Every environmental condition is monitored by the body ( eg. blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, temperature etc.)

  • Every environmental level has a corresponding detector within the body.

  • The detectors are part of feedback loops (regulating systems).

  • Feedback loops work when detectors spotting that a level is slightly wrong send a message to say so (usually to the brain)

  • The brain responds by sending a message to the appropriate organ or gland to release the correct hormone to address the situation, resulting in the correct level being achieved.

  • The detector spots the level is correct, sends the new message to the brain, the brain tells the body part to stop sending the hormone

This is obviously very simplified, but you get the idea.  When you take into consideration that all these feedback loops are trying to keep all our levels balanced, constantly and simultaneously, you begin to understand the complexity of the human body.

So, so complex but with one simple goal..balance! Or to give it it's proper term ..homeostasis.

There is a reason I wanted to talk about homeostasis when we are meant to be looking at changing habits. The human body is so finely tuned with the aid of these feedback loops that drastic body changes, like weight loss, sudden exertion and very definitely chemotherapy, unsurprisingly send levels reeling. This isn't always dangerous, but it can be.

Over the next few weeks I will give you ideas to restore balance. We will look at changing habits with the main aim of achieving homeostasis.

Today I want to explain why I hate crash diets and faddy diets, and why I encourage my members to make steady changes that become healthy habits and can be sustained.

As with every process in the body, eating and digestion are involved in many feedback loops. Most of us understand to a certain extent that insulin and insulin resistance are connected with diabetes and blood sugar levels. There is another hormone linked with eating, leptin. You may have heard of it as the 'satiety hormone'. This hormone made by adipose cells helps to regulate energy balance by exhibiting hunger. It's opposing hormone is ghrelin, the 'hunger hormone' and together they work to achieve energy homeostasis.

So a hormone is quite simply a chemical messenger. Leptin's job within its feedback loop is to inform the body that the fat stores are sufficiently full enough to provide the energy we need...therefore - stop eating! When we fill satiated it is this hormone that is responsible for providing the information.

Remember the 'Little Boy that Cried Wolf'? He kept shouting but there was no wolf when the villagers came to his aid. In the end the villagers didn't bother responding to his yells. If your body keeps sending the message that you are full, but you keep eating, it eventually gives up responding to this chemical message. You lose leptin sensitivity. Interestingly the other extreme, depriving yourself of calories on a crash diet has the same resulting loss of leptin sensitivity. Unfortunately, when a crash diet is finished if you have interfered with your leptin and grehlin sensitivity, the return to a normal diet may result in dramatic weight gain! Very depressing!

No hormone or body system works in isolation either, so the thyroid is likely to be affected too among other things. Actually, although I wouldn't ordinarily recommend Wikipedia for anything medical, just type in Leptin and see the Wikipedia definition. Don't worry about taking it all on board. I just want you to get an idea of how something as 'innocent' as a crash diet might have further implications.

Again, a lot of science to take in this week. I hope I've made it understandable.

The message is simple:

  • Make changes to overeating by reducing the size of your meals.
  • Make changes to the quality of your nutrition by eating 'clean' food. Avoid processed food and sugary items. Eat more vegetables and drink plenty of water.
  • If you want to lose it slowly and with a balanced diet.

Any questions...just shout.

Thanks for reading,

Nic x


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