Healthy Living

The simple math behind a “healthy” body


Energy balance equation

Energy in = Energy out (or atleast it should be)

“Energy in” being what you eat during a day, and “Energy out” constitutes of the calories you burn in all sorts of creative ways. Walking to your car might be the most strenuous physical activity for most of us, or you might be gloating if you are aware of the fact that digesting the food actually consumes a few calories as well. Regardless, it is not that hard to comprehend that unless we burn out the fuel/food we eat every single day, it is getting accumulated in dangerous proportions.

Thermodynamically speaking, since energy can’t be created nor destroyed, the next time you feast on your favorite buffalo wings, remember it is all getting stored in the body in some form or the other. (Unless of course you are one of those, where your day is incomplete without a perfect workout). It all has to be accounted for in some, weather it is running on a treadmill or running after your 2 year old. We are all not the same; we eat differently, and lead different lifestyles, but the simplest way to respect our bodies is to look after it and use it the way it is designed to function.

That brings us to the next point of evolution.

Humans were born smart enough to survive in the wild, live a life without all the cool gadgets and fetch their own food. Over a period of centuries, that has changed quite a bit, but has our bodies evolved at the same pace? Ideally, the brain tells you when you are hungry, and that motivates you to fetch your food. Once you start eating, the mighty brain is also smart enough to tell you when to stop eating. Our body is designed to deal with feast/famine cycles and lack or abundance of food as and when it is available. In periods of food shortage, you won’t die, but your metabolism slows down and you can survive on little food as well. But that is because of a very important facet of the human body that enables it to store its reserves. In a perfect present day scenario, this super-cool mechanism is turning out to be our worst enemy. When we go out to celebrate and feast on those gigantic meal proportions served in fancy restaurants, the body actually takes it as a cue that a famine is to follow and is very quick to turn to “energy saving mode”. And of course, most of what you ate gets stored as fat (and not as instant carbohydrate/glucose or energy). Wonder why you feel drowsy? If it was as simple as you taking in more energy in the form of over-eating, you should ideally feel like you do after gulping down glucose (energy drink). The famine that you prepared your body for, of course never comes (in the mighty Western world) and in only a few hours, you are ready to eat again. That is also the reason why going on a diet doesn’t work for most people. Your body always compensates for what you throw at it.  Even if you starve and lose weight, your BMR shoots down. Some of this is simply because a smaller body burns less calories, but more importantly, you mess up with your physiology. There are tons of adaptive changes in hormones like leptin, insulin, nervous system output and thyroid hormones.

Excess energy is converted into body tissue, mostly fat, and some muscle tissue, etc. By the same logic, if energy intake is less than expenditure, the body will pull on stored energy within the body and there will loss of tissue.

Bringing us back to the same old point of keeping a right balance. Know your body and what works for you. Know your appetite and your working out limitations. If you aren’t heading to the gym anytime soon, at least make it a point to not be a couch potato. Have walking meetings instead of staying at your office desk from 9 AM to 5 PM. Be creative… there are more fun ways to be physically active than you can imagine. In other words, keep it simple…

Eat right, move a little, and work a little….


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