If a curious child asked you…
“What is ‘a me-ta-bo-li-sm’?”
How would you answer?
Think about it.
Is it something to do with eating whatever we want and not putting on weight? Or something about only eating lettuce yet not dropping a pound? (some people profess they put on weight just by looking at cake)
I have a sneaky feeling that, in our society, we associate metabolism with weight. (We all want a fast one, nobody wants slow)
Well, it probably does play a part in body weight, but let me show you a bigger picture of metabolism beyond “energy balance”, and how you can shape it in a much more interesting way other than just watching what you eat and seeing how many calories you burn on the rower.
The misunderstood tale of metabolism
Imagine you just met someone – a nice chap who’s funny and charming.
You begin a conversation, but after 2 questions in, this guy reckons he knows everything about you already. All you’ve told him is “I’m fine thank you” and what you do for a living. He then proceeds to sum up your entire life and where you’ll be in 10 years’ time.
If someone reduced your whole life to a 3-second sound bite after only 10 seconds of information gathering, you’d tell them to go live on Planet Naive, because your life is much more rich, multi-dimensional and interesting than that.
Now… Imagine you’re “that guy” who’s just reduced the story of metabolism to a 3-second sound bite. “It’s just about energy balance. Here’s a exercise to speed up your metabolism. Here are the foods to avoid if you want a fast metabolism.”
This is our misunderstanding about metabolism.
We’ve jumped ahead and made conclusions without really grasping what we’re talking about.
Let’s get to know metabolism a bit better.
So… What exactly is metabolism?
While most people think of metabolism in the 3-second sound bite (colloq: “how fast you burn calories”), in biology, most would agree that metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical reactions in your body.
Alllll of it.
It’s about how your body makes food into energy (ATP) so that you can skip, jump and hop; it’s also about blood circulating around the body, the liver producing enzymes, new skin cells replacing old ones, hair and nails growing, endocrine organs producing hormones… You name it! Every chemical reaction in the body is “metabolism”.
Generally, when we say “metabolism” we are only referring to a small aspect of the body’s functioning called thermal efficiency (how well we convert the energy contained in food into useable energy for bodily functions). This is a gross over-simplification. This is like looking at the sky through a hole in the rock. This a very narrow view of metabolism.
When we only have a narrow definition, we only have limited tools to work with.
If you think metabolism is just about what you eat and how much you exercise, then it’s likely you’ve only ever achieved limited results. And those limited results probably didn’t last either right?
If we broaden our view and see metabolism for what it really is – the sum total of everything that is going on for us – then we have a lot more to work with.
I want to show you one dimension that has a profound impact on “metabolism” (thermal efficiency) that gives you the most bang for your buck –
The power of your thoughts.
You are what you think
Every thought you create has a chemical equivalent in the body.*
Happy thoughts trigger a particular set of hormones and body chemistry, depressing thoughts trigger a different set of hormones and body chemistry. There’s everything in between and then everything beyond. As your mood and feelings change throughout the day, your body adjusts itself accordingly in terms of body chemistry. Thoughts literally affect the biological functioning of your body. The “power of the mind” isn’t just a phrase thrown around for effect – its existence is as clear as day.
Thoughts regulate your metabolism.
The range for how many thoughts we have per day is 20,000 – 80,000 (Deepak Chopra reckons around 70,000). But who cares, point is, we have a lot of thoughts per day.
How do you spend your thoughts? What are you always thinking about?
Are you thinking about food, calories, fat/protein/carbs? Worrying about not getting enough things done? Worrying you don’t have enough time? Worrying what other people will think of you?
While these thoughts are common and they seem insignificant, they point to something much deeper and more chronic…
A general sense of feeling “Not Enough”.
Not enough food (or fear of too much food), not enough time, not enough money, not impressive enough as a person, a need to be “skinnier, prettier, wealthier” in order to be “enough” feeling.
When we think we are not good enough or we don’t have enough, our body behaves like there’s not enough – which physiologically translates to the survival response.
When the body goes into survival (stress) response, it tries to protect you from the threat of “running out” by turning down the thermostat, holding onto body fat (because fat means survival at a primal level), decreasing resting metabolic rate, conserving energy, and not building muscle. Even though the sense of “not enough” is purely in your head, the body responds as if there was a real threat of starvation just the same.
The mind and body are on the same continuum no matter how hard you try to separate them. We are just built that way. Accept this and thrive with it, or fight and struggle against a losing battle for the rest of your life.
This is how thoughts literally shape our body’s metabolic expression.
(*Candace Pert Molecules of Emotion: The science behind mind-body medicine Touchstone, 1997.)
What we eat is an expression of what we think.
Relaxed thinking – try this out
The opposite of feeling stressed and “not enough” is feeling relaxed and abundant.
When we feel a deep sense of connection, love, abundance of all that is nourishing in our lives – we are relaxed. When we are relaxed we feel enough.
When we think we are enough and we have enough, our body behaves like there’s abundance in the air – this physiologically translates to the relaxation response.
The relaxation response turns up the heat in your body, making those growth hormones and thyroid hormones to increase your thermal efficiency, building muscles just ‘coz you can, and spending up large on the fat stores because there’s plenty to go around. This is the optimal body chemistry for healthy digestion, absorption and being able to eat whatever you like while staying svelte.
Make sense? Wanna try it out?
Say these words out loud to yourself while taking a long, deep breath:
“I am enough. I have enough. There is enough.”
Repeat as needed.
Do you feel the relaxation response kicking in straight-away?
When practised daily, this practice grows in powerfulness.
It might start insignificantly, but it gets better with time.
The difference between building true inner power and achieving outward appearances is like the difference between a cast iron skillet and a teflon non-stick pan… The cast iron initially takes longer to develop its non-stick quality, but it gets better with age. Lovingly cared-for cast irons can be passed down generations. The teflon hits the ground running – at first not even glue will stick. But with time its qualities fade (while releasing toxic compounds into your food) and becomes completely useless after a few years.
Which one would you rather invest in?