We need to start this section with a very quick biology lesson.
Every time you eat something, your digestive system goes to work to break down the food and start extracting the energy and nutrients contained within it.
One of the quickest ways your body can get energy is to break down sugars. But the level of sugar in our blood needs to be controlled very carefully so that it stays within safe limits – not too low, not too high.
When you eat something high in sugar, your blood sugar levels can increase rapidly. This causes your pancreas to produce the hormone insulin.
Insulin helps to turn the sugar into energy, and helps your body to store it in your muscles, fat cells and in the liver, as glycogen, to use later.
After insulin has done it’s job, your blood sugar levels can drop to a level lower than they were before you ate. So instead of maintaining a straight line, you can imagine a blood sugar chart that looks like a roller coaster, shooting upwards after eating something sugary or starchy, and plummeting back down after the insulin has taken effect. When you reach the low point of the dip, you will experience strong cravings for more sugar, because the body feels a natural need to maintain levels. By yo-yoing your blood sugar levels up and down so much, you place unnecessary demand on your pancreas and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and you’ll gain weight because of all the extra sugar you’ll be eating.
A quick evolutionary lesson
As humans, we have a complex digestive system which evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Modern humans live in a bit of a bubble, but it’s important to remember that in a normal wild environment, food is scarce. Animals that have mechanisms to store energy up (as fat) to use later, have an advantage…
They are more likely to survive until the next meal, or over the winter, and so on.
Our biology evolved to favour these mechanisms, simply because those that could survive between winters were more likely to breed and produce the next generation, which would inherit similar characteristics. Over thousands of generations and long, long timescales, subtle changes lead up to very complex systems for optimising the energy requirements, balanced between the ability to extract energy quickly, and the ability to store energy for later.
The problem with evolution.
Evolution happens slowly but our social and commercial environment has transformed massively in a relatively very short time.
We now live in a time of plenty, but we are stuck with old biology. We are hardwired to store everything because we don’t know where the next meal is coming from, or when.
The result? We’re too efficient at storing the vast amounts of energy we now consume, and that’s one reason why obesity levels are rising so quickly.
So we need some hacks to deal with our ancient biology!
These hacks can be a combination of psychological mind hacks that help us retrain ourselves in terms of how we think about food, and physiology hacks, where we experience different outcomes by being more deliberate about the types of food we choose to eat more or less of, and things of that nature.
We’ll cover more on those ideas in the coming sections!