Nutrition Part One: Energy Balance
You are what you eat
Welcome to the new series on nutrition which will be coming to you over the next few months. This series will be a collaboration with Strong Friend Gus Martin who is our resident expert and Gut Health Guru.
There's a lot to unpack on this topic, and we would love to talk about the subjects that interest you most. As usual, pop your suggestions in the comments below or head over here to drop in the details more privately.
Today is the first in the series, and it's all about energy balance.
Energy goes in, energy goes out. Simple, right? Perhaps not...
Please enjoy part one!
What is Energy Balance?
Gus Martin & Grace Brown
Energy balance is the relationship between energy entering the body in the form of food versus the energy used by the body through functions such as our organs at work, digestion, temperature regulation and movement.
In a healthy individual, this is regulated by the hunger and satiety mechanisms which mean that you get hungry because your body needs energy and you feel full when you have enough.
In a perfect world, the balance between energy coming into the body in the form of food (managed by feelings of hunger and fullness) and the energy exerted in daily life should lead to a healthy weight maintained without too much effort.
Sounds pretty logical. But, as usual, the real world and the realities of our modern way of life get in the way, and this simple and intuitive system no longer works as designed.
As humans, we are hard-wired to seek out and eat high-calorie foods. In times when food is more scarce or there is famine, this built-in defence mechanism protects us.
While famine is a reality in parts of the world, most of us do not face this risk, but unfortunately, there is a trade-off.
We have an overwhelming availability of food. Especially high calorie, low nutrient density food.
The body still wants to store energy for times of hardship... only that hardship doesn't happen.
Processed foods, in particular, are often designed specifically to trick our hunger/satiety mechanisms with chemicals, preservatives and sugars, teaching the body to crave these items more and more although the energy isn't required and very little actual nutritional value is derived from them.
The consumption of excess calories is responsible (there are other factors of course) for many problems that we, as humans, face.
This "new" struggle of abundance makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy weight and brings with it a multitude of serious health issues (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia) that plague our society.
What can we do about it?
Start by aligning your goals with your values and set up your life in such a way that you create energy balance.
This will look different for everybody, but if you are prepared to look deep enough, you will likely know the answer.
Check out various articles on setting goals here.
The best starting point for most in the quest to reduce over-consumption of calories is the removal of processed food and the introduction of a Mediterranean style diet.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
This way of eating gets a lot of press, and for good reason. There are many studies on communities where people live long, vital lives and most often this type of "diet" is the common factor.
It's not really a diet; it's more of a way of life.
Here are the main points to think about:
Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour foods
Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
Enjoying meals with family and friends
Drinking red wine in moderation (optional but fun!)
Getting plenty of exercise and sunlight in your day to day
If you adopt these two principles, 90% of the time you'll find it easier to create balance and start moving towards your goals.
Stay tuned for more!