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Metabolism…maybe we don’t know it well enough

We often hear the expression “I’m desperate, I’m not losing anything, my metabolism sucks”. But what is metabolism?
With the term “metabolism” we describe the chemical changes that take place in the human body so that the chemical energy it receives through food can be converted into various other forms of energy, mainly kinetic. The German Physiologist Schwann, at the beginning of the 19th century, was the first to use this term.
What do our body’s energy requirements mainly depend on?

There are three main factors:

  1. Basic metabolism
  2. The heat that our body emits and
  3. daily activities

The most important of them is the basic metabolism, B.M.R (Basal Metabolic Rate), the measurement of which shows us the minimum amount of energy our body needs to do its basic functions (breathing, cell metabolism, heart function). Basal metabolism depends on: age, gender and muscle mass.
As for heat, it is calculated at 10% of the basic metabolism, being the person in a state of rest, lying down, wearing light clothes and at a temperature of 25 C.
Now with regard to activities, it is obvious that people who are more mobile or exercise need greater amounts of energy than others whose work or life is more sedentary.
Other factors that affect our metabolism are body surface area (after a weight loss program our metabolism decreases), thyroid function, smoking, fever, pregnancy, etc.
Therefore, diet does not “make” or “regulate” our basal metabolism.
Basal metabolism can decrease after a strict diet mainly because muscle tissue, the metabolically active tissue of our body, has decreased. This is due to the re-absorption of more kilos than those lost.
How is this situation reversed? Doing weight training.
Another way to increase the energy we consume daily is to increase our activities.
The simplest way is walking, using the stairs where possible instead of the elevator, washing the car, for the more advanced cycling, running or aerobics.

Real hunger or emotional eating?

By the term real hunger we refer to the organism’s physiological need and feeling to eat in order to obtain energy to be able to perform its basic functions and at the same time cover any nutrient needs. The characteristics of real hunger are its gradual appearance, which does not create an imperative need for feeding and can be postponed, unless too many hours of fasting have passed. Also, eating food does not create regrets, but only a feeling of euphoria and satisfaction, since the person possesses self-control and a feeling of satiety. Finally, there is no desire or need for any particular food.

In contrast, emotional hunger comes on suddenly and is very intense. Usually when it comes to emotional hunger, there is a need to eat a certain food eg chocolate, ice cream, pizza, french fries or any other unhealthy food that the person considers a “guilty” pleasure. Furthermore, it has been observed that the person in such a state eats until he is satisfied, but without feeling real hunger, which often results in binge eating episodes. So, during emotional eating, there is instant gratification and enjoyment, which most often results in regrets and guilt, either due to overeating or unhealthy food, or many times both.

Pasta and potatoes are very fattening

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood foods that we often reject from our diet. And yet these foods are quite beneficial as they contain carbohydrates which are the main source of energy and do not have fat when consumed in boiled or baked form, and therefore are not fattening. But they become fattening when we add fatty substances, such as sauces, butter, cream or cheeses. In addition, they are easy to consume in large quantities, which certainly does not contribute to weight loss.

I can lose a lot of weight in a few days just by dieting

The recommended weekly weight loss is ½ to 1 kg, which corresponds to 500 fewer calories per day, which come from reduced food intake and physical exercise. A weight loss program that promises spectacular results in a very short period of time is definitely depriving and can cause disturbances in the metabolism. In these cases what is lost is not fat but mainly fluids and muscle mass. In addition, crash diets usually do not have stable results, as the weight loss can be quickly reversed and the person may even gain additional weight from the initial one. Such “yo-yo” diets disrupt the metabolism, are dangerous for the heart, and their repetition makes it increasingly difficult to lose weight.

The plate of healthy food

The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutritionists at Harvard University’s School of Public Health as well as editors at Harvard Health Publications, is a guide to creating healthy and balanced meals.

Most of your meal should consist of vegetables and fruits – ½ of the plate:
Aim for color and variety, and remember that potatoes don’t count as a vegetable on the Healthy Eating Plate because of their effects on blood sugar.

Aim for whole grains – ¼ of the plate:
Whole grains or whole grains — whole barley, wheat, whole wheat, quinoa, oats, brown rice, as well as foods made from them, such as whole-wheat pasta — have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin compared to white bread, white rice and other processed grains.

The Power of Protein – ¼ of the plate:
Fish, poultry, legumes and nuts are all healthy and versatile sources of protein. They can be mixed into salads but also go well with vegetables on the plate. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats such as bacon and sausages.

Healthy Vegetable Oils – in moderation:
Choose healthy vegetable oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, as well as soybean, peanut, and others. Also avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain unhealthy trans fats. Remember that the description “low fat” is not consistent with the description “healthy”.

Drink water, coffee or tea:
Skip sugary drinks, limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day, also limit juices to one small glass per day.

Exercise (Stay active):
The red figure running across the Healthy Eating Plate card is a reminder that exercise is just as important in weight control.