If you think eating psychology or nutrition coaching has nothing to do with you, think again. Every person in the world is effected by eating because we all have to eat to live. Unless you're a martian living in outer space reading this, listen up. Eating has everything to do with YOU, whoever you are, wherever you are, and you should be extremely interested in what I'm about to say.

Obesity has been a main topic of discussion for the past decade. It seems like every time you read the paper or turn on the tv, the phrase "obesity pandemic" is being mentioned. While obesity is a major issue in our society today, it's not what we should be most concerned about. Why? As Dr. Lustig states in his book Fat Chance, "No one dies from obesity per se, they die from what happens to their organs".

People are dying from metabolic diseases, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart failure... not from obesity. While we're so busy pointing the finger of blame at obesity, we neglect the very facts that sit right in front of our faces. Obesity isn't our issue, obesity is a symptom of something much more serious. Obesity usually goes hand in hand with other health conditions, but not all the time.

Just because someone is obese doesn't necessarily mean their unhealthy and just because someone is a normal weight doesn't mean their healthy. I'm by no means advocating being obese, or saying that obesity doesn't come with some very serious health complications, but obesity is a marker that comes with disease, not the actual problem. Research states that 20% of morbidly obese individuals are metabolically healthy and will live normal lives with full life spans. [1]

While 55% of adults in the West are overweight, the 45% of adults who are at a normal weight aren't off of the hook just yet. While we sit back and judge someone who's overweight believing that they're unhealthy, it's easy to compare them to someone who's naturally thin and automatically think that whatever their doing is right or even healthy. Being thin doesn't automatically make you a healthy person, nor does it protect you from disease. 

I found this out when I first started personal training. I worked at the YMCA when I got out of university and met a lovely old man who would walk 20 laps around the gym everyday. He was in his mid 80's at the time and thin by any measure of standard, perhaps even too thin. He appeared to be very healthy, active and in good shape for his age. I asked him how long he'd been exercising for and commended his efforts on taking care of himself and the health he appeared to have. He told me that his doctor recommended he get some exercise about 15 years prior because he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and had very high triglyceride levels. His metabolic health and the health of his heart were all suffering because of the food choices he had made for the majority of his life, and even though he had always been very thin, it didn't stop his body from metabolically breaking down. Looking at him you'd never guess that he was giving himself insulin shots or that he would be on heart medication, would you?

This is where the term TOFI comes in. TOFI means "Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside" and describes individuals who are lean but store a disproportionate amount of fat in their abdomen. These people are at a higher risk for developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and display elevated levels of liver fat. [2] Just because you're thin or at a normal weight doesn't mean you won't struggle with the same diseases that someone has who's overweight.

This information isn't meant to scare you but more to help you realize that eating healthy effects you and you should be very interested, especially if you're at a normal weight but eat a less than optimal diet. Up to 40% of normal weight people harbour insulin resistance, which is the first sign of chronic metabolic disease. Metabolic disease is the issue, and whether you're fat or thin, metabolic disease effects everyone who doesn't take a special interest in what they eat. 

The number one killers in society can be prevented by the choices we make on a daily basis. Stress, sleeping patterns, the quality of food we buy, the amount of exercise we get, these are all factors that we have complete control of. The notion that health is out of reach doesn't have to be your reality. You have the power to choose, even when the choices seem limited. 

Lustig makes a comment in the documentary The Skinny on Obesity stating "No one chooses obesity, obesity chooses you". He talks about why personal responsibility isn't a factor in obesity when he mentions a rise of obese 6 month olds. He talks about how people in poor towns or areas who have little to no fresh food choices can't be held responsible, or the person who experiences weight gain because of a hypothalamic brain injury can't be held responsible, and while I respect his knowledge and understand the logic behind what he's saying in these specific circumstances, the majority of people who struggle with weight or health issues don't fall into these categories. I believe that every individual has the ability to become a powerful person over their circumstances. We have the ability to rewire our brain with the thoughts and words we say, we have the ability to change our reality and we have the power to overcome every obstacle we face, even when all odds seem to be against us. 

So what are some practical steps you can take to start changing your health, no matter what your circumstances are? 

1. Get adequate amounts of sleep

Sleep is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of health we need to make sure we get enough of. Our body repairs any tissue damage while we sleep and hormonally, our systems need appropriate rest. We all need sufficient and restful sleep every night. People who don't sleep well are known to struggle with weight or inability to lose weight. Lack of sleep puts stress on the system and creates a stress response where digestion is inhibited and cortisol and insulin levels are elevated which lead to weight gain and health issues. Everything in our body and mind suffer when we don't sleep well. Make it a top priority to sleep at least 6-7 hours every night for optimal health.   

2. Limit the amount of sugar sweetened beverages/products you consume

Sugar is by far one of the biggest culprits leading to the rise in obesity and metabolic disease. Sugar sweetened drinks should be the first thing to go when you decide to start eating healthier. This means that all soft drinks, fruit juice or drinks containing copious amounts of sugar are out. The lack of fibre mixed with the abundance of sugar leads to a rise in blood sugar and is stored as fat immediately. This also means any diet drinks, sugary cereals, yogurt, candy, cookies, basically anything that's processed, must go. If you have metabolic diseases, you need to cut out sugar, especially in liquid form.  

3. Cook at home instead of eating out

We've lost our connection with food over the past 30 years. We live in a fast paced, fast food, fast eating world where we rarely experience the pleasure we get from a home cooked meal. Eating at home isn't just about knowing what's in your food, it's about giving the experience of eating the time it deserves. Not only do you make healthier choices when you cook food yourself, you automatically slow down while you eat. 

4. Drink water

It's been said thousands of times by health professionals everywhere, drink more water. Water is a basic human requirement, without it, you die. In order for your body and all it's systems to function properly, you need to drink water. Depending on your activity level, water requirements will vary, but a good goal to have whether you're active or sedentary is around the 2-3 litre range. 

5. Eat fibre

Fibre is the key to making sure insulin doesn't spike disproportionately to what's healthy. Processed foods rarely contain sufficient fibre and if they say they do, they are usually loaded with sugar or other unhealthy additives. Fibre slows down blood sugar spikes, aids in healthy digestion and helps us to feel satiated. The best way to get more fibre is to eat whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. 

6. Exercise

Not only does exercise help your metabolism and your physical body, but it helps you emotionally and in your mind also. People who exercise often have elevated levels of endorphins which make them feel better mentally. Exercise knowingly helps for people who suffer from depression, fibromyalgia, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and a host of other conditions. Exercise helps you breath deeper and helps to get more oxygen to your brain which helps with rational thinking and clarity. Exercise helps in creating lean muscle tissue which aids in a faster metabolism leading to a leaner, more toned figure. It's not about doing lots of exercise all the time, it's about being consistent and continuous. Make movement a priority.

7. Limit the amount of screen time you engage in

Look around the next time you're out for dinner, sitting on the bus, grabbing a coffee. Everyone is on their phones. We are addicted to screens, no matter what age you are. Technology is a wonderful thing but not when it takes the place of human interaction or physical exercise. The more tv you watch, the less activity you naturally engage in. Instead of defaulting in front of the tv, get out and move, have a conversation with someone, read a book, engage your body and mind in something useful instead of tapping out in front of a screen watching The Bachelorette with a bowl full of popcorn.  

8. Watch what you say and what you think

We have the power to change our reality when we change our mindsets. The hardest obstacle to overcome is not food addiction, it's the mindset you have that says you're a powerless person. When we think life affirming thoughts, we literally change the landscape of our brain and cause new neural pathways to be formed. We create life or death, health or disease, by the thoughts we think and the words we say. Not only does saying positive words help in the success of your emotions, it creates a parasympathetic response inside that body that turns off the stress response. The more positive you are, the more metabolically efficient you'll be. Having faith, walking in love with those around you (including yourself), and encouraging others will all aid in the health of your body, mind and spirit. 

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References:

1. (J.M. Chan et al., "Obesity, Fat Distribution, and Weight Gain as Risk Factors for Clinical Diabetes in Men.)

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOFI

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