My Study of Food and Nutrition (Part 1)

How can we think about food in a positive way? How can we think about it in a way that allows us to easily make more healthy and mindful choices?

I’ve been thinking about health and food a lot (I always think about food, though). I believe my relationship with food is positive, but I want to make choosing to eat healthy easier. I don’t want to try to convince myself that eating more vegetables is important and then force myself to do it. I want to just do it because I care about my body and my health. Why is that so hard? Is it because I’m lazy or stubborn? If that’s the case, I don’t want to try to fix that. Fixing that is going to take too long…(Also, I’m impatient.) Instead, I’m just going to try a little experiment on myself to see if I can make myself eat well without forcing it to happen.

I decided, while I was working on writing this, I’m going to sort of scare myself into eating healthy by learning more about the importance of food as an energy source and eating as a life sustaining mechanism for the body, the mind, and yes, the soul. I think those three things are important to focus on together because they seem to be connected.

I bet many other people believe there really is a connection among the mind, body and soul. The best example I have for myself is when my body is hurting, or if I haven’t been taking care of myself, like by eating unhealthy, my mind is not well. I feel tired, worried, sad, or just overall stressed out. Then—what I would like to call my “soul”—my happiness, my energy, my attitude, my whole outlook on life is very low and gloomy. Much like that feeling of melancholy that sometimes manifests when I find myself eating alone. I don’t feel motivated to do the things that make me happy or even feel motivated to want to be happy, which is so weird in hindsight. (It sounds dramatic, I know, but at the time, it is so dramatic!) So, for me, maybe the most important part that needs to function well is my body because then the other aspects of that triad function well, too.

My attempt to visually understand the connection of the Mind, Body, and Soul.

I believe these three things are connected though, but it’s more like they’re stuck in a web together because you must also be in the right state of mind to want to take care of your body. I tried to make some visuals to explain this holy trinity, because I like trying to make odd connections, but none seemed right. It’s fine—that doesn’t really matter. You probably get the point anyway.

The first thing I thought I should scare myself with is the idea of starvation. (The idea, not actually doing it. I thought I’d start with the extreme, but not that extreme.) What would happen if I did not provide my body the nourishment it needed to survive?

I found this video about the phases the body goes through while in starvation. It’s produced by SciShow, which I absolutely adore. It is a great resource that explains complicated things in a fun and understandable way. From the video, I learned:

  • Three very important molecules the body needs are glucose, fatty acids, and protein.
  • Once the body is deprived of food, it begins to burn/use glucose, made from glycogen molecules, as a source of energy.
  • Once most of the glucose is gone, the body begins to burn fat. This phase is called ketosis. In this phase, the liver metabolizes fatty acids into ketone bodies. At this time, ketone bodies take the place of glucose as a source of energy. These ketone bodies move from the liver, to the heart, brain and other tissues to keep the body functioning. (This is the part I’m unsure of. I wonder if the body reserves glucose for the brain and then switches to fatty acids, or does the body and brain use the glucose simultaneously. I did ask the people at SciShow about this, so maybe I’ll be able to share that answer later.)
  • When the amount of glucose in the body is greatly reduced, the brain re-calibrates how much is necessary to function. It goes from needing about 120 grams to 30 grams. Also, the brain now can process the ketone bodies and use them as energy because it “knows” there is less glucose available. (CRAZY!)
  • The last thing that happens (and forevermore) is your body starts breaking down proteins and turning them into amino acids, so the brain can continue to function. This means muscle depletion occurs and other tissues’ functions are reduced rapidly and the body enters catabolysis. (The body is eating itself!) However, the least vital cells are broken down first. This is not good. There is not much time left for the body to survive and almost anything could kill you at this point.

Starvation is so brutal on the body. I imagine if there was a way to listen to what’s going on in the ecosystem of the body, I’m sure it would be total chaos. Alarms blaring, children crying, windows breaking, houses on fire, cars exploding—total chaos!

Learning this did scare me, but it scared me into making sure I eat when I’m hungry and not to purposefully starve myself into oblivion.

With this new knowledge, I now wonder about the act of fasting. This seems to work well for people and it may be because their body is only using all the stored glucose to maintain energy and body function. Then, when all the glucose is close to being completely gone, they eat. However, how would anyone know when that has happened? Maybe there is a time limit to how long one should fast. We are all so different though, so knowing how long to wait before one eats would not be the same for everyone. For me, after three hours I become hungry again. It even happens when I eat a “healthy” helping of a meal, but don’t gorge myself. I’ve always had a fast metabolism and going 12 or more hours of no eating means me, clammy, out of breath, dizzy and starving, longingly wishing someone would stuff a burger in my face. So, fasting for more than a day would not work for me unless I could stay home for the entire fasting period and sit on the couch and watch the food network.

I’ll do some research on fasting verses starving and share my findings. Until then, I will keep posting my study on food and nutrition.

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