When it comes to the human body, everyone has a storage facility. Nearly seven billion people are walking around with their own personal “man cave” or “she shed” where we store what is left of the food we don’t immediately use for fuel. Scientists believe this storage system began somewhere around the dawn of human history as a means to survive times when food was scarce, perhaps so we weren’t left stalled on the side of the road, out of gas in our Flintstones mobile on the way to the next Bronto-burger cave-thru. Contrary to what my daughter might think, I wasn’t actually there, so I can’t say for sure.
Early humans led a much more active lifestyle, what with running from saber-toothed tigers and wrestling pterodactyls for eggs, and their food contained much less of what we today call fat. But they still had that storage facility ready for the infrequent times when their food supply was plentiful.
Less of a “garage” and more a backpack (sometimes merely a fanny pack), they were quick to fill it until the seams were threatening to burst. It was — and still is today — a survival mechanism. So rather than hate on our “thick thighs” or “spare tires,” we should instead be grateful for this wonderful mechanism.
Still, too much of a good thing is, well, too much.
The problem we have with this amazing process in our modern world is that we are nowhere near as active as our ancestors. I know I personally haven’t run from a saber-toothed tiger in decades, and I have never had to wrestle a pterodactyl at the local fast food breakfast drive-thru. And the food itself is different as well. Rather than picking random berries or digging up tubers, we can simply purchase the entire food pyramid (and who knows what else) in one neatly wrapped sandwich on our way to work at the local rock quarry. So, if we exercise less and eat more food, most of which contains a lot more fat, what is the end result?
Well, we are what we eat.
Your body loves fat because it is high in energy and easy to burn — when you first eat it, that is. And most fat doesn’t give you the full feeling as quickly as, say, lean protein; the result of this is that we eat more in order to achieve that full feeling. But, since our bodies don’t actually need the food, we are essentially eating because we still want to eat.
This creates a surplus (see spare tire above) that we store. All of that wonderful, energy-filled fat gets shoved into our biological garages like so much junk we don’t know what to do with, or boxes of clothes we somehow still own that have been out of fashion for decades. We still own it, but it has ceased to be useful to us.
But wait — just like television salesmen say — there’s more!
The process of getting fat to the storage facility on the backside of our jeans isn’t as streamlined as one might hope. When food is broken down by the digestive system, its essential components enter the bloodstream.
From there, those components are either burned, used to build and repair muscles, skin, etc., or stored in fat cells; but everything travels together on a big biological public transit bus. And even though the ultimate destination for surplus might be in the location of our expanding belts, it doesn’t all make it to the end of the line. Quite a bit of that surplus gets off before its stop, so to speak. And when this happens, we get things like high cholesterol and a form of arteriosclerosis called atherosclerosis where fatty deposits build up on the inner layer of that bus, our arteries. Throw in the susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a host of other fun things excess fat can cause and, well, we have a party!
No, not really. Because any and all of these things slow our metabolism and make us sluggish.
Still, there is always hope. It is our garage, after all, and as inconvenient as it might be, we can still clean it out. Whether a robust man cave or a dainty she shed — even a two-story garage — we can and definitely should clean it out. We just need to remember that it’s less of a “New Year’s Resolution” and more of an “ongoing commitment” kind of thing. We didn’t fill those spaces quickly, and we probably won’t empty them really quickly, either. We just have to start and then keep going. And along the way try not to store too much more.
We might need help cleaning out our storage spaces, and our family doctor or health care provider has experience with this type of cleaning, so that would be a good place to start. We might, and probably will, need that help, especially at the start. But somewhere in the middle of all that surplus we will uncover our metabolism, and when that kicks in, it will help tremendously. Pretty soon we will be running from saber-toothed tigers again ... at least metaphorically. And getting rid of the junk, or surplus, will make us feel better almost immediately. Maybe better than we ever imagined we could feel.
Reach CHARLES ROMANS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2655.