Whilst trawling the web the other day, I came across this gem of a chart. It clearly illustrates the idea of how to pay for our culinary sins, the cost being the time necessary to walk or run away the calories. That old law of Fat Management: energy in and energy out - it all looks so simple!
As you can see, it’s pretty easy to put a figure on the energy we gain from any type of food and it seems easy to see how to burn it off. But what really happens if, after eating that delicious mud cake, you choose that dreaded sedentary option?
It is great that through exercise you can have your cake and eat it too. Exercise turns up your food burning thermostat which is conveniently known as EAT or Exercise Related Activity Thermogenisis. That HIIT session will help you manage any positive energy, or surplus consumption beyond your energy needs that would otherwise turn into fat.
This however is not the only way we burn calories and that second on the lips doesn’t actually become a year on our hips unless we just sit on them. Our clever bodies do keep burning that food in other ways.
Firstly, when we eat, it takes energy to digest, absorb and store this and some foods such as proteins have higher thermic (or burning) requirements.
Secondly, when we rest, our metabolic rate dictates the amount of energy that the body burns at any given time to maintain our bodily functions. This is affected by many factors including age, gender, muscle to fat ratio, and of course physical activity.
Finally and most significantly, there is the energy it takes just to move us around- those spontaneous activities that comprise the major part of our day. These are known as NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenis) and this is huge variations between individuals occur. Kilocalorie consumption can vary by as much as 2000 in individuals of a similar size and gender depending on what they do in your day.
It’s easy to see why our device addicted, processed food eating kids who are no longer climbing trees, walking to their mates houses, surfing, bashing each other or running away from school are fatter than they have ever been.
Similarly, when everyone leaves their houses for work in the big smoke, an army of slim and healthy cleaners, gardeners and pool people appear in the suburbs. For those sitting all day in the office, your ADHD colleagues, annoying as they may be, will have far greater NEAT through their endless fidgeting.
So it seems that this concept of increasing daily NEAT might be the solution to all of our obesity problems! The challenge is how to put it into practice in our time poor, technological lives. As with any lifestyle changes, being realistic is key. A few tips for starters:
Do don’t ask
Walk those stairs
Clean the house
Get off the bus a stop early
Park further away
Cook: Make bread, whip cream by hand, cream the butter with a wooden spoon
Walk at lunchtime
Don’t sit still for more than an hour
Get a pedometer
Do walks instead of coffees
Multitask while watching TV (ironing, folding washing etc)