The human body is hardwired for survival
Humans are wired to prefer fatty and sweet tastes because they are efficient sources of energy, and our bodies are wired for survival. The body will fiercely protect against starvation.
For you to be able to maintain good health, you need to come to the understanding that “you” are made up of two separate parts – a human body and a human mind. The body is physical, but the mind is something different. You cannot “show” me your mind. I will discuss the relationship of the body and mind/spirit at another time, but the starting point of good health is to have an understanding of the separation, or split, between the body and the mind. The mind is far more than the body in which it is housed.
The mind is the thinking, decision-making, emotional part of “you.” Think of it this way, the body is a material entity which exists and has physical form – your body has arms, legs, organs, a brain, etc. But the mind is NOT the brain, which is part of the body.
The brain is merely one part of the physical material that constitutes the body. We can take the brain from the body and display it. We can map the electrical currents in the brain. The mind, however, is something that cannot be displayed because there is no physical thing that is the mind.
For the sake of clarity, it is important to eliminate the concept of having subconscious thoughts. This is an unclear concept. For example, what does it mean if I tell you that a boxer was knocked subconscious? You know what I mean when I say: “The boxer was knocked unconscious.” This means the boxer no longer has a conscious awareness, but the brain is still automatically carrying on bodily functions.
The brain is the central control for all body functions. It is the brain’s job to regulate the body’s internal environment and keep it stable. This is called homeostasis.
The brain manages a multitude of complex interactions to maintain a balance of body functions within a normal predetermined range. The brain does this by nerve cell responses and the release of chemical messengers (hormones) into the bloodstream.
As long as the body is maintaining equilibrium (homeostasis), the body will stay in good health.
Your body has specific “set points” that the brain is preprogrammed to maintain. The brain automatically adjusts body activities around set points just as an automobile cruise control adjusts the speed of an automobile. If you set the cruise control at 55 mph, as the car begins to decelerate the cruise control will automatically increase fuel flow. If the car begins to exceed 55 mph the cruise control will reduce fuel flow.
The maintenance of a steady body temperature is an excellent example of homeostasis. The human body’s temperature must be maintained within a very tight rein of 98.6°F. The brain receives constant input from temperature receptors located throughout the skin. If the brain is signaled that the temperature of the body is increasing, it will cause hormones to be released into the bloodstream to take action to lower the body temperature. Sweat glands are stimulated and the evaporation of the sweat creates a cooling effect.
When the body temperature begins to drop relative to the set point of 98.6°F, heat production and heat conservation mechanisms are activated. Hormones cause veins to constrict to decrease radiation of heat from the skin; metabolic rate increases in order to create more body heat; muscle activity (which produces heat) is increased by shivering. All this happens without a conscious effort on your part. Your body is preprogrammed for its survival – it’s in your DNA.
The inability to maintain homeostasis can have extraordinarily drastic results such as chronic disease, or even death.
Often times the choices we make throws homeostasis out of balance.
The brain is programmed to keep a slow, steady supply of glucose (blood sugar) in the bloodstream. All of the cells of your body must have a steady supply of glucose to survive. The hormone insulin is required to usher glucose into your cells.
Instead of eating foods that produce a slow, steady supply of glucose (natural plant foods – including grains, fruits, vegetables; and healthy fats), we eat ”foods” that are not designed to operate our bodies (white processed table sugar and other highly processed foods). These processed and refined foods cause spikes in blood sugar (glucose) levels, which in turn cause spikes in insulin levels. Over time, these spikes in insulin cause the cells to become resistant to insulin. This insulin resistance is directly linked to the major illnesses of our day – heart disease, stroke, heat attack, type 2 diabetes, immune suppression, dementia, fertility problems, cancer, obesity, and depression.
Glucose has a very narrow set point. Glucose levels have to be maintained in the blood at a rate of 9 mg of glucose in every 100 mL of blood. If glucose levels shoot up or down from this set point it can have disastrous effects.
When the brain gets a signal that the blood sugar level has dropped below the set point (a “sugar low”), it will take aggressive action to prevent you from starving – it will stimulate you to eat and store fat. The brain is exceptionally resourceful in getting you to eat, it will keep increasing cravings for junk foods that supply glucose quickly.
Part of the hormone cascade triggered by the brain to cause you to eat is the release of neuropeptide Y. Neuropeptide Y increases your appetite and decreases metabolic burn – in other words, it makes it harder for you to get rid of calories.
After you eat, your body then releases a cascade of rewarding brain chemicals. It releases natural opioids – how about a little feel-good hit of opium after a meal of junk food. The body is preprogrammed to cause you to form a habit. In this case a bad habit. First is the cue; a hunger craving. Next is the routine; eating junk food. Then you receive the reward; a feel-good hit of natural opiods.
This is why crash diets are destined for failure. Not only does neuropeptide Y increase your cravings for high carbohydrate calories to an irresistible level, but it also rewards you for eating them.
This explains why we eat junk food when we are depressed. We get a feel-good hit.