Are You Being Chased by a Saber Tooth Tiger?
Your body may think you are! Long ago, our hunter and gatherer ancestors needed an appropriate stress response in order to survive. Typical stressors included lacking food or becoming another animal’s food. When the body was devoid of nutrition for too long, the ability to store any available nutrition as fat increased. When the mind sensed danger from a predator, the body created hormones to allow for a quick getaway or a knock-down, drag-out fight.
While modern civilization has changed, the body’s hard-wired response to stress has not. For you and me, starvation is not a true threat; nutritional deficiency is. When our bodies do not receive adequate nutrition, we store everything as fat. Eating a bag of potato chips for lunch contributes very little to the overall needs of the human body. The mechanoreceptors in your stomach will send signals telling your brain that you’re full. Your brain will soon learn from your cells that they are still missing the building blocks to function. Your brain will then direct most food to fat storage in preparation for future starvation. We are an obese nation not because of overeating. We are obese because of nutrient deficient food and innate intelligence.
For you and me, the saber tooth tiger has taken on new forms. Traffic, deadlines, relationship challenges and financial hardships initiate the same response in our bodies. Adrenaline soars and energy supplies flow to our extremities. We are prepared to fight or flee. In these specific situations, we tend to remain seated. Have you ever wondered why a heated conflict makes you want to punch something?
So how do we adapt to modern day stressors while honoring our instincts? Eat nutrient dense food, for one. And then, run from the tiger. Literally! We are built to expend energy when we are angry or frightened. So do it! A patient who worked as an EMT once told me that their training taught them to do jumping jacks and push-ups following a radio signal to which they were not required to respond. That makes so much sense!
Your body is genius if you provide the fuel and mileage it demands!