part 5: YOU ARE BEING USED
Optimizing the Using Side of Your Metabolism
In the previous session I highlighted the fact that what accelerates our passage through the Metabolic Continuum leading to disease and death is more Using than Building. So, the “long and healthy life” goal is achieved by ensuring that, to the extent possible, and for as long as possible, you Use judiciously to ensure that Building can keep pace with Using.
The clear strategy for achieving this goal is, therefore, two-fold. Maximize Restorative Building through proper nutrition, adequate quality sleep, etc. and avoid Excessive Using.
Avoiding Excessive Using supports the “Building keeping pace with Using objective” in two ways. The obvious way is, the less you Use, the less you have to Build to keep pace. The less obvious way has to do with the fact that Using thwarts Building. Therefore, by minimizing Using and keeping Using Hormone levels lower, not only are you Using less, you are also increasing the opportunities for Restorative Building to occur.
Using is the metabolic equivalent of spending money. In Session we talked about how overspending erodes our financial foundation in the same way that Excessive Using erodes the foundation of our health. In keeping with this analogy regarding Building and Using, what we are striving for is to “balance the budget.” We are looking for opportunities to “save” – to Use less, without making unacceptable trade-offs. In a word, we are trying to “optimize” Using.
Figuring out how to optimize Using requires a basic understanding of how Using occurs – what causes it, increases it, and decreases it.
The Using Side of Metabolism — Much Ado about everything
The Using Side involves, literally, every biochemical, cell, and organ system in your body. It includes the brain, the adrenal glands, and the various nervous systems. Fortunately, for our purposes, it is not necessary to understand the intricacies and complexities of the Using Side. For now, just remember that the Using Side is what keeps you alive and active. It connects your brain with all of the organ systems and glands of your body and enables and coordinates their functioning. The Using Side enables your heart, your lungs, and all of the other organs of your body to perform their respective roles. Without it you could neither think nor move. The Using Side is “on” every second of every minute of every day. It is essential to life; if it fails, you die instantly.
Now, let’s take a moment to consider what causes us to Use. There are four primary causes:
- Maintenance: As alluded to above, the Using Side is involved in every single aspect of our physiology and, therefore, is always “on,” keeping us alive. Keeping us breathing, our heart beating, maintaining appropriate blood pH, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, and maintaining basic immune, clotting, and detoxification functions, etc. All of these maintenance functions require energy, use up functional biochemicals, and cause some degree of wear and tear on our cells.
- Daily Activity: Thinking, talking, walking, literally everything we do each day constitutes Using. Of course, the rate of Using depends on the amount, duration, and strenuousness of our activities. Running causes more Using than walking. Talking loudly causes more Using than speaking normally. But, to some degree, everything we do results in Using above and beyond the baseline Using required for Maintenance.
- Bad Habits: Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, dehydration, inappropriate exercise, and the consumption of or exposure to foreign chemicals trigger the release of greater amounts of the Using Hormones and, therefore, cause Using.
- Mental and Emotional Stresses: Mental and Emotional Stresses include being startled or scared by something. We’re all familiar with the “fight/flight” response. Mental and Emotional Stresses also include worrying, being frustrated or angry, feeling anxious or depressed, being in a hurry, feeling overwhelmed, and being what we generally think of as “stressed.” All Mental and Emotional Stresses cause Excessive Using.
Balancing the Budget
As you are beginning to surmise, some Using is absolutely essential and beneficial for both life and quality of life. But some Using – Excessive Using — is not. In fact, it’s detrimental.
In the quest to optimize Using, Maintenance Using is clearly not a place to cut back as it is a low level of Using that keeps us alive.
What about Daily Activity? To be clear, I do not believe that the way to reduce Using is to sit in a rocking chair on the porch. Unless you have a very damaged metabolism or you are not giving yourself enough time each day to take care of yourself, that is, to eat, sleep, and relax, curtailing your Daily Activity should not be necessary.
For almost everyone, the real gains in optimizing Using are made by focusing on Bad Habits and Mental and Emotional Stresses – the two main sources of Excessive Using. Let’s start with Habits.
Without going too deeply into the physiology, I want to explain why and how it is that certain Habits cause Excessive Using.
Nutrition: Always remember that your body’s number one job is survival and that its top priority is keeping the brain supplied with sugar (glucose). When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates or you eat too much protein, and/or when you delay or skip meals (like not eating breakfast soon enough), your body goes on alert because it senses there’s not enough glucose around from what you previously ate. When this happens, in order to feed your brain the body resorts to, first, breaking down the protein you just ate into glucose, and second, if needed, by breaking down your body’s tissues (think muscle, bone, connective tissue, etc.) to turn those proteins into glucose. All such breaking down is a Using process. And, everything you break down, you have to repair or replace. Poor Nutrition Habits increase Using and the need to Restoratively Build.
Sleep: Insufficient restorative sleep increases Using in two ways. The obvious way is that, while Using occurs to a limited extent when you are asleep, you definitely Use a whole lot more when you are awake and active. The less obvious way is, as you will come to learn, when you have not slept well you start your day and spend your day with significantly higher levels of Using Hormones in play, which causes Excessive Using.
Foreign Chemicals: Nicotine and caffeine increase Using by keeping adrenaline and noradrenaline effects higher for a longer period of time. Alcohol increases cortisol levels. Sugar increases the levels of all three of these hormones. When you have the inevitable immune reactions to foods that contain additives, preservatives, etc., or you are exposed to environmental toxins you also elevate all three of these Using hormones. Simply said, all foreign chemicals cause Excessive Using.
Exercise: Exercise is pure Using. Obviously it depletes your energy stores. It also wears down your muscle and other lean body tissue. And, of course, if you exercise without having slept and eaten well, you really “amp up” Using. Unless the exercise you do stimulates Building beyond whatever Using occurred, it is Excessive Using.
Mental and Emotional Stresses
For the vast majority of people in today’s culture, Mental and Emotional Stresses cause a substantial amount of their total daily Using. To understand why this is so, let’s consider the effects of the body’s stress response, starting with the extreme – the fight/flight response. When we are threatened or even just startled, our body responds with a single-pointed focus on survival. To prepare us to either fight or flee, our heart rate increases, as does the rate at which we breathe. Peripheral arteries constrict to increase blood pressure, and muscles tighten. To fuel the fight/flight response, large amounts of glucose and fats are released into the bloodstream. As well, in anticipation of possible injury, the body prepares to mount an inflammatory response and to increase clotting. In addition to increasing or heightening certain responses, the body also curtails or “down-regulates” some functions that are not essential to immediate survival. Examples are digestion and reproduction.
Of course, this is how the body responds to potentially life-threatening, immediate danger. How is its response to less extreme circumstances – to being frustrated, angry, or anxious, or to being busy and in a hurry – different? It isn’t different. It’s the same response, although to a lesser degree, BUT, typically, for a much longer time.
Keep in mind that the fight/flight response is engineered to occur only briefly, until the immediate threat is killed, thwarted, or eluded. In other words, the fight/flight response — increased heart and respiration rates, higher blood pressure, contracted muscles, higher amounts of sugar and fats in the bloodstream, a greater propensity for inflammation and clotting, and diminished digestion and reproduction capacity — is intended only for immediate survival, not for normal, daily living. In addition to causing Excessive Using and thwarting Building, living constantly in this lower-level fight/flight condition causes numerous health symptoms, damages your cells, accelerates metabolic aging, and invites degenerative disease.
Using Begets Using
Now, let’s consider the combined effect of Bad Habits and Mental and Emotional Stresses. If you are constantly busy, worried, stressed, or angry, if your brain is always “turned on,” AND you are not eating and sleeping well, are exercising inappropriately, and/or are ingesting foreign chemicals, then you are on an accelerated path to Metabolic Imbalance. Under these circumstances, because of Excessive Using, there is no way that Restorative Building could ever keep pace with Using.
In fact, the picture is actually more bleak than I have painted it. Why? Because Using begets Using. Bad Habits and Mental and Emotional Stresses play off of each other. Being busy may well be accompanied by frustration or a sense of being overwhelmed. The combination of these two may well cause you to skip meals, eat on the run, sleep poorly, and consume foreign chemicals in order to “self-medicate.” And, the effects of not eating and sleeping well and self-medicating may hamper your “performance,” resulting in oversights, mistakes, and argumentativeness, all of which may well increase your busyness, frustration, and sense of overwhelm.
At the end of the day (literally), what matters is how much you Use, which is to say, how much you now must Restoratively Build in order to keep pace with all that Using. The key is to avoid Excessive Using.
As with money, Use judiciously. Avoid Excessive Using by improving your Habits and paying serious attention to keeping psychological stresses in check. Doing so is one of the most beneficial things you can do to protect your health, extend your life, enhance the quality of your life, and avoid degenerative disease, essentially, metabolic bankruptcy!
In the ongoing quest to keep your metabolism balanced, the key is to keep Using at or below the level at which your body can Restoratively Build.
In our next session, we are going to focus on the Building Side of your metabolism.