Prelude…

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living”
– Socrates
My o’mate Socrates is often referred to as one of the founders of modern philosophy – quite a feat given that he wrote nothing, established no school, and held no particular theories of his own.
What he did do, which happened to annoy so many of the ‘wrong’ people, was persistently ask questions (that interested him). In doing so, evolved a new way of thinking, or more precisely, a new way of examining what we think. This has been called the Socratic, or dialectical, method (“dialectical” because it proceeds as a dialogue between two apposing views). This approach, in ancient Athens earned him many enemies and he was vilified as a Sophist (someone who argues for sake of deception). He was charged with corrupting the young with ideas that undermined tradition. And although he was offered exile, he accepted the guilty verdict and was given, and subsequently took, a fatal dose of hemlock in 399BC.
One of the many reasons I like Socrates is he was concerned with down-to-earth ethical issues. He wasn’t interested per say in winning arguments, or arguing for the sake of it. Nor was he seeking answers or explanations – he was simply examining the basis of the concepts we apply to ourselves, for he believed that understanding what we are is the first task of self-awareness/philosophy.
Socrates was one of the first philosophers to consider what it was that constituted a “good life”; for him it meant achieving peace of mind, as a result in doing the right thing. And the “right thing” can only be determined through rigorous (self) examination. He was considered to be the wisest man in Athens at this time, something that Socrates  himself agreed with, not because of his knowledge but because he continually professed to know nothing…hence, I guess, all the questions and the hemlock night-cap that followed.

The inscription above the Temple of Delphi, (where all the Oracles laid about) read Gnothi Seauton or “Know Thyself”. To gain knowledge of the world and oneself it was necessary to realise the limits of one’s own ignorance and remove all preconceptions. Only then could one hope to determine the truth.

So why am I bleating on about Socrates?
Well, like Socrates, and Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Tom Hodge (G’day Tom), My Dad, your Mum and everyone else in between…we all know nothing. 
What we can do?
We keep asking questions, questions especially about ourselves. 
 

“Smart people learn from everything and everyone,
average people from the experience,
stupid people already have all the answers.”

Socrates
__________________________________________________________________________________
 
So, how we all doing out there?
I don’t know about you, but as I’ve alluded to in past posts, this ‘global situation’ we’re all experiencing has, and will continue to ‘shift’ not only the health of billions, but also the political, social, civil liberty, international trade, surveillance, travel, economy etc will fundamentally reorientate for years to come…the Twilight Zone’s got nothing on the bat-shit craziness that is going on now, and who knows what will, unknowingly eventuate, as time rolls-by.

Now all this makes my small brain hurt, so I made the decision some weeks back to really bunker down and refocus and readdress, and question everything that is not only important, but concentrate only on the things I have control over…my actions and habits that are in my sphere of choice.
All the while taking extra care, being extra vigilant and disciplined to not allow, nor tolerate, the external ‘stuff’ that distracts my attention away from what I do have control over…This alone is a masterclass in practicing “mindfulness”.
This preamble is my clumsy attempt to begin delving a little deeper, or a lot deeper in this case, into some of health-wealth essentials that I glazed over in last weeks post.  

Because I believe, as I’ve said before, now is the time to recalibrate our priorities…and health-wealth is numero uno.

A lot…OK… too many of my previous posts, have been attempting, in general term, to both identify and advocate seeking mindset disciplines and habits that propagate acts of self-care & self-kindness. I’ll admit I’ve been (very) guilty of being self-indulgent, but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.
However moving forward I’ll be taking the proverbial bull by the horns and start isolating (word du jour) some of the key points highlighted in last weeks post, and adding some flesh n bones to the topic which will hopefully provide not only some helpful information to yous-all, but information that will trigger a desire and curiosity in you to ask yourself some questions relating to your own health-wealth.
What can I do better?
What can I do without?

As outlined in last weeks post, I identified 3 essential areas, them being ‘your thinking’,your body’ and ‘your self-awareness’. Each week, this one included, I will not only cherry pick a topic, but I’ll identify one that has a huge and widespread, enormous in fact, probably the greatest of them all, it’s so huge, its the best…probably the best ever…in fact no one has ever discussed this topic more than I will, or explain it better…see I’m a natural, even doctors are surprised at how intelligent and smarts I am. No previous blog administrator has ever done this as well as me, covfete. I have not colluded with anyone on this subject matter…there was no collusion. This is the best information you’ll read, unlike all the rest, which is all fake… those crooked bloggers and health ‘experts’…they should lock em up.
What I’m about to share here will provide more help, and save more people, than perhaps than anyone else everrrrrrr…that’s why I acted so early…I always knew this was a pandemic.

(Just blowing my own TRUMPet)

Moving along…This weeks topic is Metabolic Health, or more precisely Insulin Resistance

Why have I chosen this topic?

Given that many of us are now spending more time at home, we’re now afforded an opportunity to either hone our disciplines, or maybe allow our cheeky, naughty, reckless self-rewarding and possibly unhealthy habits get the better of us.
Current research and polling indicates that alcohol consumption has gone through the roof (here in Oz) since the ‘shut-down’ was enacted. Interestingly also there’s been a surge in baking, especially bread…sourdough to be precise. Now, our dependance, want, desire and inability to shave our food-cravings, particularly for refined carbohydrates  – foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, rice, fast foods, takeaway foods, ice cream, chocolate & confectionary, alcohol (yes alcohol) etc can become especially difficult when we’re stressed, anxious, bored, maybe inebriated or recovering from inebriation, or find ourselves watching the entire season 3 of “Ozark” in one sitting and ‘needing something‘ to take your mind off that disturbing sex scene...#shudder 

Given our predilection for hyper-palatable foods, combined with social isolation + booze/hangover and crazy redneck-sex (Ozark *spoiler alert)… I thought it was an opportune moment to discuss Insulin Resistance…my segues are just get better n better. 

For those of your that read my blog on April 2nd of this year, I not-so-subtly painted an incredibly sad and somewhat disturbing portrait of the state of affairs when it come our national and international levels of health. The staggering rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and every other chronic illness known man. I also painted (in vivid oils from memory) the shocking financial cost and burden these largely avoidable illnesses have on our economies and health service.

Metabolic health, metabolic syndrome & insulin resistance lies at the heart of all these chronic diseases. Our inability to take care of what we shove and pour down our throats, our sleep and movement is the direct cause of this (other) health pandemic.
In short, addressing your metabolic health will:

Improve sleep 
Reduce speed of ageing
Improve gut health
Improve gene expression
Improve hormonal health
Improved mitochondria biogenesis
Reduced cravings
Increased focus
Improved cognition
Improved energy levels
Motivation to expend physical energy
Improved skin appearance
Improved weight and body composition.

So in terms of looking at one facet of your health-wealth, and YOU learning and understanding YOUR own metabolic health will have a profound impact on your mind, your body and your self-awareness…because YOU learning about yourself is self-awareness, getting to know yourself and doing something positive for yourself is self-love….too subtle?
That, in my book, is some serious bang-for-your-buck and awesome ROI on your time and energy…plus how long and well you live is a bit of a bonus.

Righto, lets get some simple definitions out the way first…

Metabolic Health & Metabolic Syndrome
They define metabolic health as having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference, without using medications. These factors directly relate to a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke…plus a host of minor precursory ailments that just generally make you feel like shit…and all before you get heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Metabolic Syndrome.
A cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. The syndrome increases a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke…plus a host of minor precursory ailments that just generally make you feel like shit…and all before you get heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Aside from a large waist circumference, most of the disorders associated with metabolic syndrome have no symptoms.

Insulin Resistance
A resistance to the hormone insulin, resulting in increasing blood sugar.
The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose can’t enter the cells as easily, so it builds up in the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance typically has no symptoms.

This will be the main topic of today, so let’s get straight into it….

Insulin Resistance 101

Our bodies, all day everyday, are host to countless of millions of metabolic reactions, the total sum of these reactions is called our ‘metabolism’ In simple terms, the more active the reactions means a higher metabolism, or a higher metabolic rate. If the reactions are fewer the metabolic rate will be lower. Whatever is happening, the body requires energy to make each of these reactions occur. And that energy is supplied and delivered via our mouth, from everything the we spoon, fork or pour down our throats.

Now, I’m sure we’re all aware that foods are broken down into 3 groups or more precisely 3 macros: Carbohydrates (Carbs), Fats and Proteins

Now only two of these macros provide energy, or fuel for the body – and they are carbohydrates and fats. Protein, which will not play much of a role in this discussion, is what we call a builder… We are essentially made of protein…our bones, muscles etc

Protein aside, it is Carbs and Fats that the body uses as the two sources of energy. 

Now, whether we use Carbs or Fat as a fuel for our body is dependant on something called  insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. The major function of insulin is to regulate the use of sugar (glucose) from the carbohydrates we consume to be either used as energy or to be stored for future use.

Insulin flows through our body, and determines what energy the body is using. So, simply put, Insulin identifies the food we have eaten and then decides what energy source to use.
How does the food/drink we eat affect insulin?
And, what happens to insulin levels when we eat/drink?

So eating pure carbohydrates (e.g. breads, grains, cereals, rice, alcohol, fruit smoothies/juice, confectionary etc)  will result in a substantial increase in insulin being released…a rise of up to 10 x higher than normal levels (depending on what type of carbohydrate you’ve consumed – more of that in next weeks post), which can stay elevated for up 3-5 hours.

In contrast. If your were to eat pure fat alone, this has very little if not negligible effect on insulin. Insulin levels do not change if eating fat.
So we have identified that we have two fuels…Carbs and Fats
When insulin is elevated, the body makes a decision, and when this happens, your body makes a ‘shift’ to use more carbs as fuel…or as they say ‘sugar burning mode’. In contrast, if insulin is low, now the body switches to burn fat as its primary fuel…it has ‘shifted’ its fuel source.

Think of your body as a hybrid car, it has an option to use either of two fuel energy sources. If insulin is low, your body will switch the metabolic engine to use fat for fuel, and less blood sugar. So essentially, if we’re burning more sugar (carbs), we’re burning less fat.  If we’re not burning fat for fuel, then the amount of fat we have, especially if our caloric intake is higher than our expenditure, goes up…or more precisely expands…fat cells swell rather than multiple.
Interestingly fat cells also have their own metabolic rate.

Plainly, insulin will not allow the body to use fat for fuel, if insulin levels are elevated, period.

So What Do We Do?
The solution, though simple (but challenging in practice, because many of us can be a little addicted to carbs, alcohol…I’m deliberately repeating alcohol if you hadn’t guessed) if we have more fat than we want, we can then use this fat for fuel, and this is achieved by lowering our insulin levels. 

Fat we have stored + controlled caloric intake = body will use the stored fat for fuel.

That then means our fat cells begin to shrink. Which is obviously the preferred outcome if we’re overweight. But again, to reiterate…if blood serum levels of insulin are elevated, then your body will continue to use carbs (sugar) as its primary fuel source. 
So what happens when our insulin levels, via the food choices we make, are constantly elevated? 
Increased and sustained insulin leads to what is called Insulin Resistance (I.R.) 

So why care about Insulin Resistance?
Because I.R. is pretty much responsible for the majority of lifestyle related health disorders, chronic illness and disease. 

          

 

We need to keep in mind that the onset of any of these major health conditions can take a decade or three to show significant signs or symptoms. But, how are you feeling, thinking, behaving, performing before any of the critical symptoms ‘surprise’ you and rear their ugly head? 
What day to day symptoms are you either ignoring or not aware off due to your food & drink choices?
Lastly, most will suffer more than 2 of the above chronic illness at the same time.

Insulin Resistance is responsible for either the direct cause, or the making of the above much worse. If you fear chronic disease, then you should fear Insulin Resistance. (add “JAWS” menacing soundtrack)

__________________________________________________________

Our ability to use either Carbs of Fat for fuel is what is called Metabolic Flexibility. Ideally our goal is to keep that flexibility optimal…to use both fuels sources when needed. Unfortunately these days, individuals eat too much carbohydrate…especially highly processed carbs, refined starchy carbs aka simple sugars that are ‘mainlined’ to the blood stream as they quickly metabolised by the body and used as a (*poor) energy/fuel source.
All the time, pushing insulin levels up, up and up.
If insulins levels are maintained via the high carb intake then it likely that your insulin levels will get stuck in position. For example if you eat simple refined carbs when you wake up, and repeat the same food choice for lunch and dinner, your insulin levels will be pronounced and elevated every moment of the day. And this is where Insulin gets ‘stuck’.
Your body in effect gets stuck in sugar burning mode. Because insulin is so chronically elevated you’re never allowing the body to ‘switch’ to use fat. If we’re only using blood sugar for fuel, it means our body fat is never being used, and thus weight gain follows, especially if caloric intake exceeds expenditure, as the fat cells continue to expand (stored energy)

When the body can’t switch between the two fuel sources, this is called Metabolic Inflexibility.
The solution in this case is to (sometimes not so) simply reduce the carbohydrate intake, which will allow the insulin to come down, the body will, over time correct itself and start using body fat again (if sensible caloric intake is adhered to)
The reality is we are already carrying around enough fuel already, which is contain within the fat cells that we all have. The body has a 100 x more capacity to store fat, than it does carbs. All those lovely lumpy wobbly bits 99.9% of us have is stored energy.

So with low blood serum insulin levels, plus sustainable caloric control, our body will start accessing this stowed fat for fuel.
Lower insulin means we have direct access to the big fuel source, our body fat.
This is our ancestral design working at its best, or worst depending how you look at it. This amazingly effective survival tool that kept us alive during times of famine, and is the reason why so many are suffering now. These days food, a lot of which is detrimental to our health, is so easily available 24/7/365, so our energy needs are always in surplus. Because our ancestral metabolic design is so super efficient at storing energy is largely the reason why so many are fat, obese and ill.

Rather than burning our fuel, our modern day highly refined carb food choices is leading to an astronomical increase in poor metabolic health world-wide. 

So when we eat high carb foods, which turn to glucose (type of sugar), they enter our blood stream, and then insulin is released – and this will either be used immediately for energy, or not required (the reality) it will be stored as fat (to hopefully be used in the very near future as fuel…not the reality) Insulin acts as a gate-keeper to our cells, opening the cellular door, to allow excess, non-used blood glucose to be stored as fat.

Glucose + Insulin = quick energy

Too much glucose in the blood stream, insulin will step in and store as fat to access later. When we don’t have food on hand and we’re actually hungry, our body will rise the fat stored in these cells for energy. However, just to repeat myself, if the insulin levels remain high, those storage cells will remain locked and closed.

Insulin levels down + legit hunger = access to the fat cells for fuel

As humans we operate best, both physically and cognitively, with a constant steady flow of fuel – regular and consistent. This is achieved by maintaining steady blood sugar via the foods and drinks we consume. Eating and drinking foods that elevate insulin to high levels = high blood glucose levels = no access to stored fat = feeling sluggish, tired, mid morning/afternoon slumps, and cravings (yes you guessed it…an uncontrollable desire for more (refined) carbohydrates. So we eat again, consuming more carbs, resulting in more insulin being released. Replacing the same energy consumption and storage process again – storing more fat, whilst experiencing the same physical and cognitive slumps.

With our bodies constantly saturated in insulin, the impact over time takes its toll. Not only do we develop I.R. and all the associated chronic disease risks, but we age faster, gain weight…metabolic disorder set in…which is the cascade of ill health that will begin to rain down on you… and you wonder why at the age of 50 you feel exhausted, chubby, no virility or vitality, suffer constant cravings for hyper palatable foods, rely on alcohol, sleep poorly, and find yourself grumpier than you’d like to be.

I think that’s enough to digest for one week.

IN THE FOLLOWING WEEK/S I’LL DISCUSS…. 
Signs and symptoms associated with Insulin Resistance.
Methods to stop the cycle and reclaim your metabolic health
Recommended Carbs and Fats, and what I’d recommend avoiding, reducing and eliminating…what I refer to as unintelligent foods
Discuss two very important hormones Leptin & Ghrelin
Alcohol consumption and Insulin Resistance
Caloric intake.
Crocs and Insulin Resistance….there’s no correlation, but I had to make at least one Croc comment and see if you were reading till the very end….you’re smiling…smiling is good. 
 
Onwards & Upwards

Peace

Luke