The word “calorie” can evoke some strong emotional reactions, but when it comes down to it, a calorie is just a measure of the energy that’s released when something is burned. As your body metabolizes the food you eat, the energy is either put to use or stored for later.
As we know from grade-school science, if you want something to burn, you need to give it some oxygen. The human metabolic process is no different: in order to burn calories, the body needs plenty of oxygen.
Luckily, oxygen is readily available and it’s completely free. But far too many of us are actually oxygen deficient, and as a result, our metabolism isn’t working at its full capacity.
Tune in to this exciting new video from IPEtv, with Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. You’ll learn how to get your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin O, and keep your metabolic fire burning.
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Here is a transcript of this week’s video:
People often talk about burning calories, but few realize that a calorie is simply a measure of heat released when something is burned. Food scientists determine the caloric value of a food by placing it in a special apparatus that essentially torches it to a crisp and measures the heat given off. Just about everything has a measurable caloric value.
A fortune cookie contains about 30 calories. A page of a typical book has at least 60 calories. The chair you’re sitting in has upwards of 200,000 calories.
And all of these calories need oxygen if you want them to burn. So if you’re interested in maximizing metabolism, breathing is one of the most effective tools, because the greater your capacity to take in oxygen, the higher your metabolic “burning power” will be.
It’s really that simple.
The digestive system is hungry for oxygen. Certain parts of the stomach lining consume more oxygen than any other tissue in the body. The intestinal villi, our site of primary nutrient absorption, are charged with the job of extracting large quantities of oxygen from the blood during the breakdown of a meal. When the blood lacks oxygen for the villi to pick up, nutrient absorption decreases.
The more we eat, the more the body naturally wants us to breathe.
After a meal, the parasympathetic nervous system generates changes in breathing and blood circulation. The brain automatically increases air intake to accommodate the need for more oxygen. But, as we know from the field of Mind Body Nutrition, if anxiety or overstimulation interfere with the body’s natural switch to deeper breathing, your ability to burn calories is limited. The simple rule here is this: If you eat more, breathe more.
Have you ever had the experience of going on a low-calorie diet and not losing any weight, or dieting and losing weight for the first week but leveling off despite continuing your low-calorie fare? Many people are perplexed by this mysterious phenomenon, but the reason is quite simple.
Your metabolism changed. The body learned to tolerate the meager portions of food you served it by lowering oxygen uptake—decreased oxygen means decreased metabolism. In many cases, weight loss diets actually teach the body to need less oxygen. So by going on a low-calorie diet you may think you’re doing what’s right for shedding pounds, but you’re actually working against yourself.
The act of eating creates a “demand” on metabolism.
Just as lifting weights puts a demand on your muscles to grow bigger and stronger, eating puts a demand on your metabolism to grow more powerful and efficient. Food is literally like a weight that your body lifts. So it’s not just the nutrients in the food that determines the nutritional and metabolic value of a meal; the value is also determined by the process your body goes through to break the food down.
The simple act of eating, by itself, raises metabolism. If we looked at one of the most common measures of metabolism—body temperature—we’d see that each time we eat, body temperature automatically rises.
It should come as no surprise that if chronic under-eating can lower the amount of oxygen we use, and hence lower metabolism, then for such individuals, eating more, higher-quality food could increase metabolism. Eating more food literally creates a demand for metabolic force and hence for oxygen uptake. The resulting increase in calorie-burning capacity can far outweigh the extra food on your plate.
Certainly, many of us gain weight simply because we eat too much food. But when we shift to the opposite extreme—eating too little food—we will likely slow down our calorie-burning capacity. The point is that neither extreme—too much food or too little—will take you where you want to go.
If you truly want to achieve your optimum weight and metabolism, you can’t get there by denying yourself and going against biology. Losing weight means gaining life. Eat while relaxed and breathe deeply and generously, and you’ll access nature’s plan for greater health and inner satisfaction with food.
I hope this was helpful.