Welcome to another week. It’s Challenge Time again at Round 1 – and this time our challenge is a little bit ‘special’. Our Summer Bodies Challenge kicks off MONDAY – and with room for just 36x participants – 6x per coach – and taking advantage of my latest obsession (Small Group Training), well, it’s going to be awesome. What do I mean by ‘Small Group Training?’. Well – groups of 6-people for this challenge – no more than 8 if I can figure out how to add them into the time-table longer term! – one coach – and what should be a ‘more focussed’ workout experience. Kind of like PT intensity without the one-on-one costs I guess…Are we going to do some Small Group work long-term? Well – the short answer is, “I don’t know – but I’d like it if we could…”…Anyway, the Summer Bodies Challenge is going to be the test case for this Small Group model. So – good luck to the Summer Bodies crew and to the people in my team (The BEST TEAM – Team Breakout!)…Good Luck ‘cos you’ve got some challenges ahead!
As part of the challenge prep I’ve been doing a lot of food reading and researching (more on that in a second) and I wanted to start today’s blog by looking at how the typical daily food consumption in 1970s Australia compares to today’s diet. Why the 1970’s? Well – ‘cos I’m old and I was a kid in the 1970’s – and I still remember how a 1lt bottle of coke was oftentimes too big for our (then) family of 4 – it grew to 6 in the 80’s! – so my food quantity ‘reference point’ is always that decade.
I think it’s fair to say that back in the 1970s the average Australian diet was largely based on traditional foods such as meat, potatoes, and vegetables, with a focus on home-cooked meals. That – for 100% sure – is what happened in my house, my cousins’ houses and my school friends houses. Portion sizes were generally smaller, and there was less reliance on processed foods and sugary drinks. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the typical Australian diet in the 1970s consisted of approximately 36% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 42% fat.
Fast forward to today, and the typical Australian diet has undergone a significant transformation. According to a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian now consumes more than 3,000 calories per day, with a significant increase in the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, and fast food. The report also notes that the typical Australian diet is now high in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium, with low levels of fiber, fruits, and vegetables.
One study published in ‘Nutrients’ journal (here’s the link: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/6/577) reported that between 1995 and 2012, the average portion size of common foods such as pizza, hamburgers, and soft drinks increased by up to 80%. This increase in portion sizes is believed to be one of the main contributors to the rise in obesity rates in Australia over the past few decades. Another study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (here’s the link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1326020023012621) found that the frequency of fast food consumption has increased by more than 50% since the 1990s, with many Australians now relying on fast food for their daily meals (and saving money by doing exactly that!).
So, what can be done to reverse these trends? Well – ‘the experts’ recommend a return to whole, unprocessed foods, with a focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. But even if you are doing that, unless you can get control of portion sizes – after all, so many of us have become USED to eating MORE – then getting control of our weight and making a positive change to our overall health is problematic. Then (of course) there is the impact of soft drinks and processed snacks…I mean, my 1-litre bottle of coke for a family of 4 example from earlier? Now a ‘standard’ individual serve is a 600ml bottle…meaning a family would consume 240% of what they once did…
So – whilst it might be ‘reasonable’ to say that the best way to combat the rise in obesity is to focus on eating a diet composed primarily of whole, unprocessed foods…well, you simply MUST also review your portion sizes at the same time…and THAT – is where reading “The Hungry Brain” by Stephan Guyenet creates some interesting perspectives.
So – I’ve been hunting around and reading ‘diet’ based stuff recently – and “The Hungry Brain’ is a fascinating book that delves into the complex relationship between our brains, our diets, and our weight. Guyenet argues that our brains are wired to seek out high-calorie, high-reward foods – and notes that this is a tendency that has been hardwired into our brains for millions of years. According to Guyenet, our brains evolved in an environment where food was scarce and calories were hard to come by. In this environment, the brain developed a powerful drive to seek out and consume high-calorie foods whenever they were available, as a way of ensuring survival. However, in today’s world of abundance, this same drive can lead to overeating and obesity.
One of the key insights of “The Hungry Brain” is that our brains are not just passive recipients of signals from our bodies telling us when to eat and when to stop. Instead, our brains actively regulate our food intake, using a complex system of hormones, neurotransmitters, and neural pathways to signal when we are hungry and when we are full. However, this system can be easily disrupted by modern diets, which are often high in sugar, fat, and processed foods. These foods can trigger a reward response in the brain that overrides our natural signals of hunger and fullness, leading to overeating and weight gain.
To combat this, Guyenet recommends a diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods, with an emphasis on nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. He also suggests that we pay closer attention to our hunger and fullness signals, and practice mindful eating as a way of retraining our brains to regulate our food intake more effectively. This point – for me – is a really strong one because I can honestly say that I am rarely – if ever – hungry. And I will generally eat everything on my plate. AND if there are leftovers ‘in the pot’ after dinner, well, those leftovers are fair game…but if I was eating “mindfully”, well…would they be? Should they be??
In conclusion, “The Hungry Brain” is an illuminating look at the complex relationship between our brains, our diets, and our weight. By understanding how our brains have evolved to regulate our food intake, we can begin to make more informed choices about what we eat and how we eat it. And by adopting a diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods, we can give our brains the nutrients they need to function optimally, while also promoting a healthy weight and overall well-being.
ANYWAY…I hope you’ve all found this an interesting (if very short) overview of what I found to be a very interesting book/reading block!
See you in the gym,
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