Some terms to make fitness less confusing

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Just like Scrabble, counting calories isn’t for everyone Total Shape via Unsplash

Why can’t the internet decide what is healthy

Musician by day, Sports & Health editor by night, and volunteer for a fitness group whenever I have free time – most people are shocked when I tell them that I spend a lot of my energy in sports and fitness. After all, being a pianist and a music theorist is the least sporty thing a person could be. I got into fitness and nutrition years ago after I got sick and needed to become vegetarian. After months of being ill, I was obsessed with food and why it tastes good. I took this love into the fitness world, and began volunteering to help people find proper resources no matter what their fitness journey is. I am going to provide some general information that can be applied to any lifestyle.

As someone with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I have had many people try to give me weight advice. I even had a nurse over the phone tell me “Oh so you must have a bit of a tummy” when I disclosed that I have PCOS. Many people with PCOS struggle with understanding their hunger and how to feed themselves, and people assume that with the illness you have to do crazy diets to control how your body works. They even assume I will be overweight just because I have the illness. I will explain some terms that helped me understand how my body works.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR): Editors wrote in an article “Differences Between BMR and RMR,” published on May 5, 2021 by WebMD that BMR is the minimum amount of calories required to exist and function. One of my fitness mentors explained it would be the amount you would need just to exist in a coma. A lot of crash diets require you to eat under the BMR, which means you aren’t able to replenish the body, and you become miserable and can end up overeating or causing damage to your mind and body. 

Grehlin is the hormone that helps control hunger. According to a definition written by Robert D. Utiger under the entry “grehlin” published by Britannica Academic, grehlin is supposed to cue the body when it needs food, and it decreases after eating. There are some theories that when some people try to ignore hunger signals for too long, the grehlin has trouble telling the body when it is full. When I learned this, I got much better about eating when I am hungry, and it has helped with my PCOS (I have also worked with a dietician, but it will be different for all people. Some people do better with eating windows, for example).

 In Christe Nage’s article called “Associated Factors of Intuitive Eating in Undergraduate Students at a Midwestern University,” published by Northern Illinois University in 2016, she explains that people eating before they are actually hungry, or waiting until they are too hungry, can cause overeating because natural hunger cues are being ignored. 

Now that we have some knowledge that can be applied to anyone, how can we move forward? Since I work with a lot of different people with different goals in mind, I like to make sure that the information I help them find can be customized for their end goal. For example, someone who wants to gain weight may benefit from understanding their hunger cues and what their BMR is so that they can achieve that. For a person who is attempting to restrict food within a time window, they can see if it works for their body by observing if their hunger increases too much and they end up overeating.

These tools are important, whether you are someone who wants to count calories or someone who wants to try intuitive eating. If you are counting calories, you can tell if you are eating too little by checking your BMR, or seeing if you wind up overeating after restricting too much so you can focus on finding a healthy middle ground. If you are someone who wants to intuitively eat (eating without tracking at all), then understanding how grehlin works can help you make decisions on when to eat that are beneficial to your mind and body.

Of course, this advice is very general, and I always recommend that the person consults with a doctor or dietician if they have one available. I understand this is not always possible, so I have these general terms that anyone can use. Listening to the body is an important skill, and knowledge is power. 

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