In evolutionary biology there is one rule, that when you change the environment, the environment changes you. What does this mean in terms of us and our lifestyle? Life is a dance and we are the dancers. We listen to the music and we move through the rhythm. The vibrations in the environment are received from the hormonal interface, called endocrine system. The endocrine system acts as a software, which runs the computer, called the human body. The amount of light ( brightness, temperature and electricity) and gravitation ( magnetism), we are exposed to is the program which runs the software. (e.g., Konakchieva 1988).
Through this hormonal software program, which unlocks genes, which control the machine- called body- we exist in balance. Take it this way: The human body is like a sub-machine, which is integrated in a bigger machine- called environment. Every living being, becomes an integrative machine, which has a pre-programmed intelligence for adaptation. What follows is that life is actually the ability to learn and change, through our own experience. This is what allows every living thing to change in a response to the ever- changing environment, because it is exactly hormones that control the behavior of our genes.
In reality, our actions are not a product of just will, but more a result of a thought, which is derived from a physiological drive. What do I mean by this? You know that I love saying that will works for a limited amount of time and that if you go against your body and its inborn instincts, sooner or later, biology get a toll on will and things go out of control. We all know about such examples- if you limit the amount of food you eat, and even though the negative signals from your body- exhaustion, lack of energy, hunger- you keep on going with food deprivation. There comes a moment, when it feels like your will doesn’t work and you start eating without control. You don’t understand why it happens like this and why you lost control over your own actions. The answer is one- nothing could be more powerful than the inborn instinct and than the biological program for survival, which is integrated in each one of us.
What is the relation between all of this and the evening urges to eat carbs?
In order to understand it, I will explain some more about the type of nutrition that we are adapted to eat and what is the reason for it. In nature, everything is in cycles and seasons are the most obvious proof for it. As I mentioned, earlier, life is a dance and we dance in rhythm with it- this means that our body functions in rhythm with the environment and obeys to its everlasting change. Or at least this is what used to happen in the past, until the moment when human, became ”smarter” and started consciously altering their own environment.
Conformism, which instead of improving the quality of our life, led to increase in the luxury we live in, but decreased our well-being and the way we feel- because a healthy person is happy even in modest conditions, while a sick person suffers even when he is surrounded by glitter. I’ve explained it before how the change in seasons, influences the ration between carbs and fats, which we are supposed to eat in order to be healthy and fit.
Now, I will just sum up the differences between summer and winter and how this is important for us and the food we eat. During summer, the day is longer and night is shorter, unlike winter when the day is shorter and the night is longer. Realize it or not, sun, as one of the main factors for the existence of life on Earth, has a direct influence on the hormones that are being released in our bodies, i.e. on the endocrine system and the way it runs the machine, called body.
Darkness is a signal towards the body to release melatonin ( the one that makes you feel sleepy). During summer, the shorter nights, mean less melatonin production. Less melatonin, means more estrogen and testosterone. More light, means more cortisol ( the stress hormone) and of course cortisol increases blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of more insulin. What happens nowadays, when the continuity of the day is not determined by seasonal change and the natural rhythm of nature, but when we decide how long the day and night will be, by just switching on the lights? We, in an artificial way lengthen the day. We might think that this is not a big thing, but the body has a built in biological clock, which is synchronized with the natural rhythm of nature. Our actions, are constantly fighting this rhythm and this gets us in trouble and makes us sick.
Where is the role of carbs?
When the food on our table used to be determined by the seasons and what foods are available in the particular season, the body adapted to this pattern. Notice, when there is big availability of carb rich foods- from late spring to late autumn- this is the period when the day is longer, because foods containing carbs, grow where daylight is longer. Then, there comes a period, from late in the autumn- to late in the spring, when such foods aren’t available and the main nutrients come from fatty, animal products. This is the diet, that our body is adapted to, because it evolved this way. All living organisms, which live in nature and are not overburdened by the artificial environment, follow this diet. All of the are fatter in summer and autumn, when they feast before winter, that is accompanied by fasting and food scarcity. Only people and our domesticated pets, are those which are trying to live contrary to nature’s laws. Longer days and shorter nights, send signals to the body, that it is summer- a period when there is a lot of carbs available and a period, that is supposed to prepare you for winter- the time when you need to have some storage fat, so you can survive the long, cold winter.
What we have done- increasing our days, through artificial lightening, changed the whole web of life. Every living being has an inborn “clock”, which measures time, the Earth’s rotation, the length of the day and night and each cell functions on the base of this signals, by sending information to switch a particular gene on or off. Light ALWAYS leads to biochemical reactions in the body. Each part of us, reads the change in the intensity or spectrum of light.
How are we programmed?
Because of seasonality and our dependence on plant and animal products, as a source of energy, our body is tuned to function as follows: When there is more light( more in terms of length), the body says: “Oh, it is summer. It is time to eat carbs.” So in the evening, when the biological clock, sends signals to the body that you need to sleep, because it is dark outside, but you switch on the lights, you rarely crave boiled broccoli and fried eggs. You usually daydream about chocolate temptations and other carb- rich foods.
It turns out like this, because the instinct, which interprets the availability of light, as summer, drives you to crave this food- summer is the time to eat carbs and gain weight in order to survive the cold winter. In the past light and carb consumption, prepared us for the worst- a period of food scarcity, short days and long nights in cold temperatures. That’s why we are adapted to feast in the seasons that come before the seasons of fasting.
Nowadays, we control our environment, but it hits back – we become sicker and overweight. We do not realize that the way we change our environment, changes us. We do not realize, that we are sending wrong signals towards our body, and then we are mad at it, that it doesn’t look the way we wish it to be. Watch this video- it is short but really interesting! The reason that you feel the urge to eat carbs in the evening, is that staying awake until midnight is not natural for your body. Spending 8 hours in artificial light, in order to lengthen the day is not natural for your body. All of this is sending the wrong signals, that it is a season to feast and gain fat. All of this is sending it signals that it is time to indulge in carbs.
If you really want to gain your health back and become fitter, you need to make the daily effort to rearrange your life, in a way that allows you to live in synchrony with the natural rhythm of nature. I know it takes time and effort. I know that it will turn your life upside down and that it will mess with your schedule, but trust me- it is so worth it!
For the past three years, I make the daily effort to rearrange my schedule in a way, that allows me to live closer to nature and “dance” with its rhythm. It is hard to achieve it, but it is worth it. Do not excuse yourself with being busy. Paradoxically, but a fact, the healthier you are and the better you feel, the easier you manage to succeed and with less efforts you get a bigger return. Do not waste your time to work something you hate, to cover the minimum standard of life and get sicker and unsatisfied. Take the time to reinvent yourself and to start doing what gives you pleasure and live the way you deserve, not just so you can survive!