As always, let me start with an analogy:

Let’s say you’re racing in a car. You’re partaking in the 24-hour race of Le Mans..

(I’ve just seen the Ferrari versus Ford movie, so that’s why the analogy pops up.)

And somewhere in the 200th lap, parts of your car break down. 

You’ve been pushing that car excrucating hard…

And you’re in the top-3. For decades you’ve dreamed about winning this race – ever since you were a little kid. And now winning has almost become reality.

So what’s the solution?

Push even harder to get ever single mile out of the car? Or would it be smarter to make a pitstop, repair any damaged tools, and go at it again?

Of course, the latter option is preferable.

And yet, when it comes down to health, many people are pushing their bodies over and over and over again – even though they’re digging a deeper hole for themselves.

Because you’re read about “eating less and exercising more” online very frequently right?

So you cut 500 calories, and you’re increase your weekly workout frequency with two. 

All problems solved?

Not so quick…

The rest of this blog post explains to you why more exercise and less eating is not always better…

The Limits Of Stress

The human body has an inbuilt “fight, flight, faint or freeze” response (1; 2).

During millions of years of evolution (and pre-human developments as well), your ancestors could bascially:

1) Fight the threat head on
2) Flee from a threat to increase survival chances
3) Freeze in face of a threat, in the hope of the threat leaving you alone. Freezing often occurs because the threat seems unsurmountable – exemplified by the “deer in the headlights look”.
4) Faint so that you don’t consciously experience your own demise.

(Of course, people who don’t adhere to the theory of evolution can still use the framework because it’s also empirically grounded. So fighting, or freezing, or fainting are empirically observable.)

Essentially, those 4 aforementioned responses are not your only options…

“Rest and digest” or more aptly called “stay and play” physiology, can be likened to a fundamental healing mode of human physiology.

The caveat?

You cannot activate both. 

Engaging in exercise 5 times a week for 2 hours a day almost continually activates your stress physiology. Sure, you can easily handle that habit if you’re 25.

Some type-A personalities might even survive that habit until they’re 50 or 60. But somewhere down the road you’ll break your health and body down and you’ll pay the price.

 

Slowing Down For Speeding Up

Want to heal quicker?

Do less of the wrong things…

Many people who are chronically exercising and dieting have terrible stress tolerance, for example, have low resilience and are sick all of the time, and they’re sleeping poorly.

Can you lose weight while sacrificing sleep and while being sick 3 times a year?

Sure you can…

But you’ll pay the price.

The solution is to slow down…

Returning to the earlier car analogy I gave: before you can stress the car, you need to ensure it’s properly repaired.

The same is true for the human body.

Keep in mind that I’m not saying you should sit in a chair all day and do nothing.

No, to the contrary: move a lot. Ensure that movement is light and fun. 

Enter the stay and play physiology. Heal thyself. And only then challenge thyself.