What can the hyena teach us about fitness? Well, read on and you’ll see . . .
We’ve all heard the expression “use it or lose it” in reference to our body. It means if you don’t stay active, your health will disappear, and if you don’t work a little, your muscles will disappear. Common sense stuff!
But the fact is, “use it or lose it” applies to your mind as well. Since back in the 1960s, tests have been done on people and animals that show that our brain is “plastic”. No, it’s not made of plastic, but is plastic, meaning it physically changes, or morphs, just like plastic. Not physically terms of its shape though, but in terms of the electrical neuro-connections inside it.
For example, if you were to lose say your right index finger, or if you were to immobilize it so that it couldn’t move over a long period of time, the area in your brain that’s responsible for sensing and moving that finger would slowly shrink and eventually disappear altogether. Your brain would figure out that that part of your body was no longer being used, so over time it would therefore free up the resources it has for some other job. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
Now don’t forget, your brain doesn’t just control your body. It controls your behavior, your memory, your thoughts, your habits, and so on. When you form a habit therefore, actual new physical neuro-connections are made in your brain that drive that behavior. And when you break a habit by not doing the behavior anymore, these neuro-connections have to be disassembled so that that real estate in the brain can be used for something else. This is why habits can be so strong to break.
On the plus side however, the important thing to realize here is that when you change your lifestyle and stop indulging your bad habits, you actually change who you are – remember, you’re actually changing your brain!
Many people fear heading into a healthy lifestyle because they think that they’ll never be able to enjoy food again and they will have to torture themselves in the gym every day. What they don’t realize is because they will become different people over time, their tastes and likes will also change. It’s hard for them to imagine, but it’s true. How many times have you heard a former-overweight person say, “I never thought I would ever actually enjoy working out”? That’s how it is!
During the changeover period from unhealthy to healthy, cheat meals are important, because they allow you to still indulge in some of your favorite foods, keeping you sane and giving you some faith that your new life will be bearable. But as time goes by, you’ll actually lose interest in cheat meals altogether. Why? Because you will change, your tastes will change, and your habits will change.
When you stop using bad foods and bad habits for long enough, you lose them! This is why it’s ridiculous for people to say they don’t want to eat healthy because “life’s too short”. They’re assuming they’re going to be eating food they hate for the rest of their lives, but they’re very wrong. They don’t understand that when they stop using their favorite foods, they lose the taste for them.
Studies have shown that many meat-eating mammals whose diet doesn’t include much sugar, don’t really have a taste for sweet food. And some species, including sea lions, Asian otters and spotted hyenas, actually don’t have the ability to taste sweet food at all? That’s evolution enforcing the use it or lose it rule!
So the lesson here is don’t fear changing for the better. Your body and brain will adapt to accommodate your new lifestyle’s habits and tastes, and after a while you will literally change into someone who’s perfectly at home there!
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