There have been three times in my life where I easily maintained at a lower weight (around 55kg) and did so without having to be too introspective about what I was eating. Those times were 1) When I was backpacking in Europe and either on my feet exploring or on my feet with my heavy pack on wondering where the hell the next hostel was. 2) When I was working in a sales role and was on my feet all day in a huge showroom. I didn’t have a car then and so there was also quite a bit of walking to and from the bus-stop. 3) When I was recovering from major surgery and became a constantly-hungry, calorie burning machine while my body repaired itself. I was eating 3000-5000 calories a day and still fading away. Good times (?!)
In all three circumstances it is clear that my metabolic rate was much higher than it is when I spend 8 hours on my butt in front of a computer. Apart from the time when I was in surgery recovery, the reason for the glorious incidence of easy maintenance is that my NEAT was increased due to more 'moving around' activity. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is the amount of energy that your body uses in those everyday activities that exclude eating or sleeping – for example typing, walking, fidgeting, housework and general moving around. These activities are called UPA (Unstructured Physical Activities) and they account for a great deal of the calories that you burn in a day. One thing I find especially interesting about NEAT is that when you decrease your calories, your brain will find ways to decrease your NEAT. You will just naturally feel less inclined to fidget and more inclined to ‘blob out’ in front of TV, preferably with a box of chocolates. The obese tend to have much lower levels of NEAT and, here’s the unfair part – when you overfeed a naturally skinny person their UPA and NEAT will go into overdrive in order to burn off the extra energy. They will turn into a human ball of energy. Overfeed an overweight person by the same amount and their NEAT does not increase correspondingly. All this to say that a person inclined toward fatness may need to make more of an effort to include more UPA, every single day and shouldn’t just leave it to the Gods of NEAT.
With this in mind, I’ve decided that my normal morning habit of snatching every bit of sleeping in time, then sleepwalking from bed to breakfast to car to my ergodynamically designed Aero chair at the office… well, this routine needs refinement. This last week I’ve started a new habit of fast walking for about ½ an hour before breakfast. It’s not ‘cardio’ and I’m not aiming to enter the powerwalk hall of fame. It’s just UPA. I will let you know what eventuates. So far I’m just enjoying the wake-up factor of moving my butt first thing and providing some entertainment for the neighbours by locking myself out of the house.