SustainabiliMe as a System

One of the most important and yet most underrepresented factors for a sustainable lifestyle is the intake, processing, and expenditure of calories. Far too often, the focus is only on one component of the equation: weight, exercise, diet, metabolism. The reasoning usually is as follows: “I must be getting healthier because I just lost 10 pounds!” or “I must be getting healthier because I exercised for an hour each day last week!” or “I must be getting healthier because I ate healthy foods last week!

The missing perspective, at least in terms of popular awareness, is the interaction of those four components. I want to build this idea of “SustainabiliMe” on a foundation of a complex interaction of a variety of factors – not an oversimplification that is so prevalent with modern health trends: “All you need is more Omega 3!!!

Weight, for example is only partly the result of one’s diet. Because even a moderate caloric intake can result in weight gain if one’s metabolism is unable to process those calories into usable energy – and not store them as fat. But is metabolism some coefficient that can be applied to each individual as a constant? Nope. Metabolism is heavily influenced by exercise and the kinds & amount of calories being consumed. And to make matters more complicated, the effect of jogging 2 miles varies greatly depending on one’s physical condition, diet, metabolism, and starting weight.

Even from this example of weight, it should be clear that weight itself is never really “determined” by anything in particular. And because of the feedback loops and interactions among the four major factors of SustainabiliMe (weight, diet, exercise, & metabolism), there really are no independent variables in this equation-of-sorts. Instead, all the components interact in a web of influence.

Now, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that this system with no independent variables is somehow beyond comprehension or understanding simply because the four factors have different effects in different circumstances. The greater the starting weight, the greater effect jogging two miles is going to have on metabolism increases. That much is fairly obvious. What I do want to avoid is the oversimplification that occurs when the focus is placed solely on one factor – to the detriment of all other factors.

Now, to put into practice all this jargon about dynamically interacting complex, feedback looping web systems. What does that mean in terms of actions in real life? Do I need an algorithm based on computer simulations of complex physics to achieve SustainabiliMe? Of course not. What I WILL need to do is to pay attention to how my weight changes, diet, and exercise affect my metabolism and how they affect each other (metabolism being a much more difficult factor to quantify than say, the calories I consume in a day, my weight on a scale, or the amount of jogging I do).

Until next time, bonnes pensées.

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