151. Air conditioning and obesity

metabolism nutrition read Jul 13, 2021

By: Michael Beiter

Once upon a day I managed a large boot camp gym and one of the members was a young nurse. 

Every now and then she had to take some continuing education to keep up her certifications for her field. She enjoyed choosing lifestyle oriented ones and asked if I wanted to tag along. 

In I stroll to a hotel ballroom full of medical professionals re certifying for the weekend via several presentations by notable authors and presenters.

When I got there they asked where I would apply my continuing education credits. I told them I was there voluntarily to learn. They laughed at me and told me to get serious. I said I was and that I was a fitness coach. One woman said "In 25 years I've never seen anyone come to one of these without having to. You're the first!" 

So that was cool and got a laugh. Before I left the presentations that day I bought a backpack full of books. One of them was called Globesity by Clare Fleishman.

I'm going to share some of her solutions to some uncommon causes of obesity. The first is air conditioning. 

The following is an excerpt from the book Globesity by Clare Fleishman MS, RD. 

Air conditioning rates mirror the staggering growth in obesity around the world. The growing scientific consensus is that air conditioning can contribute to obesity. How?
First, air conditioning affects how much we eat, or the energy coming in.
Second, air conditioning affects how many calories we burn, or the energy going out.
Air conditioning attacks the energy equation from both sides.
For a body to stay the same weight energy coming in must equal energy going out.
Unfortunately, air conditioning both increases the energy in and decreases the energy out so that the equation looks very lopsided.

Trust your body to adapt when temperatures rise. These techniques will make warm weather tolerable while allowing your body to do its job of keeping you cool:

1.) Insist on good environmental design. This works only for people who may be buying a new home or remodeling an old one. Request that architectural features like breezeways, porches, screened in patios, and cross ventilating windows be stressed in the design. 

2.) Make use of natural ventilation. Throw open those windows! Do as they do in Italy - no screens - what flies in will find its way out. Once the sun hits the windows during the day, pull the blinds or close the curtains.
3.) Use ceiling fans in every room. They're not only attractive, but functional; a cooling breeze during the summer can reduce your need for central air conditioning. It also helps during the winter by circulating heat that gathers at the ceiling. Just use the reverse switch to change the direction of the fan blades. 

4.) Use a whole house fan. This fan, also known as an attic fan, provides ventilation, lowers indoor temperatures, and reduces electric bills. It pulls cooler outside air through open windows and send hot indoor air out through the attic. It can lower the temperature in your home in just a few minutes. Another advantage of a whole house fan is its cost - a few hundred dollars - compared to thousands of dollars for a central air conditioner. 
5.) Plant trees. Oaks, maples, and birches are all fast growing trees that will shade your property for many years and will reduce temperatures beneath them. A complete tree resume is available in a report from the University of Georgia. Prepare to be humbled: besides cutting heat, tress reduce carbon dioxide, wind, pollution, runoff, erosion, noise, glare, stress, and health care costs at the same time that they add value to a house sale and beauty to our lives. 

6.) Choose correct clothing. Pick natural fabrics that breathe, such as silk, cotton, and linen. Avoid polyester and rayon. Performance fabrics, which wick heat way from the body, may be an exception to the synthetic ban. People in desert cultures cover up from head to toe and not only for modesty; the loose light colored cottons shade the skin from hot, harmful rays of the sun. The opposite holds true for dark colors. In Berlin - a city that forgets what sun looks like during the gray winter months - light absorbent black dominates the fashion scene. 

Once inside your home or someone else's, kick off those rubber sneakers or man made soles. Heat naturally flees the body from the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, and the tops of our heads. Uncover them. 

7.) Eat the right foods. Certain foods will keep you cooler. Proteins lose some of their energy as heat and as a result will make you feel warmer. A steak dinner can keep the burn on for many hours. On the other hand, fruits and salads, low in fats and proteins but high in water content will keep the body temperature down. Eat spicy food. It's not a coincidence that many people in hotter regions of the world eat spicy food. Curries from India and five alarm Texan chili are good examples. Spicy food ratchets up sweat, which cools the body as it evaporates. Sweating is a good thing, not the bane deodorant ads would have you believe. Capsaicin, the fiery ingredient in chili peppers, is thought to promote weight loss by increasing fat oxidation. 

8.) Become a more efficient heat dissipater. When the weather starts heating up, resist the urger to turn on the air conditioner. Sit outside on the porch or terrace, use a fan to circulate the air around your face, or have a frozen treat. Do some yoga. Try the downward dog. The body will take a few weeks to catch up to the change in temperature, but it will be much better at dispelling heat if it is allowed to experience some. 

By replacing air conditioning in your life with a bit more tolerance to heat and the cooling techniques outlines above, the calorie benefit will build over the years, and noticeably so over the decades. For example, a 25 calorie increase in energy expenditure coupled with 25 fewer calories eaten per day would prevent 5 extra pounds or so per year. No wonder we gain weight over a lifetime. We must change the approach. Calorie by calorie, thermostat by thermostat, and any other way we can fine tune the energy equation of our metabolisms. Even a modest weight loss is important. Losing a few pounds reduces the risk for disease by lowering blood pressure and blood sugar and improving cholesterol levels. So, next summer when your family complains about how warm the house is, say you've turned down the air conditioner for health reasons. They might not like it at first, but as research shows, they will adapt. And maybe lose a few pounds as well. 

Source: Globesity: 10 Things You Didn't Know Were Making You Fat by Clare Fleishman MS, RD

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